Re: Science and Evolutionary Psychology

john zimmer (
Thu, 03 Sep 1998 08:28:35 -0500

Ok. If you're not going to pick my brain, I'd like to
pick yours.

I would like to establish the claim that (modern) scientific
discoveries may act as signs that stimultate our "awarness of
something beyond nature". Jesus gave his contemporaries,
particularly the apostles, signs that violated their "natural
expectations" and thus inspired thoughts concerning the relation
between Jesus and the divine. Modern scientific discoveries
also violate our "natural expectations". For example, we did not
evolve to "naturally expect" the earth to move, or for forces to
act at a distance. In other words, our mammalian psychology
evolved with the perception that the earth doesn't move and
that forces require contact. These perceptions were adaptive since
they generated cognitive operations that assisted survival.
For example, the coreolis effect probably never hurt anyone.
For example, one good gore by a wild animal could be fatal.

Now, I would like to claim that Aristotelian science did not
violate our "natural expectations". I think that the Ptolemeic
system (where the earth doesn't move) and Aristotle's idea that
force must be applied to keep a body in motion do not violate
our "natural expectations". However, the claims of modern science;
that the earth moves around the sun and that a body stays in
motion until a force acts on it, do not correspond to the experiences
of the natural environment (natural constants). (( Aside: As Pascal Boyer
might say, they are "intuitively unnatural" concepts. Notably,
Boyer (The Naturalness of Religious Ideas 1994) claimed that the
"intuitively unnatural" aspect of religious representations served
to attract attention. My article claims that the "intuitively
unnatural" aspect would actually be a sign that both triggers awareness and
acts as food for thought with regard to a transcendent psychology.))

What do you think? Can you think of more examples of Aristotelian
ideas that would not violate our natural expectations and of the corresponding
scientific discovery that would? What about the contrary?