Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind 6th Edition
Book PrefaceEvolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind 6th Edition
It is especially exciting to be an evolutionary psychologist during this time in the history of science. Most scientists operate within long-established paradigms. Evolutionary psychology, in contrast, is a revolutionary new science, a true synthesis of modern principles of psychology and evolutionary biology. By taking stock of the field at this time, I hope this book contributes in some modest measure to the fulfillment of a scientific revolution that will provide the foundation for psychology in the future. Since the publication of the award-winning first edition of Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind, there has been an explosion of new research within the field. New journals in evolutionary psychology have been started, and the volume of evolutionary publications in mainstream psychology journals has steadily increased. New courses in evolutionary psychology are being taught in colleges and universities throughout the world. Many gaps in scientific knowledge remain, and each new discovery brings fresh questions and new domains to explore. The field of evolutionary psychology is vibrant, exciting, and brimming with empirical discoveries and theoretical innovations. Indeed, as Harvard professor Steven Pinker notes, “In the study of humans, there are major spheres of human experience—beauty, motherhood, kinship, morality, cooperation, sexuality, violence—in which evolutionary psychology provides the only coherent theory” (Pinker, 2002, p. 135).
Charles Darwin must be considered the first evolutionary psychologist for this prophesy at the end of his classic treatise On the Origin of Species (1859): “In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation.” More than 150 years later, after some false starts and halting steps, the science of evolutionary psychology is finally emerging. The purpose of this book is to showcase the foundations of this new science and the fascinating discoveries of its practitioners.
When I first started to conduct research in evolutionary psychology as an assistant professor at Harvard University in 1981, evolutionary speculations about humans abounded, but practically no empirical research had been conducted to back them up. Part of the problem was that scientists who were interested in evolutionary questions could not bridge the gap between the grand evolutionary theories and the actual scientific study of human behavior. Today that gap has closed considerably, because of both conceptual breakthroughs and an avalanche of hard-won empirical achievements. Many exciting questions still cry out for empirical scrutiny, of course, but the existing base of findings is currently so large that the problem I faced was how to keep this book to a reasonable length while still doing justice to the dazzling array of theoretical and empirical insights. Although it is written with undergraduates in mind, it is also designed to appeal to a wider audience of laypersons, graduate students, and professionals who seek an up-to-date overview of evolutionary psychology.
I wrote the first edition of this book with another purpose as well—frankly, a revolutionary one. I wrote it so that the hundreds of professors at colleges and universities throughout the world who have been thinking and writing about evolution and human behavior would be motivated to teach formal courses in evolutionary psychology and get those courses established as part of required psychology curricula. Already evolutionary psychology is attracting the best and the brightest young minds. I hope that this book helps to accelerate the trend and in some small way contributes to the fulfillment of Darwin’s prophesy.
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