How to explain human nature – Evolution or Standard Social Science Model

Different ways to explain human nature may be categorized in two major approaches. One is the evolutionary approach and the other is SSSM which stands for Standard Social Science Model and it is the method mostly utilized in psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology and human sciences. Nature and nurture are also two so called terms used to explain human mind or behavior. “Nature” represents the evolutionary history which leads to innate structures in human. “Nurture” refers to the cultural


Charles Darwin

history and learning capability of human and it focuses mostly on the impact of environment. In explaining the origins of mind also, some scientists assume nature has the major impact since the structure of the brain drives and directs the computational mind but another group claims environment, society and culture plus great learning and conditioning capability of humans are the major factors

which can explain mind. SSSM is in fact a “nurture” approach whereas evolutionary approach is characterized by nature-nurture since it argues that a full explanation of a physical or behavioral trait requires both evolutionary explanations (nature) and environmental explanations (nurture) both together. Therefore the debate between these two approaches is not about nature versus nurture, but nature-nurture versus nurture.

In SSSM human nature is viewed as a blank slate according to John Locke, the 17th century philosopher. An example of SSSM approach and focusing on nurture is observed in Marxism which claims humans are not innately greedy, but the capitalism makes them greedy. In the perspective of SSSM people are not slave of their genes, but they are dependent on their environment, cultural history and social construction. In this way changing the environment resolves the problems of human.
Another substantial instance of SSSM approach was appeared in behaviorism in psychology. Behaviorism claimed human behavior is the ultimate result of conditioning to various stimulus considering environment responsible for human behavior. Meanwhile another wave in anthropology called cultural relativism reinforced SSSM approach by stating mannerisms like the ways of showing anger, joy and grief are variant in different cultures and what is considered normal in a society may be considered abnormal in other societies, hence morality also was assumed to be in fact socially approved habits.

Although evolution theory has been present since Darwin but rarely it was taken seriously in other disciplines outside biology and SSSM approach was the dominant one. Later some findings in different disciplines impacted SSSM such as Noam Chomsky’s theory of universal grammar in linguistics (The Chomsky Website). He claimed language acquisition, contrary to behaviorism, is not a simple stimulus-response conditioning. Chomsky stated that there is a universal grammar characteristic which is hard-wired into our brains and this claim weakened the blank slate view of human nature. Chomsky’s theory welcomed the computational models of mind (cognitive science and AI) and gradually evolutionary approach influenced psychology and sociology in terms of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology.

Today it is known that evolution has been one of the greatest human findings and as Dobzhansky states “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. Modern biology without evolution is not possible since every new discovery in this field fits perfectly within the evolutionary framework and evidences of evolution are quite various such as transitional patterns found in fossils, the geographical distribution of plants and animals, their anatomical relationships, the findings about DNA , mutation and evolution of viruses and evolutionary resistance of bacteria to antibiotics (Refer to “Evolution and the big questions”).

In fact SSSM is not wrong, but it is incomplete to explain human nature. Impact of environment is completely evident and it is supported as well by evolutionary approach (nature-nurture) but the problem of SSSM is that it tends to create a kind of resistance or denial to the fact that humans are biological species, and it prefers to flee from genes slavery.

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