Re: The Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA)

From: HARNAD Stevan (
Date: Fri Jun 07 1996 - 22:14:33 BST

> From: "Fowler, Steve" <>
> Date: Mon, 27 May 1996 17:50:23 GMT
> The Environment of Evolutioary Adaptedness (EEA) is a
> Darwinian theory based on the original environment in
> which an organism survived.

It is not a theory, it IS that enironment. But what does that mean?

> Distal causes are the distant
> causitive factors which stem from that original environment
> (EEA) from which attributes present in our original
> ancestors genes which are present in our physical and mental
> genetic makeup today via distal selection - "our selfish
> genes". Some psychologists believe that the ultimate reason
> for our cognition is that it is ditally selected from the
> EEA.

Kid-sib would not figure out what the EEA was from this. The EEA is the
environment in which selection for an adaptive trait actually occurred;
the example I gave was a creature that lives in a warm environment today
yet is very furry; this might be because its ancestors had lived in a
cold climate, and the furrier ones survived better. Today, the fur is
neither an advantage nor enough of a disadvantage to be selected against
by evolution, handicapping its bearers.

When we speak of the evolution of psychological traits, it is important
to distinguish between the EEA and the contemporary environment. A
special appetatite for sweets may have been adaptive to a child when
sweets were rare; today it just leads to obesity and tooth decay (not
enough of a handicap to be selected against, though).

Sociobiologists, when speaking of social behaviour, sometimes make the
mistake of trying to explain the adaptiveness of a behaviour in the
present environment when in reality it is either not a genetically coded
behaviour at all, or was shaped by conditions very different from
current ones, in the EEA.

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