Oh, I see what you mean. Yeah, the part where you observe contemporary behaviour and then try to draw conclusions about prehistoric environmental conditions is total, total bullshit.Shro wrote:Well, yeah you can test how things are now. We have no real way of knowing why things the way they are now are because of some thing in our evolutionary past because of x reason because we can't really go back and test things from 10,000 years ago.
That isn't even really a legitimate move in evolutionary biology, because you haven't shown that the trait is adaptive, or even heritable.Noc wrote:Like, in "evo bio," we tend to see evidence of a species with some traits earlier, and then time passes, and then we see examples of the species with different traits. If we presume that there's an evolutionary link between the two examples, we can hypothesize that this was caused by environmental pressure and then try and then take a stab at figuring out what that pressure was.
There are lots of ways to show that a trait is adaptive. You can do interventionist breeding experiments. You can do comparative sequence analysis to show what present and historical evolution pressures have been like on the locus for that trait if the genetics are well understood. If you're lucky enough to be working with a trait that's variable in an extant population, you can do population genetics to figure out what selection pressures are acting on the alleles that produce those traits. (That is, you can ask if the getting more or less common faster than you would expect if it had no effect on reproduction.) You can (and this would make me very happy) do genetic manipulation in the organism in question and demonstrate that alternative alleles that produce different traits are deleterious to reproduction.
I can already hear evo-psych people whining about the fact that they're working with flaky behavioural traits with poorly understood genetics and the ethics department gets upset if they try to do breeding experiments on humans. Well tough shit. In science, if your hypothesis is expensive or inconvenient or insane to test, you goddamn well test it anyway! For Science! Call me mad, will they? And why? Because I dare to dream of my own race of atomic monsters! Atomic supermen with octagonal-shaped bodies that suck the blood out of you...
Uh, I mean you find another hypothesis to test.