I have been asking myself the following:
In Chapter five of his book "What Emotions Really Are", P. E. Griffith (1997) states some objections against the current standard (?) of adaptationist thinking in evolutionary psychology. Briefly stated, one of his objections is that "[t]he adaptive story cannot enhance the credibility of the data because an equally good story would be available for many of the alternative findings." (p. 110) Supposedly it is too easy to concoct evolutionary plausible 'support' for many concurring hypotheses.
The issue, in my opinion, revolves around the notion 'equally good stories'. With the current amount of knowledge about the ancestral environment, different stories may very well be equally plausible.
In fact, it is possible (I have no idea how likely or unlikely it is) that we will never know enough about our EEA (environment of evolutionary adaptedness) to make reliable 'predictions' about the evolution of different cognitive mechanisms.
On the other hand, assumptions about the EEA hardly ever (if ever) have consequences for only one evolved mechanism. Whenever we -e.g. inspired by archeological findings- assume something about the nature of the EEA, with the purpose of lending a known phenomenon or mechanism plausibility (for instance: we may -and do-, based on archeological data, assume that our ancestors lived in groups of a certain size; this has consequences for the social-cognitive mechanisms we would expect to have been evolved), we also create other hypotheses concerning other, possibly unknown mechanisms which are likely to have evolved if our hypothesis is true. Thus one assumption gives rise to multiple hypotheses, the confirmation of which renders our assumption more plausible than the confirmation of only one would have done.
It may be possible to decide which story is best after all.
Is this too optimistic an account?
Eric Rietzschel firstname.lastname@example.org