This is a comment by Paula on the post “The Marmoset Conundrum“.
As an evolutionary biologist myself, I think it is worth pointing out that there is a considerable (and often unappreciated) difference between explaining something and excusing it. Just because a certain theory provides an explanation for a behavior does not IN ANY WAY excuse that behavior.
The majority of people who are involved in active research in this area are not looking for reasons to excuse rape; if anything the hope is that by understanding the evolutionary pressures behind these phenomena we can come up with better strategies for prevention. Behaviors like violence and theft can be and are explained by ecological and evolutionary theories of competition, sociality, cooperation, and group selection; rape and sexual behavior are not unique in this way, but studies of these subjects are perhaps more sensationalized by the media.
It is good to be skeptical, but we aren’t doing anyone any good by refusing to accept ANY evolutionary research on human behavior. The more we know about a problem, the more tools we have to solve it. The process of evolution can be greedy, selfish, and cruel but that doesn’t mean that is how we have to act. True humanity is about rising above our baser biological programming, not refusing to acknowledge its existence.
Photo credit: Flickr / raj_nair81