In his Little Red Book, Mao Tse Tung said: “Learn to play the piano.” [Fn #1] However, I don’t recall ever seeing a single piano in an African village, although I certainly saw (and heard) piano accordians in the villages and along the mountain paths of Lesotho (along with various hand-drums and mamokhorongs). And settlements larger than traditional villages – Zimbabwe’s Growth Points, for example – sometimes had pianos in their churches or newly-built school halls. Of course, the earliest of these pianos could only have been made in these last 300 years.
It seems to me that the historical absence of village pianos in Africa causes a problem for evolutionary psychology, since clearly a daily compulsion to play the piano is not something that has a long-standing evolutionary basis – at least, not for those of us descended from the peoples of the African savannah. So if evo-psych cannot explain this very real human characteristic, what business does it have explaining any other human characteristic? Why are some attitudes or characteristics to be explained by evolutionary means yet not others? What distinguishes the one class of characteristics from the other? And what credence can we possibly give to any evolutionary explanation of phenomena which is not, prima facie, explainable in this way? Surely, this limitation of the scope of evolutionary explanations completely undermines such arguments, since either all higher-level human characteristics have evolutionary explanations or none at all do.
1. In: Chapter 10: Leadership of Party Committees. Quotations from Mao Tse-Tung. Peking, PRC: Foreign Languages Press, 1966.
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