Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 669–681 | Cite as

On the inappropriate use of the naturalistic fallacy in evolutionary psychology

  • David Sloan Wilson
  • Eric Dietrich
  • Anne B. Clark


The naturalistic fallacy is mentionedfrequently by evolutionary psychologists as anerroneous way of thinking about the ethicalimplications of evolved behaviors. However,evolutionary psychologists are themselvesconfused about the naturalistic fallacy and useit inappropriately to forestall legitimateethical discussion. We briefly review what thenaturalistic fallacy is and why it is misusedby evolutionary psychologists. Then we attemptto show how the ethical implications of evolvedbehaviors can be discussed constructivelywithout impeding evolutionary psychologicalresearch. A key is to show how ethicalbehaviors, in addition to unethical behaviors,can evolve by natural selection.

Altruism Ethics Evolution Group selection Morality Multilevel selection Naturalistic fallacy 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Sloan Wilson
    • 1
  • Eric Dietrich
    • 1
  • Anne B. Clark
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Biological Sciences, Philosophy, and AnthropologyBinghamton UniversityBinghamtonUSA

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