I'll agree with you about humanity in the sense of our culture and other sociological interpretations, and even go a step further and say that the human mind can't just be reduced to the perpetuation of genes, but I'm afraid I'm a little more evolutionist with the brain - it is just as much a physical piece of our body built by the recipe written in our genes and influenced by our environment. Cartesian dilemma solved or unsolved, the brain is a physical organ. I will say, though, that the brain is the most complex thing ever studied and many (if not all) of its functions are pretty much only very far-removed and indirectly related to gene survival. Our brains had to serve a near infinite set of purposes, many that were compounded by the existence of other brains and brain(mind)-products, so that gene survival is only an ultimate explanation, almost never a proximate one.
Chomsky's talking about the just-so stories endemic to the arena of adaptationist explanation of observed facts. I want to mention that this isn't restricted to EP, though - plenty of evolutionary explanations, human or non-human, are susceptible to being just-so stories; it's inherent in the nature of abductive reasoning. This is why evolutionary research (conceding the point: especially with human psychology, since it's already sometimes difficult to assure construct validity there) needs to be careful and cautious across the board. Also, holy crap - I am almost certain I had The Evolution of Language out of the local library too this summer! I ended up having to return it unopened (I had borrowed one called Proust and the Squid with it and opened that first) because my reading list for class was too heavy to let me get in some leisure too.
Anyway, broad conclusions based on just western uni students are unreliable. I could defend an argument for their (limited) usefulness despite that, but the point is inarguable.
I'm glad you put "justified" in quotations. It tells me the unremarkable fact that you know social Darwinism is bunk as application of any theory and doesn't justify any of the things social Darwiniststhought it did, and it tells me the more remarkable fact that you pick up on the distinction that, when it comes to theories in science, explanation is not synonymous with justification (more remarkable because that is a hugely common misperception made around this topic).
You and I need to discuss Steven Pinker over tea or something. My experience from reading him is that there are reasonable conclusions to make about the human species that derive from human universals, things in our biology that unite us as humans and which span time and cultures. Teasing out the very real effects of cultural environment on human thought and behavior don't make the biological effects silent. I may just be unfamiliar with the Western bias that concerns you (though I'm not doubting its existence).
Mind if we get to schooling separately? This is already looking 2000 character-y. =P
Instead of getting myself worked up about irrelevant **** like gay marriage (OMG, a group that doesn't want gay marriage is showing solidarity with a business whose CEO thinks similarly, what a crime!), I'd stop and think about the high probability that the chickens and the like served at such establishment are often treated and reared in the most vile ways. I CBA to research the company (mainly cos I can't stand looking at battery chickens and shiz), but being a fast food chain, I doubt their ethical standards regarding treatment of their produce is that high.
I genuinely give more of a **** about one single battery farmed chicken than I do every single gay person's wish to be granted the right to marry (note the term marry, not engage in homosexual relations or induct one's self into a civil partnership/equivalent).
This post earned me a ten point infraction with the message
you are a horrible ****ing person for posting that **** and i will not stand for it. learn to be a better person or leave this forum plzkthx
The mod's inability to read properly or contextualise what I was actually saying meant I got a ten point infraction. In the staff contact forum two separate mods have agreed I am in the right yet still I have the infraction and the mod in question has not responded to either a PM or the thread made about the post in the staff contact thread. Their only argument is to make sad little jokes about how I'm overreacting (which I may be, but that is irrelevant).