Re: Guest Post - We Are All Science-Deniers

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Oh for fuck's sake. I'm going to stop reading links.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:40 AM
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Just don't read the ones that aren't golden.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:42 AM
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There's no doubt that many left leaning academics have historically been quite skeptical about evolutionary psychology, presumably out of the fear that ascribing certain traits to biology suggests that they cannot be changed -- and thus, can perpetuate inequality.

That must be it. I can't think of any other reason academics might be skeptical of evolutionary psychology.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:42 AM
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P1: People are prone to use tautological reasoning.
P2: People are the result of an evolutionary process operating through differential survival rates that vary by trait.
C: Tautological reasoning confers a survival advantage.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:45 AM
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Everyone knows Both Sides Do It. Whatever it is you're writing about in the Washington Post, the conclusion has to be Both Sides Do It.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:49 AM
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I'm fascinated by evo psych because it seems like it ought to have some real explanatory power if anything like rigor could be brought to the field. Unfortunately the general theme seems to be that the veldt was just practice for the 1950s.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:49 AM
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On the veldt, hominids unable to leap to conclusions that reinforced gender norms were considered to show decreased reproductive fitness vis a vis their inability to be published in the popular press.

Work in some references to "racial realism" while you're at it.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:49 AM
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On the veldt, intelligent and reflective individuals who were concerned for the common good of the group, learned to discount implausible narratives purporting to explain anti-social behaviour, as believing them led to innocent third parties being eaten by giant hyaenas. From this we can trace the origin of the modern "left-leaning academic".


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:50 AM
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There's no doubt that many left leaning academics have historically been quite skeptical about evolutionary psychology, presumably out of the fear that ascribing certain traits to biology suggests that they cannot be changed

Wait, surely the thing that conceptually distinguishes evo psych from just pscyh is the idea that it is contingent and hence subject to change.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:53 AM
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Next up: Why won't liberal political scientists take the opinions of self-styled Occupy spokeswoman Justine Tun/ney and computer programmer Men/cius Mold/bug seriously when they call for a return to serfdom and an end to representative democracy?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:54 AM
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Speaking of bad science in the Washington Post, this piece by Jesse Richman and David Earnest ("Could non-citizens decide the November election?") was pretty appalling, enough so that the same Post blog has run two throat-clearing followups about the probably-bad methodology used (1, 2). Look for this to be cited by voter ID proponents (who have no problems removing everyone named Jesus Garcia from the rolls) until about 2030.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:02 AM
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I won't read most evolutionary psychology because the quality of the science is usually really low. But it's a perspective that can generate interesting testable hypothesis (positive selection for intelligence should have a detectable signature among Ashkenzim, for instance-- turns out to be probably false).

Also, Kahneman's work on behavioral economics is rooted in evolutionary psychology, has some pretty interesting implications for limitations of human intelligence. Neither topic really gets at issues that make people upset.

The most contemptible "studies" IMO are the ones that start with porn, either images or activity logs.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:05 AM
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This is really trolling you guys this hard? Only 50% of the sample found it plausible that there's an evolutionary component to preference for fatty and sugary foods! Does that same relation hold here? My general premise has been that popularizers of -- and disingenuous supports of -- ev psych had a well-deserved shitty reputation on unfogged but that nobody actually believed that evolution had no meaningful effects on human behavior. I am right about that, aren't I?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:05 AM
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13 not to togolosh and lw, particularly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:06 AM
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I take it as a given that evolution has had meaningful effects on human behavior. I just insist on a hypothesis that could be falsified.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:08 AM
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13 - 60%! But anyway, given that, maybe it's just that sociologists don't know a ton about evolutionary psychiatry and therefore it has jack shit to do with their suuuuuper-egalitarianism liberalism. I mean, I recognize that that's the only reason they would reject wholly self-evident claims such as "men have a greater tendency towards promiscuity than women due to an evolved reproductive strategy", but even so. On the veldt, was it an evolutionary advantage to feed the trolls?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:11 AM
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Not to get into the philosophy of science weeds, but do you think that's never the case in studies of behavior, never the case in studies of human behavior, never the case in studies of causal factors in human behavior, never the case in studies of causal factors in human behavior that are not subject to direct experiment, never the case in studies of evolution's impact on behavior (human or non-humna), or specifically only never the case in evolutionary psychology?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:12 AM
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Psychology, not psychiatry. I apologist to Sigmund of the Apes.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:12 AM
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17 to 15.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:12 AM
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For example, I don't do nutrition, but it strikes me as highly plausible that there is an evolutionary component to the preference for fatty and sugary foods. But you can do various tests that would get at that and how it might be separate from culture (e.g. look at other species, look at what happens when isolated cultures are exposed to M&Ms).


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:13 AM
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evolutionary psychiatry

"Tell me about your relationship with your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother."


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:14 AM
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13: I think the explanation, although it's not an excuse, for rejecting statements like "there's an evolutionary component to preference for fatty and sugary foods" (which, to be clear, seems obviously true to me), is in this paragraph:

But there's also a notable limitation to the study. When it comes to some of the more controversial statements about the evolutionary basis of various human behaviors that were used (for instance, the assertion that "The widely observed tendency for men to try and control women's bodies as property...has a significant evolutionary biological component"), the research doesn't really take a strong stand on whether they're actually true -- which makes it rather hard to call the sociologists woefully biased. Instead, study subjects were merely asked to state whether they considered such statements "highly plausible," "plausible," "implausible," or "highly implausible."

"I think the 'science denial' here among sociologists is their mechanical dismissal of evolutionary reasoning applied to human behaviors -- a dismissal that's much sharper when considering potential sex differences in behavior," says Horowitz, explaining why the study took this approach.

Someone hands you a survey which asks if you agree that science has established (well, not exactly. It asks you to guess at odds for things where there isn't good science one way or the other yet, and grades you as a science denier depending on which way you guess) at least some things that are actually hotly contested in a very politically weighted way, it's going to be tempting, if you're not the most coldly rational person on the block, to answer all the questions with "Fuck you, I don't buy any of it."


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:14 AM
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16: if sociologists want to troll themselves it seems like no business of mine. But that said, if a psychologist were to say "it doesn't matter what population I study, as human behavior is almost all universal, and there is certainly no believable evidence to the contrary" they would be roundly (and correctly) mocked (which we know because this has in effect happened before).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:14 AM
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17: To take another example, I cannot conceive of how you could do an experiment that would be ethical and plausible to separate out the culture from evolution on the topic such as the relative sexual promiscuity of men and women. Yet it seems to be the main topic in the popularized accounts of evolutionary psychology.

I'll readily admit that I don't read the academic journals in the field. It could be different there.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:16 AM
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I think you're missing the point of my objection. Someone with JSTOR will have to tell me if the study had any controls with a survey of non-sociologists (or non-liberals), but the abstract doesn't describe such a thing. It seems to me if you want to point a finger at the dumbass sociologists having a majority respond that something actually plausible outside their field of expertise is plausible, you'd want to know that there's some sort of causal factor their outside what you'd hear from the general population taking a stab at such a thing from first principles.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:17 AM
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My guess is that the ev psych people have spent long enough dancing the 'the two-step of terrific triviality' that even the dumb obvious evolution -> psychology stuff is starting to look fishy to some people.

There are only so many times you can publicly reason from "evolution clearly shapes human behaviors in both large obvious ways and small subtle ones" to "that's why black women are objectively less attractive than white women" before people start to feel kind of modus tollens-y about the whole thing.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:17 AM
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Also, they're surveying sociologists, for pity's sakes. Isn't it human nature to prefer the explanation favored by your very own discipline? If they polled very liberal mathematicians, they might have gotten a lot more people saying "sure, maybe, I'm not really informed on sources of human behavior."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:17 AM
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If I'm going to start reading journals, I should probably start in my won field.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:17 AM
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Jesus. On the veldt, all the hot chicks went for dudes who couldn't type.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:18 AM
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29 to 28. This is why Moby Hick is our common ancestor.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:19 AM
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'won' s/b 'own'

Lay-deez.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:19 AM
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22: so what everybody's irritated by is the "extremely plausible", "plausible", "not plausible", "extremely implausible" wording? I dunno, it doesn't seem completely horrible to me, but I don't need to climb that mountain.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:20 AM
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32: nope. Everyone's annoyed by the trolling. (Not you, the study.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:21 AM
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I know very little about this but I do think we have a strong bias towards dismissing any genetic component of what are considered positive and negative behavioral traits, because of the implications for public policy. Maybe there have been no convincing findings so far that would actually lead us to change policy, but it is possible. Not every researcher looking at genetic basis for intelligence or crime is a kook or racist like J. Phillippe Rushton, although that is really information we don't want to have.

I don't think it's out of the question that we'll reach the terrible future of "This guy may have been in jail for stealing a loaf of bread, but we found out he had the genotype of a rapist, and my opponent decided to set him free?!?!?" and schools saying "Sorry, it's hard for us to admit people who are predisposed to not concentrate on their work". Like modern phrenology. We already have sports academies saying "Sorry, bone scans indicate your 10-year-old is going to grow to 5'9" maximum, not interested".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:21 AM
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Also, is the definition of "evolutionary psychiatry" expanding and expanding nowadays to include things that are neither evolutionary nor psychiatry but we still don't like? To me it's up there with "politically correct" as something that you never claim to be, you are only accused of being.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:23 AM
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Psychology, not psychiatry, sorry. Because it's always "Ev Psych" I don't even remember which is which.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:23 AM
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I mean, you all know me online as being way over on the "Fuck you, I don't buy any of it" bench with respect to ev. psych.

On the other hand, anecdotally and observationally, I think there's a really significant genetic component to personality and thought processes; people seem to think and act like family members in ways that look powerfully like their physical resemblances, and while that could all be environment, that isn't my non-scientific guess. I'm really willing to believe there's good science out there to be done on inherited / evolutionary explanations for behavior. (I'm agnostic on the capital Ev. Psych 'module' stuff.)

What I have my heels dug in all the way about is all the overstated and politically tendentious claims, and I think this survey probably hit a lot of people who are using a similar rule of thumb in an inexact kind of way.


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:24 AM
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25: I mean, I'm sure if you were to construct a study asking psychologists to rate the importance of social construction in various common behaviors you'd end up with a picture of fairly broad ignorance of a lot of strong sociological literature, so okay. I definitely agree that this is showing less "liberals deny science too!@#!@#" than "methodological biases can lead scientists who really should be talking to other scientists to reject pretty solid explanations for not terribly rational reasons". Are we near comity?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:24 AM
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33: why does sociologists trolling themselves bother you?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:26 AM
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Comity isn't just a river in Egypt.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:26 AM
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Where else is it a river?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:26 AM
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Yeah, that's about the size of it. This looks like a poorly-constructed study that's been designed to get a lot of dings from the popular press by being spun as saying a lot more than it actually can.

* looks at ev psych, taps foot meaningfully *


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:28 AM
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I know very little about this but I do think we have a strong bias towards dismissing any genetic component of what are considered positive and negative behavioral traits, because of the implications for public policy.

I dunno about others, but for me it's more that ev psych is so far a barely established science (charitable assessment), which does not even have its basic methodological shit together, and basing any sort of policy on it would be bonkers.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:28 AM
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32: What the question structured like that is doing is conflating two questions: (1) Do you know what current well-established science says about whether this characteristic is affected by evolution and (2) Do you believe the science or reject it. And then, apparently, grades the survey under the assumption that for each question the correct answer to (1) is "It is well established that this particular thing is evolutionarily selected for" DESPITE THE FACT THAT FOR MANY OF THE QUESTIONS THAT IS BULLSHIT, and then looks at the answers as if (2) is the only live issue. Even though the grading of the survey probably wasn't revealed to the participants up front, you can smell the tendentiously bullshitty nature of it all over, and that's going to affect the answers you get.


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:30 AM
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39: If they do it on the subway, yes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:30 AM
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39: aren't they trolling liberal people, not sociologists?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:32 AM
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All sociologists are liberal, therefore all liberals are sociologists.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:33 AM
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24: there are certainly arguments against the methodology of evolutionary psychology (arguments that I personally find fairly convincing) but "you can't do experiments" isn't a very good one. I mean, it's tough to find a viable subject population for paleontology experiments, too, and yet people manage to say things about dinosaur behavior.

The general premise of evolutionary psychology is that if you have a human behavior that is (as best you can tell) universal, also exists in species that shared the relevant portion of the environment of evolutionary adaptiveness, and was consistently adaptive for human populations across a broad enough swath of time and geography, then you can start thinking that maybe that behavior serves an evolutionary purpose. Now, those conditions make up an extremely high bar to clear (especially the part about needing a stable-enough environment over essentially all of human history), but if you talk about something like malaria resistance (as opposed to behavior) the fact that it evolved in response to specific pressures and persisted in some human sub-populations but not others because it helped with survival in the environment in which they found themselves is not at all controversial.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:33 AM
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I definitely agree that this is showing less "liberals deny science too!@#!@#" than "methodological biases can lead scientists who really should be talking to other scientists to reject pretty solid explanations for not terribly rational reasons". Are we near comity?

The thing is, I really doubt that the 30% of the participants who rejected "there's an evolutionarily selected for preference for fatty and sugary foods" or whatever the wording was really mean it. (Barring whatever the minimal crazification factor was -- I mean, what is it, 20% or so of anyone on any survey will say anything). I bet that if you walked them through a very minimal evidence-based argument for it in a context that didn't have them resisting you as an obvious bullshit artist, you could talk almost anyone into buying that one.


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:33 AM
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I'll readily admit that I don't read the academic journals in the field. It could be different there.

In the field you need to hold the journals down with a rock. Otherwise they blow away.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:35 AM
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48.1: I can't think of a possible naturalistic study for that topic either, unless they're actually going to be able to identify a gene for boning lots of people.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:36 AM
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Well, so, yeah. It is actually not the main topic in academic accounts of evolutionary psychology (I mean, it's in there, but it's not in my estimation at the core of what people generally work on), it just gets a ton of press.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:43 AM
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Actually, one funny (where funny means "stupid") thing about that study is that the questions that were mentioned in the article are not necessarily questions that are terribly important in the evolutionary psychology literature, but definitely questions that are important in oft-tendentious popularizations. So, yeah, they shoulda hired a psychologist to run the study, I guess.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:44 AM
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I tend to thing it gets a ton of press because a significant subset of evolutionary psychology has decided that getting a done of press is a more important goal than conducting methodologically-sound research. Which may be true from the standpoint of reproductive fitness.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:45 AM
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You have another thing coming.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:46 AM
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Incidentally, there is definitely good evidence that there are brain structures involved in boning or not-boning lots of people, and there are excellent studies of people with brain lesions who had their "do not bone" to "bone" switch flipped.

But as far as I know a lot of the justification/explanation for the promiscuity comes from studies of the behavior of other species and how that relates to number of offspring, sexual dimorphism, social/family group organization etc. and where humans fit in there. But I'm not going to try and defend that research because I don't know it and also who cares.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:48 AM
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Please don't give Moby enough details to put 56.1 on his DIY list over cob housing, Sifu.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:49 AM
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54: I'm not really sure that's true either. There are certainly a few people in the field who think that, but I tend to think those few have an enormously outsized power to drive the terms of the discussion because what they're saying appeals to rich old white men. But, like, Leda Cosmides isn't out talking to Charlie Rose or whatever.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:50 AM
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his DIY list

I think in this case it wouldn't be "it" but "them".


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:51 AM
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56.1: I'm sure there are brain structures involved in boning or not boning. I still don't see what that gets you as far as gender differences in promiscuity unless you can show a gender difference in lesions or something.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:53 AM
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Which may be true from the standpoint of reproductive fitness.

See, back on the veldt people evolved to be really really good at pattern matching, so good that we do it even in cases where's there's no actual pattern to be found. So it really *is* true from the standpoint of reproductive fitness!


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:54 AM
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re: 48.2

and was consistently adaptive for human populations across a broad enough swath of time and geography

That's a particularly high bar to clear, and one with a lot of attendant methodological and conceptual issues. It also tends to be the one that gets hand-waved away the most.

We often* don't have enough data to actually talk about wether some trait or other was in fact consistently adaptive or not. Usually, instead a case is made that such and such a trait was likely to be adaptive in such and such an environment because some model or other is prima facie a plausible account of the relationship of that trait with reproductive fitness in a proposed historic environment. That's exactly where the more bullshitty veldtian reasoning does it's work.


* almost always.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:55 AM
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Although there are signs of a shift toward greater openness to evolutionary biological ideas, sociologists are least receptive to evolutionary accounts of human sex differences.

Genitals are socially constructed?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:03 AM
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On the veldt, when times of famine reduced people to eating rodents and lizards, the ability to kick small predatory birds up the arse significantly increased your chances of passing on your genes.

||; |> to be understood.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:03 AM
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That's a particularly high bar to clear, and one with a lot of attendant methodological and conceptual issues. It also tends to be the one that gets hand-waved away the most.

Agreed.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:05 AM
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Something that I think is really, really telling about this story is the quote from Haidt in the OP: "On the left, including the academic left, the most sacred issues involve race and gender. So that's where you find the most direct and I'd say flagrant denial of evidence."

On race and gender issues specifically, claims that there is any kind of well settled, respectable science showing that there are significant genetic / inherited / evolutionarily mediated behavioral differences between demographic groups really are horseshit (assuming we're leaving out things like 'tendency to breastfeed' as a behavioral difference, which is not my impression of what Haidt's talking about). I would believe that whenever the field gets much better developed some such gender differences might show up (although I'd be really surprised if most of the things that get said now pan out); while racial/ethnic evolutionarily affected behavioral differences are, I suppose, not literally impossible, I'd be really really surprised if anything showed up in that area.

But Haidt is calling people science deniers for not thinking this stuff is well established now, and that is beyond ridiculous.


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:09 AM
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What she said.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:10 AM
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63: Yours aren't?


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:10 AM
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The most relevant part of the link at 64 is that the guy kept a gun in his fanny pack. That could be done safely (i.e. strapped in a holster in the pack), but I'm guessing he's the kind of guy who just tossed it in there to tempt natural selection.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:11 AM
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while racial/ethnic evolutionarily affected behavioral differences are, I suppose, not literally impossible, I'd be really really surprised if anything showed up in that area

I mean, there are differences that are perfectly well established. ("Should I live in this malarial region that has all the yummy produce or move up north where it's freezing and there's no sun but I can grow wheat?") Whether there are likely to be behavioral differences with a meaningful effect size compared to social, cultural and historical factors, and whether that's a remotely important or interesting thing to study if you're not already kind of a jerk are separate questions.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:17 AM
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I would believe that whenever the field gets much better developed some such gender differences might show up (although I'd be really surprised if most of the things that get said now pan out)

Stephen Jay Gould said something similar in regards to race at least a quarter of a century ago. He also made the point that since they hadn't shown up yet in spite of all the efforts to find them, there was likely to be so much overlap between populations that they could be regarded as equal for all practical purposes whatever happened at the extreme tails of the curve.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:17 AM
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I mean, there are differences that are perfectly well established.

You mean there are, on average, behavioral differences between different ethnic groups? No shit, Sherlock, and if you communicated the question clearly I sincerely doubt there's a person on the planet who would disagree with you. What I'm calling horseshit is the claim that as we stand here today, we have respectable science establishing that any such behavioral differences were evolutionarily selected for.


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:21 AM
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(That was testy, and to be clear I don't have the impression you disagree with me about it. 70 just seemed to me to be muddying exactly the question about what do we now have good evidence for.)


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:23 AM
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I mean, there are differences that are perfectly well established. ("Should I live in this malarial region that has all the yummy produce or move up north where it's freezing and there's no sun but I can grow wheat?")

I don't understand, what's the behavioural difference here? Did it cause the moving or result from the moving?


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:23 AM
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72: no, I meant that there are biological differences between ethnic/racial groups that were obviously and basically incontrovertibly selected for (malaria resistance and gluten tolerance), so on some level biological differences that had an impact on behavior are perfectly plausible. As the rest of my comment I hope makes clear, I don't think they're likely to interesting or important (and don't know why somebody would want to study them aside from being a big ol' racist), but I don't see any reason to be strongly convinced that they are unlikely to exist.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:26 AM
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Evolution, social construction, it's all wrong: everything is environmentally determined because it depends on the primordial density fluctuations left over after inflation ended in the early universe.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:27 AM
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I think the behavioral difference he's referring to is literally wheat-farming while wearing wool and fur, as opposed to fruit-gathering while wearing cotton or something else light. No explanation, just a behavior difference that correlates with ethnicity. Similarly, people of ethnically Japanese ancestry show a strong tendency to speak Japanese (the tendency is strongest among those actually living in Japan, but shows up worldwide.)


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:27 AM
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Ah, well. On the Japanese veldt, speaking Japanese conveyed substantial survival and reproductive advantages.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:29 AM
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77: no, not quite. I'm saying that there are biological differences (gluten tolerance and malaria resistance) that make different behaviors (wheat farming and living someplace with malaria) differently accessible to/optimal for different groups. I'm not trying to be all hand-wavey; it seems sort of obviously true, no?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:33 AM
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75: Oh, I understand your point now.

I would say that there is a strong conceptual distinction between biological differences affecting what is physically possible (or easy) for someone to do, like eat milk or survive malaria, and biological differences operating mentally, on the choices people make. I don't disbelieve that the latter sorts of biological difference between people are possible, and if they're possible between people then they're not impossible (although I still think unlikely) between ethnic groups. Still, "My ethnicity does not tend to live in swampy tropical areas because when we try we die of malaria, unlike your ethnicity which manages okay" seems like a very distinct sort of evolutionarily affected behavioral difference from anything relating directly to mental capacities or tendencies, to the extent that evidence of the one isn't much evidence at all for the likelihood of the other.


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:36 AM
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66 - Haidt has been pretty ridiculous for a while now, I think. He managed to move from the (interesting) moral emotions stuff to arguing that conservatives have some sort of moral advantage* over liberals because they use all the moral emotions whereas liberals only use one or two of them*. My read on it is that he fell prey to the popular-academic trap where he started getting a lot of positive feedback from, e.g., op ed writers at the NYT and ended up writing to them instead of bothering to do science, which ended with him saying obviously false things in order to be one of those 'above partisanship now now children stop bickering' sorts. At this point I don't think there's really any reason to take him especially seriously anymore.


*It's still hard for me to imagine how someone (1) capable of tying his own shoes and (2) who claims to have interacted with liberal people at any point in his life would be willing to say either of these things with a straight face, but there you go.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:37 AM
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80: all it says is that there are real, significant, genetically determined biological differences between racial and ethnic groups. That is, as far as it goes, an existence proof for the existence of real, significant, genetically-determined biological differences between ethnic groups. If those did not exist, then the case against genetically determined behavioral differences would be very strong indeed.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:40 AM
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"relative sexual promiscuity of men and women"

Due to the nature of 2 person heterosexual sex to the first approximation men and women are equally promiscuous. The second order effect being gay versus lesbian sex. The third order effect being threesomes.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:42 AM
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79: But as I understand early human migration, no one moved substantial distances in one go, with the possible exception of the ancestors of the south-east asians. Communities may wander maybe 10-100 miles from where they were a generation ago, and then again in the next generation, and so on, until the earth is covered. Anyone particularly vulnerable to mosquitos would not have solved their problems with movements of these lengths. In the case of wheat farming, people with gluten intolerances may not fare well in their new environments, but where do the behavioural implications come in?


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:42 AM
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83: You're kind of missing the zeroth-order effect which is that people define promiscuity in terms of number of partners rather than frequency of sex.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:44 AM
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80: all it says is that there are real, significant, genetically determined biological differences between racial and ethnic groups

I hate to repeat the "No shit, Sherlock", but isn't the fact that there are inherited easily detectible visual characteristics that allow laypeople to distinguish between members of many ethnic groups all you need for that one? I mean, the fact that sorting a room full of a mixture of ethnic Koreans and Nigerians out from each other looking only at gross physical characteristics would be trivially easy isn't really in contention.


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:44 AM
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79. Both and. A sub-population in each case must have originally carried mutations for gluten tolerance/malaria resistance, but they would have been subject to strong selective pressure in wheat growing/malarial areas. Probably the relevant mutations also pop up from time to time in region where they're not useful or deleterious, but they're subject to neutral or negative evolutionary pressure. A small number of Chinese people are lactase persistent.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:45 AM
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80. Malaria resistance is basically a single-locus trait. Behavior is more like a propensity to hypertension or diabetes, much harder to pin down and for some physical disorders as for behaviors, to define clearly.

But-- impulse control and a propensity to explosive violence against people are the first places I'd look. Killing other adult members of the same species in conflicts is as far as I know rare among animals-- humans, chimps, not much else. Conversely, infanticide almost everywhere in the tree of life. I wouldn't trust human social intuition much to find behaviors that are more like instincts than like choices.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:45 AM
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86: well, maybe? There's a case that can be made, I think, that skin color in particular is not really a meaningful difference in the way that something like gluten tolerance is. (I say "I think" because I'm not really sure how to make such a case. I just wanted to head it off in case somebody else wanted to.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:53 AM
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89: "Meaningful"? Care to define terms?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:57 AM
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Not to you. I thought we had a deal? Or is that off?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:59 AM
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Talking about racial and ethnic groups as a single set of things gets problematic really fast when it comes to genetically linked things, though. With ethnic groups you better believe there are going to be obvious differences showing up - even with the more inclusive ones - because that kind of connection (family!) is part of how we pick them out. But race is a lot more awkward: there are overlapping bits but in general race has relatively little to do with genetics and so talking about the two of them together ends up giving some pretty sketchy people* way more credibility than they deserve.

*"Race realists" mainly.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:59 AM
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"83: You're kind of missing the zeroth-order effect which is that people define promiscuity in terms of number of partners rather than frequency of sex."

that doesn't matter. assuming only two partner heterosexual sex, the average number of partners are going to be equal. Each 2 person heterosexual sex act will add either no new partner to both the total men or women partner tally or add a single partner to each of the men and women new partner tallies.

If it is a new partner for the man, it is a new partner for the women.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:01 AM
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For example, I don't do nutrition, but it strikes me as highly plausible that there is an evolutionary component to the preference for fatty and sugary foods.

In a previous thread, we went through the discussion of fatty foods, and I was persuaded by Sifu T and others that there was a highly plausible evolutionary basis for the human preference for fat.

But I don't recall anyone making the case for sugary foods, and I can't come up with it myself. If this were valid, shouldn't humans be widely understood to crave, say, potatoes?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:01 AM
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Following up to 86: Again, I should apologize for being testy -- I absolutely don't think you're arguing in bad faith or pushing any kind of political agenda or anything like that. But I think that conversation illustrates the sort of disconnect that's going on in the discussion of the survey linked in the initial post.

No one who's aware of how genetics or inheritance work enough to have any meaningful opinion on the topic at all is going to disbelieve that there are significant (in the sense of reliably present rather than necessarily important) genetic differences (statistically) between ethnic groups, and while I suppose there could be pushback on whether any of those differences were selected for rather than being random, I don't think there's much resistance to the idea that, e.g., pale skin has something to do with greater need for Vitamin D absorption in non-equatorial climates.

The controversy on the race and gender stuff is all about the direct mental capacity and other direct behavioral issues. Any discussion that treats the controversial stuff ("Group X is prone to impulsive violence") as tightly connected with the noncontroversial stuff ("Group Y tends to stay in the shade in the tropics, because they sunburn easily"), is going to go off the rails immediately.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:02 AM
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actually scratch the threesome effect, it is all up to gays versus lesbians. I have faith in the gays that they can pull this one out. #MVP


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:04 AM
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95 crossed with 89 et seq., so to 89: I thought skin color was significant in the same kind of way as gluten or lactose tolerance as being about Vitamin D absorption, no?


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:05 AM
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Except for the non-heterosexual part of threesomes so unscratch the threesomes.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:06 AM
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If this were valid, shouldn't humans be widely understood to crave, say, potatoes?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:06 AM
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AS ONE DOES.


Posted by: MY OPINIONATED IRISH GRANDMOTHER | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:07 AM
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93: the mean is the same, yes, but who gives a fuck about the mean?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:07 AM
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re: 97

A bit, although the recent DNA sequencing they did on the pre-agricultural population of Europe suggests they were black [and had blue eyes].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:08 AM
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As typically understood, promiscuity isn't a linear function of the number of partners.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:09 AM
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People tend to be dismissive of evolutionary psychology because 99% of the time it turns out that they haven't bothered to do the work needed to put their speculations on anything approaching a solid basis. And when people point out "hey, it looks like you haven't done the work", the response is almost invariably "OMG!! Are you saying that evolution can't possibly have had any influence on human behavior at all!! Sciencedenialeleventy!!"

Evolutionary psychology is a hypothetical science that might one day exist, but it has a very fragile claim to existence right now.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:10 AM
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Evolutionary psychology is a hypothetical science that might one day exist, but it has a very fragile claim to existence right now.

To defend anyone who might be honestly and respectably working in the field, people can be doing valid and interesting research for a long time before they have well supported results interesting enough to a lay audience that they'll make it into the popular press. The science can exist before the results do.


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:12 AM
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102: The origin of blue-eyed soul!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:13 AM
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95.3 off the rails now because we are technically limited, as we are technically limited for hypertension.

It's unlikely that we will be so technically limited in a decade, when answering questions like this will be possible. I think that ned said basically the same thing in 34. Having the ability to do that kind of screening will be a big change, and it is coming.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:13 AM
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Not to you. I thought we had a deal? Or is that off?

I didn't think it was that strict, but sure, whatever. It wasn't meant as a challenge, or I wouldn't have posted.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:15 AM
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It's unlikely that we will be so technically limited in a decade, when answering questions like this will be possible.

Unless I've lost track of what you're referring to by 'this', that seems super, super, unrealistically optimistic.


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:15 AM
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102. Also, people in tropical America are not black. Do they suffer any ill effects (compared to Central Africans/Melanesians) from being medium brown?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:15 AM
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104: your use of "eleventy" is certainly convincing but do you have a cite for the 99% figure? I assume you didn't just make it up in pursuit of a hyperbolic point, because then your whole comment would be meaningless.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:16 AM
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Oh, maybe I should say, I haven't read Pinker's book on violence, which probably has some substance, some speculation and some chapters that are hard to assess. On my list though.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:17 AM
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112: I haven't actually read either the book or much in the way of reviews. Is he arguing that we've evolved to be less violent in historical times?


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:21 AM
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re: 113

Yes.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:29 AM
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Wait, really?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:33 AM
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95: The controversy on the race and gender stuff is all about the direct mental capacity and other direct behavioral issues. Any discussion that treats the controversial stuff ("Group X is prone to impulsive violence") as tightly connected with the noncontroversial stuff ("Group Y tends to stay in the shade in the tropics, because they sunburn easily"), is going to go off the rails immediately.

Well, they are definitely different insofar as one is controversial and one is not, and they are also different insofar as one is probably nonsense and one is not. But in terms of the kind of mechanisms and conditions that would lead to one or the other they're not that different. If there is a consistent difference in the environmental demands faced by one population vs. another population, it is likely that those populations will have evolved strategies that approach those environments differently. The reason that the controversial stuff is probably nonsense is not that the idea of evolved behavioral responses to environmental stimuli is nonsense, it is because the idea that the bar "have the environments been stable enough, and different enough, to lead to different strategies" (the one that ttaM and I agreed was the very high bar that ev psych usually failed to clear) could be cleared in the case of cognitive demands of social protohuman hunter gatherer (or early agricultural) groups is fairly ridiculous already, and the idea that those differences would be of a scale that they wouldn't be overwhelmed either by other individual differences or by the effects of culture and environment is even more ridiculous. It's still not per se unbelievable to think that on some level they might be there but it's still (just to be consistent) a fairly pointlessly tiny effect to be chasing unless you are, as noted above, a big ol' racist who really wants to find something.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:34 AM
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112-115: I don't think he's arguing that we've evolved to become less violent, just that we have become less violent, and that the reasons for that can be explained by recourse to evolutionary pressures. I haven't read it either, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:35 AM
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"93: the mean is the same, yes, but who gives a fuck about the mean?"

Lots of people in all sorts of situations?

Seriously, the promiscuity function is going to be pretty complicated.

Consider Wilt Chamberlain who had sex with 10,000 women.

He resulted 1 promiscuous man (Wilt Chamberlain) and an x increase in the total number of promiscuous women. Good luck finding a function where x is less than one.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:36 AM
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I thought Pinker was just tilting at straw men like in the blank slate book. Arguing that biological evolution explains the recent decline in violence sounds like too much of a stretch.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:37 AM
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117 is correct as far as I remember from reading it.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:39 AM
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Yeah, I don't think I says that. I would gloss the premise as "the vast decline in violence in modern times seems like a paradox for evolutionary psychology, given that we're the same people now as we were then. But it is not a paradox, because."

He definitely is not a believer in the role of evolutionary pressures that only applied to humans after the dawn of agriculture.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:40 AM
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The Wikipedia article for Pinker's book backs 117, and gives five different forces for pacification (nation state, commerce, feminism, cosmopolitanism, and "the escelator of reason".


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:41 AM
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117: And the reasons for the increase in violence that happened before the decline could also be explained by recourse to evolutionary pressures.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:41 AM
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+a),-e


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:42 AM
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I don't think it's controversial that rates of violent death in hunter-gatherer populations, or in subsistence farming populations are/were higher than in, say, 21st century 1st world urban populations. Not read the book, though. I'd be interested in how he handles the whole 'mechanised warfare' question.*

* although I'd probably agree that that is a different kind of question.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:43 AM
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"112-115: I don't think he's arguing that we've evolved to become less violent, just that we have become less violent, and that the reasons for that can be explained by recourse to evolutionary pressures. I haven't read it either, though."

I read the book. He mainly thinks that is cultural because of the big reduction since 1900 or so. He suggests that there may be some sort of genetic component due to hanging criminals and such, but he has no proof.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:43 AM
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Pinkar?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:43 AM
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115: No, he argues that evolution left us with various conflicting repertoires of behavioral propensities, and that large structural features of historical development systematically favored (on net) the expression of certain repertoires over others (i.e., the less violent ones). As with many things, Wikipedia is a decent start.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:43 AM
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Pinker-pwned


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:44 AM
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I don't think it's at all implausible that at least some populations have evolved to be less violent in historical time. After all, the genes leading to blond hair in Europeans seem to have arisen about 7,000 years ago, which would almost be historical if it hadn't happened in Finland.

But good luck demonstrating it.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:44 AM
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But in terms of the kind of mechanisms and conditions that would lead to one or the other they're not that different.

Depending on what you mean by 'mechanisms', I'd argue that they're very different, in that we have a good understanding of the inherited physical trait in one set of cases and not at all in the other. If we're talking about skin color, or lactose tolerance, or malaria resistance, we're looking at a concrete thing we can identify in an individual and follow through families, and that is either not strongly affected by the environment or is affected in ways we understand, like suntanning. Identifying a genetic basis for a characteristic like that is a reasonable task, and we've done it for a bunch of things, which then lets us think about whether or not they were selected for in a fairly concrete way.

If we're talking about intelligence, or impulsivity, or a tendency to violence, or anything that I'd put in the controversial box, we're talking about things that are really hard to reify, or trace through a family tree, or tease apart from environmental influences in a very very different way. That doesn't mean that they don't have genetic components, and it leaves the possibility that there are statistically present differences between ethnic groups on the table as not actually ruled out by anything, but it's a very different level of problem to investigate.


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:44 AM
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11: Sweet Jumping Bayes on a Cross was that initial study a pernicious and evil methodological train wreck. Food for the Election Integrity Trolls from Hell and Just watch it turn up in an SC opinion upholding the modern version of poll taxes. Pre-cancer Lee Atwater would have been jealous.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:46 AM
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Is there a reason to think his specific hypotheses are right? How strong is his evidence for causality?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:50 AM
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That was me.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:50 AM
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I mean, it was either Pinker wasn't saying something that extreme or that I would have to accept that a Harvard professor could make an outlandish but attention-grabbing claim on the basis of the shakiest of evidence, so....


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:53 AM
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How would you even find evidence for causality without placing a bunch of people in an environment lacking the hypothetical driver(s)? Which would be staggeringly unethical, if you're talking about propensity to violence.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:53 AM
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131.2: I dunno, there are disorders that are highly heritable, with identified genetic markers, that can pretty easily be traced through a family tree, that affect cognitive function -- intelligence, impulsivity, whatever you please -- dramatically. But those have huge effect sizes. Where you and I agree is that it seems like any difference in cognitive function among groups, if it exists, is likely to have a tiny, tiny effect size and thus be both hard to study and not really meaningful in the real world. I tried to say this in my very first comment on the topic up at 70 which, in the fullness of thread development, I could have maybe phrased better along a number of axes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:55 AM
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136: Well, right. Natural experiments for this are almost impossible to imagine and his causes are certainly interrelated in complicated ways. Why should his hypotheses be treated as authoritative?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:59 AM
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It's really hard to get many words on an axe.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 10:59 AM
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137: Right, you were very clear about that in 116, which makes perfect sense to me other than the bit I quibbled with. (While I'm quibbling, though, from "disorders that are highly heritable... that affect cognitive function" it seems like you still have a large and difficult jump to get from there to being able to talk about genetic influence on normal variation. Not impossible, but there's a non-trivial problem left there.)


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:00 AM
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I don't think it's controversial that rates of violent death in hunter-gatherer populations, or in subsistence farming populations are/were higher than in, say, 21st century 1st world urban populations.

Not now, but it was deeply controversial a few decades ago, as (for example) Lawrence Keeley explains in the introduction to "War Before Civilisation" - archaeologists in the 70s and 80s who described prehistoric villages as "fortified" were vilified, the consensus being that those palisade fences of sharpened spikes were there as a symbolic representation of protectedness, or to keep animals from straying (you know how you need to put a ten-foot fence of sharpened spikes around a field to keep cows in). Even copper axeheads in graves were being regularly interpreted as "money" right up to the point where they found Otzi with one of them very clearly in use as an axe.
Even today, you'd get quite a bit of pushback if you said (truthfully) that the violent death rates in Jared Diamond's beloved Papuan societies are orders of magnitude greater than anything in modern society, except during the worst of wars. Very roughly, 28% of deaths of British adults during the First World War was a combat death (population forty million, so reckon on 700,000 deaths a year to maintain steady state - the war killed about 200,000 soldiers a year). That's the same percentage of violent deaths that you see in a lot of pre-state tribal societies, and they don't live like that only during times of crisis, they live like that all the time.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:02 AM
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French and German casualty ratios were higher.

But yes, I remember back in the day when Chicago was proverbially violent, and somebody pointed out that the murder rate among the !Kung was significantly higher, the reaction in some quarters was as if they'd screamed FUCK! in front of the Queen.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:09 AM
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Or, as the !Kung say: !FUCK.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:12 AM
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But really, that seems like a perfectly time to let it be known that your aunt plays the guitar.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:12 AM
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109, 131.2 Would you believe that it will be possible to do this for the personalities of cats rather than of people? If yes, then I will say that I doubt feline impulses are regulated very much differently than ours.

The issue isn't convincing academics, it's the lower bar of putting together some type of screening that works more often than not. Then, ned's 34 will happen, first in China and in military contexts. Not sure what will happen after that.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:13 AM
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145: Are you talking about anything in particular with respect to cat personalities? I mean, I in fact do think that feline impulses are regulated quite differently to ours (culture, e.g., has a much smaller effect on cats)(although they often enjoy classical music).

And I wouldn't be surprised if someone comes up with a genetic test for personality traits that gets used, probably on prisoners or something. I'd just be surprised if it worked in any meaningful sense.


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:18 AM
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The issue isn't convincing academics, it's the lower bar of putting together some type of screening that works more often than not.

I really don't understand this sentence. Academics, or the ones I've interacted with, are pretty easy. If you've got something that works more often than not under controlled conditions, I'd expect them to be readily convinced. What would you envision as something that 'worked' but wouldn't convince an academic?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:20 AM
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I'd like my personality expressed as an admixture of dog breeds.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:20 AM
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I'm sure there's a BuzzFeed quiz.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:22 AM
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If you have a tendency to nip people's ankles, I know that one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:23 AM
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Mastiff?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:26 AM
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How is your hip dysplasia?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:30 AM
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People have all kinds of weird ideas about relative violent death rates. My parents the other day were telling me how worried they are about someone they know who's taking a business trip to Dubai.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:31 AM
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And I wouldn't be surprised if someone comes up with a genetic test for personality traits that gets used, probably on prisoners or something. I'd just be surprised if it worked in any meaningful sense.

I suspect that most tests for "genetic criminality" will be quietly discarded after it is discovered how many solid upright citizens also set off the alarms.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:32 AM
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152: It's fine. I can still scratch my ears with my feet.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:33 AM
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147. eg An SAT or other aptitude test that can be used to sort people who will dig from people who will install communications equipment. Personally, I would be surprised if analytical ability were all that amenable to genetic testing, other aspects of individual variation (propensity to violence, meticulousness) would be on my short list.

Basically, the point Ajay is making in 147-- proving something to someone who has a reputation set and a thinking style geared against the proposition is pretty hard.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:35 AM
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153. Quite likely to be run over crossing the road, so I'm told (for values of likely such that I wouldn't worry.)

154. On balance I hope you're right.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:35 AM
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I think 154 is wrong. There are a whole bunch of investigative methods that would be tossed if they applied them to upright citizens because of the numbers of upright citizens who would be arrested. That's why the police don't generally use those methods except against poor and/or minority-looking people.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:39 AM
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An SAT or other aptitude test that can be used to sort people who will dig from people who will install communications equipment.

Like, say, the SAT, which is used for basically that purpose now, but doesn't have any inherent connection to genetics? You are completely puzzling me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:41 AM
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"I suspect that most tests for "genetic criminality" will be quietly discarded after it is discovered how many solid upright citizens also set off the alarms."

Yeah. There are a lot more solid upright citizens than violent felons so all of the biological tests are going to be useless. They are going to be knee deep in false positives.



Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:42 AM
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159. You asked for an example of something academically unacceptable but useful. The SAT is such a test.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:44 AM
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158: Wait, what? What are these charges the cops are supposedly actively avoiding arresting white people on?


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:46 AM
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We're not getting searched as often as black people are.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:47 AM
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162: I'm just pointing out that the younger me would have been arrested many times if I had been searched as often as a black man the same age is in NYC today.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:48 AM
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I maintain that I can't really be pwned when explaining my own thoughts.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:49 AM
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I am, of course, massively law abiding right now.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:49 AM
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Generally speaking though, the same name of stops/searches in a UMC neighborhood will yield way less arrests then those stops will in a low income minority area. If you give cops mandatory quotas like the NYPD was doing those cops know where the stats are going to be found. There's not some master plan not arrest white people.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:53 AM
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161: So you're envisioning a genetic test that worked to predict... I'm not sure exactly what. Future violent crime, maybe? And worked as well as the SATs work to predict college grades. If it worked as well as the SATs, I wouldn't expect a lot of controversy about whether it had identified a genetic marker that influenced behavior. I'd expect a lot of controversy about whether it was just or reasonable to do things to people on that basis, but that's different.

But I don't believe that a genetic test for any behavior pattern (barring rare gross disorders) with reliability even close to comparable to the SAT's reliability as a predictor of freshman grades is happening in the next decade. I could be wrong, but I haven't heard of anything that sounded particularly close on that front.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:55 AM
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167: Try white college students? I bet you could make marijuana arrests at a rate that would be rewarding to someone who was just looking to get their stats up without consideration of the class and race of the people being hassled.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:57 AM
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They won't sell me any because they think I'm a cop.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:57 AM
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169: For weed, maybe. But active warrants, illegal guns, and the easy felony arrests on the big three (coke, meth, heroin) will still be way lower.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 12:00 PM
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Anyway, when I was in college, everybody said the police were instructed not to arrest college kids for alcohol offenses unless there was another reason. I never heard it from an official source, but I did once hear a police officer tell my friend that she was supposed to give him his citation the day before but did not because our address was given out on the scanner as the location of a party.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 12:00 PM
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171: My point is that part of the reason I never had any active warrants against me was because I've never in my entire life been searched by the police. I haven't even been stopped since 1995 or so.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 12:03 PM
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168.2 Right, that's where we disagree. I doubt that there will be an effective genetic test for analytical ability, which many people fixate on.

But I believe that there will be effective tests for a bunch of traits, including propensity to impulsive violence, as I think there will be effective tests for propensity for hypertension.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 12:04 PM
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I shouldn't overstate my skepticism, there are things I've seen like research into genes that relate to an increased propensity for thrill seeking. But I haven't heard of anything that sounds like it's progressing toward "We have a genetic test that's going to tell us something meaningful about an individual's future behavior" at any real speed.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 12:13 PM
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I think it depends on what is an effective genetic test. Anybody can make a genetic test that significantly predicts a greater propensity toward impulse violence (look for a Y chromosome), but I wouldn't call it that very valid-added for genetics.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 12:19 PM
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176. And the military has already made use of this test.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 12:21 PM
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I totally got there first.


Posted by: Francis Galton | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 12:30 PM
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Maybe mention the contributions to statistical methods first, then the eugenics.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 12:36 PM
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If you give cops mandatory quotas like the NYPD was doing those cops know where the stats are going to be found. There's not some master plan not arrest white people.

Sentence 1 provides evidence that sentence 2 is incorrect.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 12:50 PM
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171: wait, are you saying rich white folk couldn't easily get popped for coke if the cops cared? You lived here in the '90s.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 1:09 PM
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I am, of course, massively law abiding right now.

I'm more of an artisanal law-abider: I only abide a few laws at a time, but I really expend a lot of effort on them.

Lately I've been carrying a spittoon in case I'm tempted to spit on the sidewalk.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 1:13 PM
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I'm an artesianal-law abider. I obey spring water.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 1:28 PM
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Two quick points, mostly aimed at the discussion going on earlier in the thread (mid 60s)
1) genetic differences =/= extant racial & ethnic groups. Of course there are genetic differences between people, but they don't neatly map on to what we consider discrete racial or ethnic groups, which are social constructs.
2) We already have very well established academic disciplines which study physical human diversity and research malaria resistance or lactose intolerance etc. They include evolutionary biology, physical anthropology, population genetics. We also have disciplines which study differences in human behavior cross culturally, such as psychological anthropology, cultural/social anthropology, linguistic anthropology, etc. That a bunch of people feel the need to create a new discipline which is both completely redundant and which doesn't really play nice with any of the preexisting disciplines studying humans should raise giant alarm bells for people wondering if ev psych is a legitimate field of research.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 6:20 PM
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184.2: of the two people most central to the creation of evolutionary psychology as a discipline one of them (John Tooby) is an anthropologist. So except from a claim-this-ground-for-my-field standpoint, I don't know why you should be worried (also, I can't for the life of me figure out how "psychological anthropology" would be different from ev psych).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 6:32 PM
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But, like, Leda Cosmides isn't out talking to Charlie Rose or whatever.

Cosmides farms out a lot of that work to her husband/collaborator/co-author, John Tooby. I lack the sophistication to evaluate their technical work, but the fact that they are fans of Pinker and his ilk speaks poorly of them.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 6:37 PM
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185.last: The name would seem to imply a greater acknowledgment of the role of culture and society.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 6:41 PM
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180: Nice, but really, no.

181: How do you think we get into a search on a person or a car? Things like active warrants, suspended driver licenses, uninsured vehicles. Doing a bunch of stops on UMC white people won't get me those things at anywhere near the rate of a poor minority neighborhood.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 6:48 PM
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I think psychological anthropology would expect its practitioners to know something about a lot of cultures and their histories. This seems to be different from ev psych; I don't know how you can argue that we all always know men don't cry and women aren't promiscuous if you're using everything written in Modern English, let alone Middle, let alone the easier Romance languages. (IIRC an envelope average of cultural presuppositions, taken globally, would still think women were more promiscuous.)

biological differences that had an impact on behavior [...] I don't see any reason to be strongly convinced that they are unlikely to exist.

I have an argument against! Labelling parts for easy disagreement:

(a) Humans are the most important environment of humans and have been since at least the rise of agriculture, probably earlier. (Most important, or tied with infectious diseases insofar as those are distinguishable.)

(b) A group of humans that lost a behavioral possibility would open up a set of strategies to neighboring groups. One of those strategies will eventually be successful.

(c) Humans won't evolve to lose behavioral possibility, although we might well evolve to gain plasticity, and the plasticity can be congenital even though not genetic. (This bit is looking likely, IIRC, for both a tendency to impulsiveness and a tendency to diabetes.)



Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 6:57 PM
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Randomly Googling around for stupid stuff by John Tooby, we get this:

Because intellectuals are densely networked in self-selecting groups whose members' prestige is linked (for example, in disciplines, departments, theoretical schools, universities, foundations, media, political/moral movements, and other guilds), we incubate endless, self-serving elite superstitions, with baleful effects: ... Economies around the world still apply epically costly Keynesian remedies despite the decisive falsification of Keynesian theory by the post-war boom ... I personally have been astonished over the last four decades by the fierce resistance of the social sciences to abandoning the blank slate model in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is false.

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 6:57 PM
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How do you think we get into a search on a person or a car?

It's been my experience that having long-haired men in the car in the South is sufficient, without any of the legal tells you cited.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 6:59 PM
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This guy in the bar was telling me about how lucky he was that when he got pulled over in Mississippi they didn't arrest him for the small amount of marijuana he had in his car or make him get a lawyer to get back his car. He only had to forfeit his cash (something over $2,000). I couldn't figure out a good way to give him a link to some of Balko's work, so I just suggested maybe next time he might try a lawyer anyway.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:08 PM
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191: My long standing caveat has been the South is a different country and down there you takes your chances.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:16 PM
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185

Um, worried about what? I'm simply pointing out that most of the issues that ev psychologists pretend to engage with are either studied more rigorously and seriously by other disciplines or have been rejected as appropriate topics for study by people who are already experts on human variation and have an understanding of the history of the discipline. As an outsider, you can take it as a reasonable heuristic that if everyone in a bunch of related disciplines who usually disagree fiercely all agree that a group of people in some random offshoot discipline are quacks, then that's probably a good sign they are.

I can't for the life of me figure out how "psychological anthropology" would be different from ev psych

Wikipedia can be your friend.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:18 PM
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As an outsider

Am I? Or am I inside the field?

(I'm not, but be less condescending, yeah? It's nice.)

Wikipedia can be your friend.

What's wikipedia?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:23 PM
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187: why?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:23 PM
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193: Yes, and it's spreading in unpredictable patches all over the country.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:27 PM
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Actually, I'm going to stop. I don't give a shit about ev psych, I don't do ev psych, I think ev psych is mostly wrong. Whatever I think about an argument from greater intellectual purity coming from anthropology... doesn't matter. Have at it. Fuck those ev psych suckers.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:27 PM
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Which leaves you free to mock 189, Tweety.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:28 PM
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What's wikipedia?

I'm so sad that you went with this over "What's a friend?"


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:28 PM
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In 1972 Francis Hsu suggested that the field of culture and personality be renamed 'psychological anthropology'. Hsu considered the original title old fashioned given that many anthropologists regarded personality and culture as the same, or in need of better explanations. During the 1970s and 1980s, psychological anthropology began to shift its focus towards the study of human behaviour in a natural setting.[citation needed]

What a friend we have in wikipedia.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:31 PM
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199: you aren't wrong about 189(a) although it leaves a chicken and an egg problem which is exactly what ev psych proposes to investigate. 189(b) I don't really get. If one group forewent the possibility of throwing themselves en masse over a bridge, that possibility would be available to the unfriendly neighboring tribe? 189(c) I don't get either. Per, let's say, QWOP, of course we have evolved to constrain behavioraly possibility. It is impossible to have a useful complex system that does not constrain its possible behaviors.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:35 PM
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Omit the final y in 202.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:36 PM
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198: As long as you really mean it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:37 PM
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I also, okay, being unable to leave the "psychological anthropology" thing alone, I'm just going to leave this here. Why on earth would evolutionary psych gain purchase when some anthropologists have latched on to a half-assed implementation of freudian principles?!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:38 PM
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204: that's a fair criticism, in a lot of ways.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:38 PM
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But!

I don't give a shit about ev psych, I don't do ev psych, I think ev psych is mostly wrong.

I do mean that. It's mostly wrong. It's a bad approach. People who think they should study things that way are doing the wrong thing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:39 PM
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How about we let the anthropologists think up plausible tests of evolution's effect on human culture and we let the evolutionary psychologists go stand in the rainforest?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:50 PM
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Yes, and it's spreading in unpredictable patches all over the country

Nice natural metaphor, but I think all too predictable. I'm a fan of Bruce Schulman's "Southernization of American Culture" set forth in his The Seventies.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:52 PM
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we let the evolutionary psychologists go stand in the rainforest

They do actually do this. They don't just do this, but say what you will about ev psych they aren't opposed to fieldwork.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:54 PM
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I love this wikipedia page.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:55 PM
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189(b): If the Montagues can't jump off bridges, there's a significant probability that the Capulets will corner them on a bridge and they'll all die, unlike the Guelphs who jump when cornered and two of them live and they return in fire and vengeance. If a group becomes incapable of an existing degree of violence, some of their neighbors will eventually conquer them by being that violent. If incapable of some degree of cooperation, a more organized gens will capture some necessary resource. Etc etc.

of course we have evolved to constrain behavioraly possibility. It is impossible to have a useful complex system that does not constrain its possible behaviors.

But humans have *more* behavioral possibility than any other animal; it's just that our behaviors have really complicated contextual triggers. I'd say evolving to have more possibility than our fellow primates is a better definition of humanity than any purely physical one.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:55 PM
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210: But they keep coming back.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:56 PM
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`physical' should be `physiological' in that last sentence. Or better, `metabolic'.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:56 PM
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Wikipedia can be your friend.

That might be an improvement. When Wikipedia asks me for money, it's happy if I give it $5.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:57 PM
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209: If it was really predictable, we could route around it better. Same with street harassment, think on.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 7:57 PM
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212.1: right, but you give the game away. That is exactly an ev psych argument for reciprocal altruism or in-group preference or whatever, if you just add the question "so how did that start?"

212.2: yeah? That doesn't seem like a simple question. I mean, it might be true, but animal behavior is really fucking complicated. Either way, it is definitely the case that our behaviors are nonetheless evolutionarily constrained. If you don't believe me, hold you breath until you pass out.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:01 PM
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Really you think there's an animal with a wider range of behaviors than humans have? Like what? I mean, we're even making inroads on the metabolic versatility of the archaea.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:16 PM
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Also, I don't think my argument does *any* good at all for how behavioral possibilities start, it only says they're hard to lose. It may not be a useful argument.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:17 PM
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I don't get the point of the breath-holding. My race has plastic bags. They even have instructions on them.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:18 PM
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217.last: Too soon.


Posted by: Opinionated David Carradine | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:20 PM
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215

Dear Prudence,

I thought we were friends, but they keep asking me for $5...


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:25 PM
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Speaking of Wikipedia and asphyxiation, the Wikipedia page "Deaths from asphyxiation" has only 59 entries. I guess I thought it was more dangerous than that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:30 PM
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I think I need an anthropologist to explain to me why my new upstairs neighbors seem to share my old upstairs neighbors' predilection for rearranging their living room furniture at midnight.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 8:51 PM
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That two separate sets did the same thing suggests a situational explanation.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:03 PM
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224
Nah, an evolutionary psychologist clearly knows best. On the veldt, rearranging furniture at an awkward time and waking up your neighbor conferred an evolutionary advantage, as either 1) your neighbor's sleep cycle would be disrupted, affecting their ability to successfully attract a mate, or 2) they would learn to sleep through the noise, and then be eaten by saber tooth tigers in the middle of the night. Your upstairs neighbor is clearly more evolutionary fit than you, having evolved to be nocturnal and survive on a diet of Four Loko and Cheezits.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:20 PM
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Do they have large eyes and slow digestions?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:25 PM
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225: "Damned sigils! Why do they only appear on the floorboards at the height of a new moon?"


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 9:38 PM
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225
Also: niche habitats often lead to speciation.

Essear's neighbors independently adapted in similar ways to the same environmental stimulus, which shows the selective pressure is strong in the upstairs apartment.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 10-30-14 11:06 PM
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essear's 76 is so great. I'm now imagining a round-robin TV debate between a Democrat, a Republican, and a non-political physicist about the upcoming election, and the physicist saying variants of 76.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 1:09 AM
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And then the Republican shoots him?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 1:15 AM
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Isn't the basic problem that ev-psych is facile and not very interesting, while anthropology - for instance -, no matter what other sins it might have, tends to be difficult and interesting?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 1:20 AM
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232 seems right to me.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 1:21 AM
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I mean sure you can dress it up as various kinds of "ev-psych isn't true", but it's also the case that ev-psych is dull as ditchwater.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 1:21 AM
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234

I would agree with that. Same with evolutionary biology and population genetics. There's really interesting work going on on human variation in lots of different disciplines from lots of different approaches, and none of it involves asking questions like, "why do women secretly like to be raped?" or "why are black chicks uglier than white chicks?"

The idea that Social Darwinism 2.0 is some how asking edgy questions or speaking truth to power is probably the most eye-rolling aspect of the whole enterprise.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 3:14 AM
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234: But that's you most successfully amuse and suck up to the powerful -- by pretending that you're telling them the truth.

===

The trouble with Pinker is that he's not all bullshit. For instance, I do know or could at least name, one intellectual who believed and argued for the pure blank slate theory -- Jan Myrdal, son of Gunnar and Alva, who wrote at least one article explaining that his child owed nothing whatsoever of her intelligence to genes. He was also a full-on apologist for Mao.

So inside every straw man you can find a Swedish intellectual.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 3:43 AM
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There has to be a higher standard than "Someone somewhere held this ridiculous belief." Someone somewhere holds every possible ridiculous belief.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 3:50 AM
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As follows from the existence of an infinite multiverse populated by eternal inflation.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 6:14 AM
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Are 232 and 233 parody comments?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 6:28 AM
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235.1: Holy Dueling Straw Men, Batman!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 6:31 AM
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235.1: Holy Dueling Straw Men, Batman!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 6:31 AM
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Speaking of Wikpedia pages that might be your friend--the "Criticism of evolutionary psychology" looks to be fairly comprehensive and non-infuriating to either side.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 6:40 AM
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straw man?


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 9:11 AM
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A+ thread.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 9:44 AM
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"Kanazawa's bad science does not represent evolutionary psychology"

In light of the recent furore surrounding Satoshi Kanazawa's Psychology Today blog post ["Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?"], we feel compelled to state publicly that Kanazawa‟s research should not be taken as representative of the evolutionary behavioural science community. Kanazawa‟s blog post generated enormous media attention, including the BBC‟s flagship News at Ten programme. It also attracted considerable comment from the online community, much of which was highly critical of the discipline of evolutionary psychology which he claims to represent. As a result, Kanazawa‟s home institution, the London School of Economics, will be hosting a debate this week on „Is evolutionary psychology racist?‟. Yet a large number of scientists who apply an evolutionary approach to human behaviour consider Kanazawa‟s work to be of poor quality and have demonstrated this via their own academic critiques. He has repeatedly been criticised by other academics in his field of research for using poor quality data, inappropriate statistical methods and consistently failing to consider alternative explanations for his results.

List of 68 signatories and bibliography of 24 papers critiquing Kanazawa‟s research available at the link.

But too bad there are no internal critiques within the discipline.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 9:57 AM
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But too bad there are no internal critiques within the discipline.

It's nice to see some pushback against Kanazawa, but the guy is published in the field - not just in Psychology Today, but in (what look to me like) real journals. It's nice that a group of evo psych types are prepared to call him No True Evolutionary Psychologist, but certainly folks like Cosmides, Tooby, Pinker et al are respected figures in the field who are also full of shit.

Here's Pinker's defense of the Larry Summers regarding women in science.

And here are Summers' original remarks, which, I think, were pretty impressively indefensible.

Sure, evo psych could be a useful discipline - it's a lot like economics that way; it doesn't have to be corrupt and ridiculous. I certainly lack any deep knowledge of the field myself, but it's hard to find stuff that 1.) illuminates some aspect of complex human behavior and 2.) isn't bullshit.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 11:44 AM
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From Pinker's defense of Summers:

Boys are more likely to be learning disabled or retarded but also more likely to reach the top percentiles in assessments of mathematical ability, even though boys and girls are similar in the bulk of the bell curve. The pattern is readily explained by evolutionary biology. Since a male can have more offspring than a female--but also has a greater chance of being childless (the victims of other males who impregnate the available females)--natural selection favors a slightly more conservative and reliable baby-building process for females and a slightly more ambitious and error-prone process for males. That is because the advantage of an exceptional daughter (who still can have only as many children as a female can bear and nurse in a lifetime) would be canceled out by her unexceptional sisters, whereas an exceptional son who might sire several dozen grandchildren can more than make up for his dull childless brothers. One doesn't have to accept the evolutionary explanation to appreciate how greater male variability could explain, in part, why more men end up with extreme levels of achievement.

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-31-14 12:32 PM
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