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PZ Myers dissects evolutionary psychology: brief, sharp and fabulous

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Monday, May 13, 2019

Evolutionary psychology is wrong again

As I have often said, evolutionary psychology and race science are the easiest possible "scientific" disciplines to practice since they basically involve the following:
  1. Identify a social phenomenon
  2. Declare it is due to evolutionary adaptation
  3. Publish it in Quillette - or Areo, Unz, American Renaissance, etc.
  4. Done
I had thought that even evolutionary psychologists had dropped the "women want less sexual variety than men" by now, given the unintended consequences of genetic testing recognized over a decade ago:
When geneticists do large-scale studies of populations, they sometimes can’t help but learn about the paternity of the research subjects. They rarely publish their findings, but the numbers are common knowledge within the genetics community. In graduate school, genetics students typically are taught that 5 to 15 percent of the men on birth certificates are not the biological fathers of their children. In other words, as many as one of every seven men who proudly carry their newborn children out of a hospital could be a cuckold.
But some just-so stories are just too pleasing to the evolutionary psychology-inclined as we can see with Quillette's favorite proponent of hereditarianism, Bo Winegard banging that drum in Arc Digital in 2018:
 If tomorrow scientists uncover strong evidence that in most societies for most of history, women preferred more sexual variety than men, or if they discover compelling evidence that socialization plays a strong role in sexual desire, then we would have to decrease our confidence in the adaptive hypothesis.
Now it's a fact that there is a sexual double-standard for most of recorded history and right up to the present. Men have always been able to have sex outside of marriage with fewer negative consequences (if any) than women.

And yet Winegard thinks there only might be a chance that socialization plays a strong role in (the expression of) sexual desire.

Throughout much of history in most cultures, women's sexual desires were an inconvenience to the social machinery determined to marry off each woman to a man who could afford to support her and children.

Only now, that women can increasingly support themselves, are we learning about female sexuality. And it's likely not what people like Bo Winegard want to hear:
Marta Meana of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas spelled it out simply in an interview with me at the annual Society for Sex Therapy and Research conference in 2017. “Long-term relationships are tough on desire, and particularly on female desire,” she said. I was startled by her assertion, which contradicted just about everything I’d internalized over the years about who and how women are sexually. Somehow I, along with nearly everyone else I knew, was stuck on the idea that women are in it for the cuddles as much as the orgasms, and—besides—actually require emotional connection and familiarity to thrive sexually, whereas men chafe against the strictures of monogamy.
But Meana discovered that “institutionalization of the relationship, overfamiliarity, and desexualization of roles” in a long-term heterosexual partnership mess with female passion especially—a conclusion that’s consistent with other recent studies.
“Moving In With Your Boyfriend Can Kill Your Sex Drive” was how Newsweek distilled a 2017 study of more than 11,500 British adults aged 16 to 74. It found that for “women only, lack of interest in sex was higher among those in a relationship of over one year in duration,” and that “women living with a partner were more likely to lack interest in sex than those in other relationship categories.” A 2012 study of 170 men and women aged 18 to 25 who were in relationships of up to nine years similarly found that women’s sexual desire, but not men’s, “was significantly and negatively predicted by relationship duration after controlling for age, relationship satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction.” Two oft-cited German longitudinal studies, published in 2002 and 2006, show female desire dropping dramatically over 90 months, while men’s holds relatively steady. (Tellingly, women who didn’t live with their partners were spared this amusement-park-ride-like drop—perhaps because they were making an end run around overfamiliarity.)
Winegard's article is from 2018, but the Newsweek article is from 2017 and studies demonstrating female sexual boredom with long-term relationships go back as far as at least 2002.

Winegard doesn't mention any of these findings, even to argue that they are wrong. He just ignores them - if he even made an effort to find anything contrary to his evolutionary psychology just-so stories at all.

Winegard can wonder "If tomorrow scientists uncover strong evidence that in most societies for most of history, women preferred more sexual variety than men" and meanwhile they've been saying close to that very thing since at least 2002.

The Winegard article was written to argue against the notion that evolutionary psychology is a collection of "just-so stories" but what he demonstrated was that he likes those just stories so much he won't let them be ruined by data.

Please note that I was blocked on Twitter by Winegard's fellow Quillette author Lee Jussim, the graphophobic, immediately after I scoffed at his tweet declaring this article to be "a brilliant defense of evolutionary psychology."

Because that's what evolutionary psychology is - remaining inside a bubble, where you can keep retelling the same old just-so stories, ignore data and avoid critics.

For a more in-depth discussion of why evolutionary psychology is wrong thanks to its over-reliance on adaptation see the P. Z. Myers video.

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