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PZ Myers dissects evolutionary psychology: brief, sharp and fabulous

I admit I LOL'd at the part about lighting up "like a Christmas tree." WATCH AND LEARN all IDWs!

The Brian Ferguson Interview

Thursday, May 27, 2021

I would love to see Turkheimer debate Pinker

I doubt Pinker would debate Turkheimer, and even if he did, I have a feeling we would see the weak and strong Pinkerism effect as when Pinker had a discussion, (it was initially advertised as a debate but it was not), with Paul Krugman. During the conversation Krugman said:

...it's a great time now to live in New York if you can afford a place, which is the problem.
But housing costs aside, there was a period when social order really did break down to a very important extent.
We did go from being from a city that was pretty safe, was never completely violence free, but it was a pretty safe place in the early 1960s.
It became an extremely-- well, maybe not by the standards of the Middle Ages or Stone Age societies, but by modern standards New York became a very dangerous place, and peaking in the 1980s.

So did Pinker step up and say that he knew the answer? 

No, but he had the answer in his book "The Better Angels of Our Nature:"

...The idea that young men are civilized by women and marriage may seem as corny as Kansas in August, but it has become a commonplace of modern criminology. A famous study that tracked a thousand low-income Boston teenagers for forty-five years discovered that two factors predicted whether a delinquent would go on to avoid a life of crime: getting a stable job, and marrying a woman he cared about and supporting her and her children. The effect of marriage was substantial: three-quarters of the bachelors, but only a third of the husbands, went on to commit more crimes. This difference alone cannot tell us whether marriage keeps men away from crime or career criminals are less likely to get married, but the sociologists Robert Sampson, John Laub, and Christopher Wimer have shown that marriage really does seem to be a pacifying cause.

As it happens it was easy enough for me to debunk "marriage really does seem to be a pacifying cause" by comparing marriage rates with violent crime rates and noticing that both dropped at the same time. 

If Pinker had been right, as marriage rates dropped, violent crime should have gone up due to the removal of that "pacifying cause."

There is so much else that is wrong with "Better Angels" as discussed by this New Yorker review, which annoyed Pinker so much he called on race monger Razib Khan - who is a terrible writer - to defend his work.

Pinker gets away with promoting bullshit because he doesn't debate anybody these days. He used to, until it was clear he would keep embarrassing himself, as when he and Elizabeth Spelke had a nature/nurture debate at Edge and Spelke handily won by actually knowing what she was talking about as an expert on child development.

Even further back there was an exchange of letters between Pinker and Stephen Jay Gould over evolutionary psychology in 1997. The results were predictable:


If we define poetic justice as defeat by one’s own favored devices—Robespierre before the guillotine or Midas in golden starvation—then we might be intrigued to find Steven Pinker, a linguist by training, upended by his own use of words.

He begins by unjustly characterizing my two recent articles on “Darwinian Fundamentalism” as a misguided attack on the nascent field of evolutionary psychology. I can’t imagine, first of all, what thesaurus could cast such a broad net for synonyms of “fanatic.” More importantly, I cite evolutionary psychology as just one illustration within a much wider critique—and I devote only the last part of my second article to the subject. My objections, however forceful, are clearly offered with constructive intent, for I praise the field’s goal, while arguing that a truly evolutionary psychology cannot arise when leading practitioners so strongly exaggerate an adaptationist style of explanation that represents but one mode of evolutionary causation among many legitimate alternatives. 

I think Pinker learned his lessons and is unlikely to risk an actual debate with Turkheimer. 

And Pinker will always have Jerry Coyne ready to defend and praise him, while calling anybody who notes that scientists can sometimes be assholes as "Pecksniffs."

I’d like to think that, in the future, instead of being known as “The man who took down Darwin,” Fuentes will be known as “The Pecksniff who went after Darwin but failed to score a hit.” The man’s scholarship is shoddy, and his piece looks like an excuse to flaunt Fuentes’s own moral superiority—or the moral superiority of moderns over Victorians. But if you want to hear about moral improvement without the snark and finger-pointing, it’s better to read Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature. 

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