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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!

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Saturday, November 6, 2021

Steven Pinker, Steve Sailer and the Cousin Marriage Conundrum part 3

Wade has given an interview to the podcast of
racemongering rag Quillette. Of course

As discussed in Part 1 and Part 2, Steven Pinker included an article by racist Steve Sailer in the 2004 volume of "The Best Science and Nature Writing."

But Sailer isn't the only notorious racemonger Pinker included. He included two articles by Nicholas Wade: In Click Languages, an Echo of the Tongue of the Ancients; and A Prolific Genghis Khan, It Seems, Helped People the World, both for the New York Times. 

Wade was a staff writer for the NYTimes for 30 years, from 1982 to 2012 and continues to occasionally write about science for the Times, most recently in September 2021.

Wade has been a proponent of sociobiology since the mid-1970s, back when it was still called sociobiology. He wrote a sympathetic article about E.O. Wilson for Science in 1976. In 2002 he was promoting the notion of five races in the NYTimes which he would expand on in 2014 in his "A Troublesome Inheritance," an infamous work of racemongering that not even Jerry Coyne nor Steven Pinker would defend. 

But Pinker couldn't criticize the book without doubling-down on his claim that race is a biological fact.

Predictably, Steve Sailer has been a huge fan of Nicholas Wade since at least 2002. In his now-defunct iSteve blog Sailer wrote: My Man Nicholas Wade has another fine article in the NYT, "In DNA, New Clues to Jewish Roots." 

The Wade article Sailer admires discusses inherited Jewish diseases, which Harpending and Cochran would go on to claim in 2005 were indicators of superior genetic Jewish intelligence. Which was then promoted by Wade in the New York Times.

The first article by Wade that Pinker includes in "the best" writing, Click Languages, an Echo of the Tongue of the Ancients is well-organized and clear, but you would expect that from someone paid to write for the New York Times for three decades, although marred by Wade's underlying sociobiological beliefs and a cringey last sentence: "That would explain why the metaphorical Adam hit it off with Eve. They just clicked."

The second piece, A Prolific Genghis Khan, It Seems, Helped People the World, reveals Wade's devotion to the just-so stories of evolutionary psychology. This piece echoes the work of leading evolutionary psychology proponent David Buss;  like Buss, Wade presents female sexual slavery as if it was female sexual preference:

The finding seems to be the first proof, on a genetic level, of the occurrence in humans of sexual selection, a form of sex-based natural selection in which a male or female has an unusual number of offspring. This process can greatly influence the genetic makeup of a species, resulting in otherwise puzzling features like the peacock's cumbersome tail.

The stupidity of this passage, comparing Genghis Khan's genetic dissemination to a peacock is clear when you consider that the reason the peacock has evolved a cumbersome tail is because peahens prefer big beautiful tails. The case of the peahen is an example of sex-based natural selection. But it's a good bet that few or no women preferred to be in Genghis Khan's harem, over the option of having a husband they did not have to share.

Throughout history - and right up to the present time in many places - women have been forced into marriages arranged by their parents or even through abduction

Patriarchies don't care about the sexual desires of women, because in a patriarchy, women are objects to be exchanged between men. In fact, women having sexual desires is a problem because a woman might prefer a man who doesn't have the money to buy her from her parents. Female sexual desire is such a hindrance to woman-trading that some cultures, right up to the present time, attempt to destroy female sexual desire through female genital mutilation

The reason Genghis Khan had a huge harem was not because he was more sexually attractive than all other men, but because women were compelled, via economics and probably on pain of death, to join his harem. 

Like patriarchies, evolutionary psychology does not care about the desires of women. PZ Myers, in his absolutely superb dissection of the scientific failure that is evolutionary psychology - watch it here - addresses the way evolutionary psychology erases women as actors in "sex-based natural selection" - starting at minute 22:48 in the video:

...this is not to say that evolutionary psychology must rationalize rape but it's peculiar how often it is used for just that purpose, to the point that the evolutionary psychology frequently asked questions document has to include a section addressing it. 

That fact is such an unintentional source of damning evidence against evolutionary psychology you'd almost think a devious critic wrote it to undermine EP. 

Here the author explains that rape hasn't been demonstrated to be an adaptation. Good for him - but it's "conceivable" he says, so he brings up the existence of coercive insemination in other animals, as if it's relevant without mentioning this usually occurs in non-social animals where the males are not involved in infant care - that is, not in humans. 

But then the worst part is the bit where he lists the benefits of rape for males. 

It is a terrible list: rape is a great thing for high status males and low status males; low status women could be raped without cost; and in war it was open season on raping women. 

Remember - to an evolutionary psychologist, reproduction and survival are the be-all and end-all of behavior, but apparently male reproduction and survival are all that matters. 

He fails to mention any benefit of rape to females, you know, half the population? The part that bears a disproportionate cost of child rearing? There is no awareness that the welfare of females might be a significant factor in determining whether rape is an adaptation. 

It's a kind of blindness that's endemic in the field and one of the reasons evolutionary psychology has such an unsavory reputation... 

Now the Wade article itself isn't really about explaining "sex-based natural selection," it's focused on counting how many descendants Khan might have. The essay is severely harmed by the blunder of implying that Ghengis Khan's harem is an example of sex-based natural selection, but few New York Times readers would pick up on that, and the content that focuses on assessing the number of descendants is certainly fine so far as flow and logic and style. But Wade is a professional writer working for media outlets that care about quality of writing, even if quality of science is low.

But Steve Sailer's career is not based on writing for media outlets that care about quality. More in Part 4.

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