Fecke on EvPsych

Jeff Fecke, like too many on the anti-Darwinian left, is apparently willing to embrace evolution by natural selection so long as it doesn’t, you know, actually mean anything:

As everybody who has read more than a smidgen of Evolutionary Psychology knows, EvPsych as it’s currently constructed is less a field of study and more a creative outlet, where wannabe Kiplings can pen just-so studies for the pro-patriarchy set. Every study reinforces the idea that women are objects of male desire, while men’s wallets are the objects of female desire. Every study proves that mysteriously, our current societal beauty norms just so happen to be the ones that evolution selected for. Women are dumber than men, Africans dumber than Europeans, rape is a perfectly cromulent reproductive strategy, men are driven to cheat while women are driven toward monogany. Every prejudice and retrograde instinct is dressed up neatly as “science,” so misogynists and racists can sleep well knowing that women and the darkies really are inferior because science says so.

It’s very evident that Fecke has not read so much as a “smidgen” of EvPsych. If he did, he’d know that most researchers reject stuff like The Bell Curve as the pseudoscientific junk it is, and that the most prominent evolutionary psychological thinkers – people like Steve Pinker, Richard Dawkins, and Bob Wright – are firmly on the left. Let’s look at what serious, prominent researchers have to say on sex differences. Here’s Robert Wright, on why women are, on aggregate, better politicians than men:

During evolution, the whole Darwinian point of male power–lots of sex, lots of offspring–didn’t compute for females. For women, lots of sex didn’t mean lots of offspring. Power, to be sure, brought other benefits to a female’s genetic legacy, so women naturally like having power. They just don’t like it as much as men do.
Chimpanzees, our nearest relatives, are political animals. As the primatologist Frans de Waal has observed, male chimps “seem to live in a hierarchical world with replaceable coalition partners and a single permanent goal: power.” For females, on the other hand, “coalitions withstand time.” Thus a male chimp–call him Bill–might be making nice to his liberal internationalist friends one day and signing simian bills sponsored by Jesse Helms the next. In contrast, a female chimp–call her Pat Schroeder–would hew truer to her core constituency.

But do keep in mind that gender differences, even fairly firm ones, are only aggregate differences. The average woman will surrender less principle for power than the average man. And women who become heads of state are not average. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, certainly, was no stereotypical female. (Britain’s war with Argentina over a few barren islands, which Thatcher prosecuted with the zeal of a Churchill, has been compared to two bald men fighting over a comb.)

That last part is critical. Every EvPsych researcher takes pains to point out that making policy based on aggregates – which is what EvPsych measures – is a stupid, silly idea. Pinker elaborates on that here:

But it is crucial to distinguish the moral proposition that people should not be discriminated against on account of their sex — which I take to be the core of feminism — and the empirical claim that males and females are biologically indistinguishable. They are not the same thing. Indeed, distinguishing them is essential to protecting the core of feminism. Anyone who takes an honest interest in science has to be prepared for the facts on a given issue to come out either way. And that makes it essential that we not hold the ideals of feminism hostage to the latest findings from the lab or field. Otherwise, if the findings come out as showing a sex difference, one would either have to say, “I guess sex discrimination wasn’t so bad after all,” or else furiously suppress or distort the findings so as to preserve the ideal. The truth cannot be sexist. Whatever the facts turn out to be, they should not be taken to compromise the core of feminism.

He goes on to elaborate on why studying sex differences is scientifically important and, as always, shouldn’t be considered a threat to feminism.
At the end of the day, evolutionary psychology is just another branch of evolutionary biology. And to say that humans evolved to where they are today as a species while rejecting the notion that their brains could have been subject to evolutionary change – and that said change could have varied on the basis of gender – is wrongheaded and indicative of the reasoning of the worst intelligent design advocates. It’s beneath people like Fecke, and I hope he knows that.

2 thoughts on “Fecke on EvPsych

  1. I’ll agree that that study is junk; it’s the kind of study that gets done to get picked up by the AP wire. More serious, less purposefully provocative evolutionary psychologists are going great work, however, and I think it’s wrong for Fecke to ignore that and malign the field as a whole.

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