Dec 052012

There’s a bit of a dust-up on the interwebz – Evolutionary Psychology vs Feminism. The below was originally posted by me on Less Wrong.

If there was a scientific field (Evolutionary Sociology) that declared rationalism is harmful for humanity – that Less Wrong need to be destroyed, long-time readers found and re-educated so they will not be a threat to society, and the pursuit of rationality in general to be shunned or persecuted – I suspect that the vast majority of us would not accept these claims at face value and would look to see if their research was flawed, or their conclusions didn’t follow. And if we found such evidence, we’d probably shout it from the rooftops.

Evo-Psych is, not infrequently, used as a weapon against women.

The case made for these claims is often very bad.

Every hunting man had a gatherer mother; every gathering woman had a hunting father.

This is the problem for the evolutionary psychology of sex differences: for each trait that you want to claim is a product of selection for a behavior that is different between sexes, you have to postulate a Plus that restricts its expression to a single sex.

So, sure, tell me that humans evolved cognitive mechanisms to aid in navigating by landmarks for better fruit and tuber searching, and I might well believe it to be reasonable; now tell me why you think it would only operate in women, and how it would be actively suppressed by genetic mechanisms in men. Then you can tell me why navigating by distance and direction is actively shut off in women. You’re the ones who like purely adaptive explanations: why would there be an advantage to individuals having each only half the suite of potential genetic navigation tools switched on?

If Evo-Psych is used by sexists the same way that Eugenics was used by totalitarians, it will suffer the same stigma and be abandoned for decades the same way. Seeing as this is a self-defense move by a traditionally oppressed group, I don’t blame them. Unless the crap is weeded out quickly the whole field will be disgraced. The victims are currently only pointing out all the crap, they didn’t allow it to get in there in the first place. The gatekeepers need to stop sleeping on the job, rather than trying to defend their prior shoddy performance.

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