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Evolutionary psychology

Literary Darwinism: It survived deconstruction, …

by being too trite for words: Here’s a sample from Sean Kean’s pod tranny:

One example is a book called The Rape of Troy by Jonathan Gottschall. And what he does is, he analyzes the sources of the conflicts in The Iliad – a little bit in The Odyssey too, but mostly in The Iliad – and he tries to look at it from the point of view of the number of available young women for men in the society, and he finds that there’s a lot of conflict. And most of the major conflicts in The Iliad are based on trying to find young women for the men to marry. That’s a little bit of a simplification, of course, but that’s the basic conflict in the book – over and over again they’re fighting about having women to marry. And it sort of gets at that they’re really fighting – even if they talk about honor or wealth or other things – in some fundamental sense, they’re really fighting for their evolutionary legacy.

Mmm, just as I suspected Sean Kean is suffering from evolutionary tone deafness. As it happens, the story really is about honor and wealth (to the extent that wealth confers honor), and about one man’s anger when he is dissed: To make that clear, it begins, Sing, Goddess, the wrath of Achilles … ”

Sure, all those guys wanted girls, except for the ones who wanted guys. In some places we take that for granted, like going to the bathroom. Read More ›

Slate reporter muses on Harvard’s recent evolutionary psychology scandal

Thumbnail for version as of 00:32, 25 February 2009
cottontop tamarin, St. Louis Zoo, courtesy ltshears

At Slate , reporter David Dobbs muses (May 2, 2011) on the Marc “but the monkeys talk to ME!” Hauser research scandal, which he covered:

First, let’s recall that “scientific misconduct” in this case does not mean sloppy work; it means, by the NIH definitions Harvard uses in such investigations, either plagiarism (not on the table here) or the manipulation or fabrication of data. Extremely serious charges. I covered this heavily last year here at Neuron Culture and in a wrap-up at Slate.

Given the seriousness of those findings from Harvard, many wondered if Hauser would be fired. Harvard has kept its cards close, however, probably for a mix of legal and strategic reasons, and probably too because a federal investigation is apparently underway, Read More ›

Where would we be without studies like these?

From New Scientist (30 April 2011), we learn that in a recent evolutionary psychology study, “Deliberate inaction judged as immoral as wrong action”: An actor whose hesitancy to act led to the death was seen as less immoral than an actor whose direct actions led to the death. But the students judged deliberate inaction that led to the fatality as equally immoral as direct action that caused the death.  In fact, in many jurisdictions, if a person has a professional duty of care, it is not a matter of opinion; failing to report child abuse, for example, can lead to criminal charges. It’s good to know that students sense why those laws exist.

She said it: Philosopher Mary Midgley tells humanists why she isn’t a humanist

Here. Famed British philosopher Mary Midgley has examined the religious aspect of Darwinism/materialist humanism in some detail, pointing out that denying the reality of the mind leaves it with nothing but empty speculation about what ancestors did as a way of understanding human nature.  She also points out that the era of evolutionary psychology followed hard on the cult of behaviorism – equally stultifying and stultifying for the same reasons. The behaviourist sought to eliminate subjectivity from psychology, which meant eliminating people, which meant …

[Julian] Huxley, in fact, saw clearly – what few of those who now exalt science seem to have noticed – that this exaltation does not make sense unless we somehow enlarge the notion of reality to make room for mind. Doing science is, after all, a mental activity; it can hardly constitute the purpose of a purely physical universe. More widely, of course, Huxley’s whole way of conceiving evolution as purposive is itself profoundly religious. Darwin himself avoided such thoughts, as do most of those who claim to follow him today. Yet people still do often take it for granted that Evolution, like Progress, is directional – an escalator bound to carry us, or at least our descendants, safely on to higher levels. Read More ›

Time out: He invented it, he disowned it, but we’re supposed to go on believing it?

A friend of Uncommon Descent writes to say that E. O. Wilson abandoning his kin selection theory (group Darwinism vs. the selfish gene) due to lack of evidence has caused quite the little uproar in Britain. He adds, The gist of the responses in Nature seemed to be that Nowak and Wilson did not understand kin selection properly. But didn’t entomologist Wilson invent his theory of human behaviour himself, based on his work with social insects where only the queen lays eggs? So, if the inventor doesn’t “understand” the theory … who could? Wouldn’t whatever others say have to be at least a different theory?  Or are even the abandoned coattails worth hanging on to? Correction: An alert reader has Read More ›

Coffee!! For the lone reader in Downadashack, New Brunswick, who isn’t …

… plenty sick of the Royal Wedding, here’s New Scientist’s evolutionary psychology take on Kate’s “ruthless mating intelligence”: AH, THE eugenic thrill of it! Status weds beauty: a promising start. Royalty weds a good-genes commoner: excellent progress. A 6-foot, 3-inch prince who flies rescue helicopters and shows self-deprecating humour weds a 5-foot, 10-inch Amazon with a good eye for fashion. Truly, this is the romance at the end of the rainbow. Oh, and what the couple’s children (Kate Douglas, 28 April 2011) will look like: David Perrett and Amanda Hahn first extracted the landmarks from Middleton’s face shape and used these to construct her virtual twin brother, which they then merged with their matrix of the prince’s face to produce Read More ›

A Christian addresses Muslims who are asking about evolution

I want Muslims to question creationism, says the physicist and imam who has had death threats for supporting evolution

Here , New Scientist interviews physicist imam Usama Hasan, who says that belief in evolution is compatible with belief in the Koran (Michael Bond, 19 April 2011):

Recently you retracted your views because of the outrage they caused. Could you explain?My retraction was saying that I misjudged how to go about explaining these things. Sooner or later someone will have to address the issue of evolution – it’s a no-go area, especially with the clerics – but I’m abandoning my attempt to reconcile it with the Koran until things settle down. I am not willing to risk my life over this issue.

A belief supported only by death threats against unbelievers is poorly supported indeed. It amounts to saying: We can’t convince; we just scare.

Christians like to say: “Test everything. Hold onto what is good.”

And precisely therein lies the problem: What are Muslims signing on to when they are told, “believe evolution”? Three things to know – and understand their implications clearly: Read More ›

Evilicious?: Monkeys r’ us prof Marc Hauser barred from Harvard lecture room

From New Scientist we learn, “Shamed Harvard scientist is barred from the classroom” (Peter Aldhous, 21 April 2011):

Marc Hauser, the prominent animal cognition researcher found guilty of scientific misconduct by Harvard University last year, is to receive no rapid rehabilitation by his closest colleagues.

He’s the one who made Discover’s Top Ten Retractions list (# 3) fr unsubstantiable claims about monkey minds.

According to The Boston Globe, members of the university’s psychology faculty voted in February not to allow Hauser to teach in the department in the 2011-2012 academic year. Following the vote, Michael Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, decided that he shouldn’t be allowed to teach in other departments, either. Could his upcoming book Evilicious have helped tip the applecart?  Read More ›

Electrifying the corpse: The reaction to E. O. Wilson disowning Darwinian kin selection

We were all taught to look up to E. O. Wilson as the eminent, gentlemanly, Dear Pastor … Darwinist, not the “secular bigot” kind. And some were duly grateful.

So Wilson disowning his own kin selection theory was an almost incredible development. That theory – that caring for others can be explained by a desire to pass on our selfish genes – is the heart and soul of the “evolutionary” psychology he founded.* Which in turn is the heart and soul of pop science coverage of human psychology.

Leon Neyfakh  offers a look at what happened:

What Wilson is trying to do, late in his influential career, is nothing less than overturn a central plank of established evolutionary theory: the origins of altruism. His position is provoking ferocious criticism from other scientists. Last month, the leading scientific journal Nature published five strongly worded letters saying, more or less, that Wilson has misunderstood the theory of evolution and generally doesn’t know what he’s talking about. One of these carried the signatures of an eye-popping 137 scientists, including two of Wilson’s colleagues at Harvard.

– “Where does good come from?: Harvard’s Edward O. Wilson tries to upend biology, again”  (Boston Globe, April 17, 2011)

The cause of their dismay and anger is spelled out:

The puzzle of altruism is more than just a technical curiosity for evolutionary theorists. It amounts to a high-stakes inquiry into the nature of good. By identifying the mechanisms through which altruism and other advanced social behaviors have evolved in all kinds of living creatures — like ants, wasps, termites, and mole rats — we stand to gain a better understanding of the human race, and the evolutionary processes that helped us develop the capacity for collaboration, loyalty, and even morality. Figure out where altruism comes from, you might say, and you’ve figured out the magic ingredient that makes human civilization the wondrous, complex thing that it is. And perhaps this is the reason that the debate between Wilson and his critics, actually somewhat esoteric in substance, has become so heated.

It’s heated because the commander of the beachhead of materialist atheism into human psychology has abandoned the battle … Read More ›

Here’s what happens when students get hold of “fabulous” evolutionary psychology …

In “Survival of the Frummest: Darwinism and Judaism on Dating, Mating and Procreating,” Talia Kaufman of Yeshiva U enlightens us (April 14, 2011):

Human Mating Is Inherently StrategicOur subconscious has a whole lot more influence on our animalistic desires than we realize. Every aspect of attraction is subliminally dictated by our drive to find the mate that will best carry on our genes.

It is hard to think of a proposition more consistently refuted by human experience than the idea that people have a “drive to find the mate that will best carry our genes.” Read More ›

Does Good come from God II – Harris vs Lane

The debate: Does Good Come From God II by Sam Harris vs William Lane Harris 7 April 2011 at Notre Dame is now on YouTube.

Part 1 of 9 – Harris vs Craig – Does Good Come From God Read More ›

The Nature of Nature — sticky

THE NATURE OF NATURE is now finally out and widely available. If you haven’t bought it yet, let me suggest Amazon.com, which is selling it for $17.94, which is an incredible deal for a 7″x10″ 1000-page book with, for most of us, no tax and no shipping charge (it costs over $10 to ship this monster priority mail). This is a must-have book if you are interested at all in the ID debate. To get it from Amazon.com, click here. Below is the table of contents and some introductory matter.

(Other news coverage continues below)


Seven years in the making, at 500,000 words, with three Nobel laureate contributors, this is the most thorough examination of naturalism to date.


Nature of NatureThe Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science

Edited by Bruce L. Gordon

and William A. Dembski

ISI Books

Intercollegiate Studies Institute

Wilmington, DE 19807

Back Cover:

Read More ›

Coffee!!: You co-operate with unrelated individuals because you are a hunter-gatherer

Sure you are. Someone in your household won’t rest until they find bocconcini cheese for a recipe for guests. Here Michael Marshall, (New Scientist 10 March 2011) tells us, “Fluid societies powered human evolution”: Human hunter-gatherer societies swap members more flexibly than groups of other animals do. That could help explain why humans developed such powerful brains and advanced technology, while chimpanzees didn’t.People have been hunter-gatherers for almost all our 200,000-year history, so modern hunter-gatherer societies are a window on our past, argues Kim Hill of Arizona State University in Tempe. Hill and colleagues gathered census information on 32 hunter-gatherer societies around the world. In all of them, both males and females could leave the group into which they were Read More ›

Why isn’t the argument that “Darwinism is false because it rules out the mind” decisive? You could also call this “The Trouble with Thomism”

Recently, Bantay, a commenter on a post addressing the origin of language, quoted

…because Darwinists need to chase their tails by denying precisely what language itself affirms (meaning, order, and purpose)”

and asked

Does that mean that when Dawkins speaks, it is meaningless, orderless and purposeless?

Well, let me try to unpack that a bit.

Conversation with friend

Recently, I was on a road trip with a friend who wanted me to listen to this wow! CD by a dynamite Catholic preacher, who was into Thomism. (Thomism, sometimes neo-Thomism, is an attempt to use the teachings of medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas to counter materialism, Darwinism, etc.)

He made clear he was not talking about (nonsense like) intelligent design or creationism when he offered “proofs for God” going back to ancient times. I listened carefully, and then my friend asked me what I thought.

I sensed I’d better not just make social noise (= Isn’t he wonderful! Isn’t he profound! Take that,atheists!). So I thought about it, then said,

He is a good preacher, but I believe his arguments will have no impact whatever today, and at present are merely a distraction. Here is what I learned, writing The Spiritual Brain:

The Darwinist does not believe in the reality of the mind, and as a result, arguments from reason and logic are dismissible, because they are simply the natural selection of your successful genes operating on your neurons to produce delusions that cause you to pass on your genes. Tht is why people continue, through the generations, to find them persuasive. As materialist cognitive psychologist Steve Pinker, has said, “Our brains are shaped for fitness, not for truth.”

To get some sense of how this plays out, Read More ›