In “A Cure Worse Than the Disease—Darwinism vs. Relativism II: Roger Scruton” (The Best Schools, January 31, 2012), James Barham reflects on a generally clear thinker’s surprising concessions to nonsense – almost as if Scruton thought he had to throw it something to keep it at bay:
Here we go again—that old, familiar, sinking feeling.
The one I get whenever yet another generally sensible and humane thinker whom I admire succumbs to the “Darwinitis” epidemic.
Who is it this time?
Roger Scruton—of all people—I am sorry to say.
The worst part is that it’s about, of all things, evolutionary psychology.
One example will suffice:
Scruton: Consider, for example, the division of roles everywhere to be observed between men and women. There is a powerful reason to think that this is rooted in a deeper division of biological labour, selected in the harsh conditions that threatened our ancestors with extinction.
No kidding. But does Scruton really think that the division of roles was rooted in some psychological issue that got passed on in our genes?
Barham: First, we scarcely need Darwin for the insight that the division of labor between men and women is grounded in biology. However, the feature of our biology it is most directly and obviously grounded in is human sexual dimorphism—the greater size and strength of the human male—a point which Scruton oddly overlooks. More.
Odd, all right.
It has been less than a century since most farms in North America depended on human and animal energy for local power sources. The difference in the average strength of a man’s arm and the average strength of a woman’s arm was critical for certain essential jobs. Like persuading an ornery horned cow that she does so want to be bred. Or allowing a peeved draft horse to know that, on a farm, work is not optional. Or driving a team and wagon between fighting bulls, to break them up. This is all within living memory …
The difference would be true in every generation in which people reproduced normally and had normal intelligence, and there would be no need for anything to be encoded in selfish genes.
And surely no one believes that men wouldn’t have just let women do the heavy work, if that were an efficient choice! The proverb, “Man works from sun to sun, but woman’s work is never done” expresses it well: Men did the labour that, for various reasons, women couldn’t do efficiently or effectively or at all. Mechanism changed everything, of course, but that is only within living memory – and not yet in some places, either.
And no other information is needed to explain the division of pre-mechanical labour, especially not from recent fad disciplines like evolutionary psychology.
See also: Roger Scruton: Missing the main problem with evolutionary psychology