But the Darwinism isn’t about anything anyway.
Psychology, as we know, fell on hard times in recent years, and no surprise, “evolutionary” psychology has led the race to the bottom. Everything from we evolved to need coercion (so Mayor Bloomberg can take time out from saving the world to tell us all how big a soda pop is allowed to be, where he lives) to …
The science of why so many of us watch animals still remains largely unexplored. One of my earliest research projects as a graduate student in zoology at the University of Wisconsin was titled ‘Who Watches Who at the Zoo?’ I sat in front of a naturalistic exhibit of a family group of lion-tailed macaque monkeys (adult male, adult female, a juvenile and an infant) and pretended to watch them while, in fact, recording the conversations among zoo visitors about the monkeys. The results were quite clear: men focused on the ‘other’ adult macaque male (‘Look at that big guy!’), women paid particular attention to the adult female, as well as the infant (‘Look, honey, there’s the mommy and her baby!’), while children looked especially at their simian counterpart (‘How cute, there’s a tiny little monkey!’). One plausible explanation is that people, at least some of the time, look at animals – non-human primates in particular – as reflections, albeit distorted, of themselves.
But who beside this guy (David Barash) thought this was science anyway?
This is true across many cultures: animals are widely – perhaps universally – used to signify various human ‘types’, such as the trickster, the wise one, the diligent worker, the brave warrior, etc. Victorian society, especially after Charles Darwin, was typically disconcerted by the obvious similarities between human beings and various non-human primates. ‘Descended from monkeys?’ the wife of the Bishop of Worcester was reported to have exclaimed in 1860. ‘Let us hope that it is not true. But if it is true, let us hope that it doesn’t become widely known!’
Well, it is true, and widely known, at least among those not benighted by religious fundamentalism. …
The alleged quotation Barash offers is preposterously false:
In conclusion, QI thinks that the evidence that the quotation was spoken by the wife of a Bishop or the wife of a Canon in 1860 or 1880 is very weak. The mutable phraseology, shifting attribution, varying locale, and lack of direct evidence undermine credibility.
It is possible that the anecdote was created by Robert Forman Horton by 1893. He was the first person known by QI to have presented the tale, and he was willing to tell a revised version in 1897. All the other instances might have been derived from these primal versions by paraphrase and mutation.
Alternatively, Henry Drummond may have created the tale and told it to others by 1893.
If Barash were not a Darwin prof, he would be embarrassed to be fronting this. But once you speak the canonical name of Darwin you can say whatever you want, no matter how obviously false, as a conventional search would show. You can say it in a science mag. Top people pay to hear that stuff shouted from lecterns across the world. It doesn’t have to bear any relationship to reality. The sacred association with Darwin is what makes it true.
So how come this isn’t a TED talk already?
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