Everyone Expects the Naturalistic Fallacy


There is an odd line of argument that comes from evolutionary psychologists when people object to poor quality research on rape coming out of their discipline. A form of this argument is in Ed Clint’s post on Rebecca Watson’s Skepticon talk.

Portait of a man built up from trees, rainbow, sun, and birds.

Some natural things are quite nice.

The naturalistic fallacy. One can hardly find a more pristine example of this fallacy than in criticism of evolutionary psychology, and Watson’s remarks were  no exception. She spelled it out clearly at 38:30 “men evolved to rape… it was used as a well it’s natural for men to rape”. The problem to Watson is that some evolutionary psychologists study the phenomena of rape as a potential adaptation, or a product of adaptations such as the use of violence to obtain what one wants. Watson assumes that if rape is about sex, and sex is good because sex is natural, then rape must be natural and therefore good. This is an absurdity of course; it’s every shade of wrong from the rainbow of ultimate wrongness.

Well, no, but before I get into discussing why this is wrong, here’s another example of the argument in the wild, provided by Clint. Buss & Schmitt argue:

More generally, we believe that proponents of all theoretical perspectives should keep an open mind about the scientific hypothesis (and it is only that, a hypothesis), that men may have evolved adaptations for sexual coercion. It should go without saying that rape is illegal, immoral, and terribly destructive to women, and should in no way be condoned, whatever the ultimate causes turn out to be. Unfortunately, what should go without saying has to be repeated over and over, since those who advance evolutionary psychological hypotheses are unjustly accused of somehow condoning or excusing rape. The naturalistic fallacy, mistakenly inferring an ought from an is, seems to be a particularly stubborn error committed by critics of evolutionary psychology, despite the many published descriptions of this error (e.g., Confer et al. 2010).

As Vandermassen (2010) points out, the two central contenders for explaining sexual coercion are (1) adaptations for rape, (2) byproducts of adaptations that evolved in non-rape contexts (e.g., desire for sexual variety; male use of aggression for other instrumental goals), or some combination of the two. We concur with Symons’s 1979 summary that the then-available evidence was not “even close to sufficient to warrant the conclusion that rape itself is a facultative adaptation in the human male” (Symons 1979, p. 284). We believe that his conclusion is as apt today as it was then. Nonetheless, absence of evidence does not qualify as evidence of absence. Scientists from all theoretical perspectives have a responsibility to uncover the actual underlying causes of rape, even if they turn out to be unpalatable or repugnant. Whatever the flaws inherent in the Thornhill-Palmer book, it is perfectly reasonable for them to advance their two competing scientific hypotheses. It is a gross disservice to current and future victims of rape to prematurely discard either of them.

I’ll mostly be talking about this example, as it indulges less in telling us what someone is thinking and is closer to the primary source. It also contains a glaring error that should tell you what critics are actually objecting to. I’ll save that for a little later though. First, the problem with just saying, “naturalistic fallacy”.

Let’s take a step back. What is a fallacy? In the sense that it is used here, it is a decision-making heuristic that is frequently useful (thus, used) without actually giving us information on whether our conclusions are true. The naturalistic fallacy (or more accurately, the appeal to nature, which is different than the problem of deriving what ought to be from what is) says that if something is the natural state of things, it is good.

So, do feminist critiques of evolutionary psychology studying rape as an adaptation rely on the appeal to nature? Are they based on the idea that if rape is an adaptation, then it will be good?

Well, no. We’ll get into those critiques a bit more in short order but even without looking at the critiques themselves, we can answer this one. Feminist activism against rape isn’t based in the idea that rape is unnatural. It is based in the idea that rape causes harm: It causes direct trauma and reduces women’s (and other targeted demographics’, but these are generally elided in the studies in question) participation in the public sphere.

No, feminist critics who make the accusation that some researchers are “somehow condoning or excusing rape” are not engaging in an appeal to nature. They may, however, be observing one.

We skeptics talk about fallacies as much as we do because they are potent. As noted before, they can be useful. As much as the appeal to nature is a fallacy, it is true that, far more often that not, up and eating a local plant that isn’t part of the local diet (when such a thing still existed) was going to do nothing for you at best and poison you at worst. There frequently are reasons why things are the way they are. Simply not always. So fallacies are reinforced and continue to be relied upon.

One of the major places where we see fallacious reasoning? In political argumentation. Not only are the vast majority of people in politics not trained to spot fallacies, either in their own arguments or from others, but many don’t recognize their own. Beyond that, fallacious arguments are often effective. Nobody is going to stop using bandwagon appeals in political argumentation just because they’re fallacious. They work.

When it comes to arguments against feminism, the appeal to nature is one of the biggies. Feminism, in case you didn’t know, is totes unnatural. That being the case, it is quite reasonable to both notice and object to research that does little more than feed that fallacy. Bad research that concludes rape is natural selected for in nature falls under that category.

And do not mistake me in any way. Most of this research is awful. I’ve gone through some of the serious problems more than once. Researchers and science communicators who specialize in rape have done the same (pdf). To summarize the general shape of the problems:

  • Much research ignores the specialized research on rape, isolating itself intellectually.
  • Much research ignores the realities of who is raped.
  • Some researchers misrepresent the body of knowledge on rape.
  • Many researchers ignore data from other cultures that suggests rape is not so universal and, thus, is driven by factors other than genetics.
  • Much research ignores scientific criticism driven by the above factors.

Now, it’s time to find out who noticed the problem in the quote I gave above. Was this what you spotted?

As Vandermassen (2010) points out, the two central contenders for explaining sexual coercion are (1) adaptations for rape, (2) byproducts of adaptations that evolved in non-rape contexts (e.g., desire for sexual variety; male use of aggression for other instrumental goals), or some combination of the two.

If so, give yourself a cookie.

There’s a third theory, or constellation of theories. Broadly speaking, it is that rape is a result of particular aspects of culture: overall rates of violence, degree of definition and maintenance of gender roles, degree of overall inequality, basis for property transfer, women’s political power, narratives that obscure the nature of rape. Studying cultures in which rape happens frequently and those in which it almost never happens has turned up a wealth of differences between the two.

There is plenty of work still to be done on getting to the bottom of the matter, of course, but the fact that culture isn’t even mentioned as something with explanatory power is disturbing. As it is to have that followed by this:

We believe that his conclusion [“that the then-available evidence was not ‘even close to sufficient to warrant the conclusion that rape itself is a facultative adaptation in the human male'” ] is as apt today as it was then. Nonetheless, absence of evidence does not qualify as evidence of absence. Scientists from all theoretical perspectives have a responsibility to uncover the actual underlying causes of rape, even if they turn out to be unpalatable or repugnant.

That is also true if those underlying causes happen to be found through a discipline other than evolutionary psychology.

Bad research, research that ignores the data and theories that come from others working on the same topic, does not help end rape. Researchers who do work that is little more than noise and then insist that people pay attention to it and only it are not helping to end rape. In fact, when they publish research that makes untrue claims about rape, these researchers are hampering the fight against rape.

That makes two ways in which bad research on the topic of rape supports the continuance of rape. That, in turn, makes the observation that the researchers doing this research are supporting rape to be the opposite of a fallacy, naturalistic or otherwise.

Image: “Natural Beauty” by Shan Sheehan. Some rights reserved.

Comments

  1. says

    We concur with Symons’s 1979 summary that the then-available evidence was not “even close to sufficient to warrant the conclusion that rape itself is a facultative adaptation in the human male” (Symons 1979, p. 284). We believe that his conclusion is as apt today as it was then. Nonetheless, absence of evidence does not qualify as evidence of absence.

    That kinda sounds like they’re trying to cling to a belief even though they admit there’s no evidence to support it. That’s a bit fishy in itself, naturalistic fallacy or no.

  2. Kevin K says

    scientists from all theoretical perspectives have a responsibility to uncover the actual underlying causes of rape…

    Why?

    Seriously. It’s a 100% legitimate question. Who the frack CARES about the “underlying causes of rape”.

    Rape is wrong. Always and ever. Unconditionally and without qualification in all circumstances. Ever. It’s the closest thing you can get to an objective moral prescription.

    Why do we need to know the underlying causes of rape? Is this going to help us stop rape? To change the cultural conditions that lead some people to rape? As in…”if only rapists understood the underlying evolutionary and cultural constructs of rape, they’ll stop doing it”?

    I call bullshit. Pure bullshit. That’s ivory-towerism at its worst.

    Stop studying it. Start doing something useful, like speaking out against it. Always and ever. Unconditionally.

    Christ on a cracker, what nuttery.

  3. brianpansky says

    I was entertained to see this accusation that it is Rebecca Watson and the people who criticize some evo psych that are the ones who fall for the naturalistic fallacy.

    My introduction to evo psych was my brother who went on about how unhealthy relationships “have worked for our species in the past” and “survival of the fittest” is the way to make our world better because catering to the “weak” will doom “our species” and etc…

  4. DeepThinker says

    Sorry, but I can’t agree. You have a quite valid point, but some of your argument limps.

    You’re conflating two things here:

    1) Objecting to the science because it is poorly conducted.
    and
    2) Objecting to the science solely because of the hypothesis advanced, irrespective of the quality of the research performed to investigate it.

    1) is pro-science whereas 2) is anti-science. So which is it? You answer yourself:

    No, feminist critics who make the accusation that some researchers [who claim rape is an adaptation] are “somehow condoning or excusing rape” are not engaging in an appeal to nature.

    Yes, they are, since they are arguing the converse: rape is bad, therefore it can’t be natural. If it is natural, then it should be good; therefore anyone who says it is good is condoning or excusing rape. These feminist critics are not arguing here that the science is poorly conducted. They are arguing that claiming rape is adaptive = condoning or excusing rape. That is the naturalistic fallacy.

    It’s also a completely gratuitous moral slam, and it is unreasonable (and quite reprehensible) to accuse anyone of a serious moral fault without evidence.

    When it comes to arguments against feminism, the appeal to nature is one of the biggies. Feminism, in case you didn’t know, is totes unnatural. That being the case, it is quite reasonable to both notice and object to research that does little more than feed that fallacy. Bad research that concludes rape is natural falls under that category.

    No it is not reasonable to object to research merely because some people might use it to fortify themselves in their fallacies. It is reasonable to object to the people proclaiming the fallacy.

    There’s a third theory, or constellation of theories. Broadly speaking, it is that rape is a result of particular aspects of culture: overall rates of violence, degree of definition and maintenance of gender roles, degree of overall inequality, basis for property transfer, women’s political power, narratives that obscure the nature of rape. Studying cultures in which rape happens frequently and those in which it almost never happens has turned up a wealth of differences between the two.

    You’re again arguing apples and oranges. No one denies that general violence varies widely between cultures. But no one (I think) also denies that violence itself was already in place before the development of culture, and that it arose as an adaptation (e.g. predation, mating success, etc.), which is Vandermassen’s option number 2, if rape was a byproduct of this.

    Even if rape could be shown to be the “result” of culture, that only pushes the question one step backwards, unless you deny culture itself evolved.

    BUT this passage however can and should be criticized:

    Scientists from all theoretical perspectives have a responsibility to uncover the actual underlying causes of rape, even if they turn out to be unpalatable or repugnant. Whatever the flaws inherent in the Thornhill-Palmer book, it is perfectly reasonable for them to advance their two competing scientific hypotheses. It is a gross disservice to current and future victims of rape to prematurely discard either of them.

    Because if rape really does turn out to be an evolutionary adaptation, so what? There isn’t anything we can do about it. Knowledge of this doesn’t help reduce rape at all, and so it’s completely disingenuous to pretend to be concerned about “current and future victims of rape”. What is relevant is cultural factors that can severely aggravate or ameliorate its incidence, even though these cultural factors may not constitute the ultimate cause.

  5. eric says

    Kevin

    Why do we need to know the underlying causes of rape? Is this going to help us stop rape?

    It might, yes. Substitute “disease” for “rape” and see if you still agree with your statement.

    Now, there’s no guarantee that the research will lead to useful, actionable information. But it might.

  6. says

    Yes, they are, since they are arguing the converse: rape is bad, therefore it can’t be natural.

    There is a difference between “natural” and “adaptive”. Natural simply means that it occurs. Adaptive means that it has a purpose. A purpose is or can be an excuse, particularly in utilitarian ethics. Simple occurrence cannot. The appeal to nature doesn’t come into it.

    No it is not reasonable to object to research merely because some people might use it to fortify themselves in their fallacies.

    There is no merely about it, and you cited my words to that effect. It is reasonable to note that the ethical failure that is doing shoddy science is compounded by the ethical failure of allowing that shoddy science to be used to bad ends, particularly when those ends are entirely predictable.

    But no one (I think) also denies that violence itself was already in place before the development of culture, and that it arose as an adaptation (e.g. predation, mating success, etc.), which is Vandermassen’s option number 2, if rape was a byproduct of this.

    Actually, if you want to talk violence, you’re going to have to get a whole lot more specific. No, you don’t just get to lump predation with violence within a social group of one’s own species and claim it’s all adaptive. There are multiple kinds of violence, and the fact that animals display different levels of them means they need to be dealt with separately on this score.

    Even if rape could be shown to be the “result” of culture, that only pushes the question one step backwards, unless you deny culture itself evolved.

    The capacity for culture is certainly genetic. That doesn’t mean that everything that happens within it is. It doesn’t mean that everything that is preserved within a culture is. It doesn’t mean that everything that becomes part of one culture is going to arise in all cultures or be preserved by a culture.

  7. Nepenthe says

    *gasp* You cite Susan Brownmiller? But she’s a radical feminist and anti-porn! Does this mean that you want to cut off the balls of all men and keep all humans from having sex ever!? She doesn’t even like Bill Clinton!

    [/sarcasm]

  8. maudell says

    The fact that Ed Clint chose to bring up the naturalistic fallacy is ironic. As far as what I understood from Rebecca Watson’s talk, she was talking about pop evo psych (that’s the word she uses most throughout her talk). Most pop evo psych I have read is absolutely using the naturalistic fallacy. This doesn’t mean that *all* of them do this, but the point is: when it comes to gender, women are often being dismissed for being irrational and anti-science by “science fans” for questioning the value of their claims. Studies unrelated to gender or race apply as well: Jesse Bering and his explanation of why religious people are more trustworthy, for example. Somehow that doesn’t work with the studies made about religious people vs atheists, but hey, it’s a good story. Science!

    While I myself am not an expert (but my field is poli sci, so I am used to hearing fallacies…), I have contacted researchers whose works are used to infantilize women by the general population. Often, the researcher is appalled that people even calls their 20 undergraduate women sample survey “a study”. So it’s not necessarily the academics themselves purposefully spreading dubious claims as hard science. However, the way it is used as a tool for people with an agenda to pass as objective is problematic. Many people don’t notice the subtle “it is natural therefore if you fight against evolved behaviour A, you are against nature and therefore an ideologue” message.

    For example, a friend of mine recommended the book “The Moral Animal” by Robert Wright. I know that Wright is not a scientist, but that type of work is at the core of the problem. He uses tons of evo psych papers to make his thinly veiled point throughout the book. The underlying message is a) Women are the “other”, and they do all this stuff that they themselves don’t understand, but that we do. Men understand their motivations inherently. b) Puritan women have more value in society c) sluts= downfall of civilization. d) “normal” women don’t want sex, they just want to give it to ensure they can keep a “provider” for their children. If they find a better provider later on, they will dump everything to move up social status e) Marriage is the ultimate goal of women, while men just want as many twelve year olds as they can get. To stop this uncontrollable manly urge, women should be the gatekeepers of virtue. Because evolution.

    My friend had not noticed this before I pointed this out. Especially the “alienating women as an outside group” part. I suspect that Wright is not a misogynist either. A lot of people seem to assume pointing out these flaws means that we are accusing them of actively hating women. It’s a lot more insidious than that. The book is a book about “is”, but there are a lot of “therefore, this is how it should be” portions.

    Anyway, I am rambling. The bottom line is that evo psych is too often treated as a “hard” science, when it should be treated like a branch of sociology. And please, no more 30 wealthy undergrad surveys done once extrapolated to the entire gender.

    Argh.

  9. julian says

    Watson may be a “science denialists” but Ed Clint is ignorant of even the most basic of feminist criticisms. Naturalistic fallacy? Really? You realize many of those evil feminists you dislike, Clint, also happen to study philosophy extensively, right?

  10. Apxeo says

    Evopsych proponents tend to play a shell game with the naturalistic fallacy accusation. A central problem is they tend to derive putatively “natural” behaviour from cultural norms (*koff* their own cultural norms). Basically they do the opposite of the naturalistic fallacy–they derive is’s from oughts. When critics point that out, they invariably complain their “science” is being politicized. Unfortunately, it is political right from the beginning.

  11. Stein says

    “Not only are the vast majority of people in politics not trained to spot fallacies, either in their own arguments or from others, but many don’t recognize their own. ”

    Don’t you tell me.

    You basically are arguing that research dealing with rape that doesn’t support the fight against rape by assuming the “correct” perspective is bad research.

    In other words: Is science is to be deemed because of the political implications of it’s conclusions?

  12. says

    You basically are arguing that research dealing with rape that doesn’t support the fight against rape by assuming the “correct” perspective is bad research.

    I’m just guessing at what you’re saying here, but no. I’m not assuming anything about the research. I’m dealing with the criticisms, both my own and others. You can too. I included links.

    In other words: Is science is to be deemed because of the political implications of it’s conclusions?

    Is this post to be deemed political because you won’t engage with the criticism of research presented?

  13. says

    Yes, they are, since they are arguing the converse: rape is bad, therefore it can’t be natural.

    Nitpick warning: that’s not the converse, that’s the contrapositive. Which is actually kind of important for your argument, since an implication (like natural->good) is equivalent to its contrapositive, but not (necessarily) to its converse.

    I don’t much see the issue here with avoiding the naturalistic fallacy — one can argue rape is natural without arguing it is good, and that it is bad without arguing it is unnatural.

    That said, the existence of cultures with much lower (or nonexistent) rates of rape compared to ours, and those with much higher, places the bar of evidence pretty damn high for people trying to argue an adaptationist hypothesis.

  14. Stein says

    Stephanie, this blog is political. This post is nitpicking over scientific studies because of their implications on a political issue.

  15. says

    Stephanie, this blog is political.

    Yes. It is also artistic and sciency and skeptical.

    This post is nitpicking over scientific studies because of their implications on a political issue.

    Nope.

  16. hypatiasdaughter says

    #9 maudell

    And please, no more 30 wealthy undergrad surveys done once extrapolated to the entire gender.

    I have my suspicions that so many of these sketchy gender “studies” are done because pysch students are casting about for thesis projects.
    When you want to study some aspect of human behavior, you have to define and select the group to study. Then do the study.
    Gender difference studies cuts out that preliminary step – just divy the group into men and women and half your work is done.

    I wonder if Wright ever considered that it is an evolutionary adaptation for women to select one man as a the best provider but another as the best sire to her offspring (i.e. cuckolding as a natural adaptive trait)? Or that a woman might seek multiple fathers for her offspring, in order to maximize their genetic variation? (As she can only produce a limited number of offspring, mating with only one man is literally putting all her eggs in one basket.)
    Has anyone done studies based on these hypothesis – that being a “slut” is actually an adaptive trait or are they only done on behaviors that reinforce traditional sex roles (i.e. the roles that meet the needs of men )? Because we all know, men evolved and women just hitch-hiked on their ride.

  17. says

    Of course it must be pointed out that it was RW and not EC that brought up naturalistic fallacies in this context, it was on her slide. Her point appeared to be that ‘x’ is a problem if people may misuse ‘x’ to justify ‘y’, even if doing so involved the use of fallacious reasoning. I personally couldn’t see any other way to interpret what she said other than to liken it to the fallacious way creationists object to the modern evolutionary synthesis as justifying eugenics (through fallacious reasoning/ misunderstanding the nature of the evolutionary claims)

    Just one thing I really wanted to address on this blog piece, though:

    Many researchers ignore data from other cultures that suggests rape is not so universal and, thus, is driven by factors other than genetics.

    I think this is a really fundamental mistake to make. Showing that some culture or other bucks the trend in no way dismisses the idea that genetics cannot play a part in predisposing the relevent behaviours on either the individual or societal level, all it shows is what we already knew – that nativistic factors would not be the only game in town.
    I think i made this analogy in a video a couple of days ago: just because I can steer my car to the right in no way falsifies my assertion that (as my viewers have informed me, due to the wheels likely being out of alignment or something like that) it manifests a slight pull to the left.

    On a happier note btw, aside from all this depreesing talk of rape, did you hear the scouting news from the UK yesterday, Stephanie? I will leave you a link!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20590974

    Jim.

  18. says

    Hypatiasdaughter @18

    I wonder if Wright ever considered that it is an evolutionary adaptation for women to select one man as a the best provider but another as the best sire to her offspring (i.e. cuckolding as a natural adaptive trait)? …………
    Has anyone done studies based on these hypothesis – that being a “slut” is actually an adaptive trait or are they only done on behaviors that reinforce traditional sex roles (i.e. the roles that meet the needs of men )? Because we all know, men evolved and women just hitch-hiked on their ride.

    I realise this is not the answer you want to hear, but to answer your question: Yes! Indeed, they have (i haven’t read them and make no comment on their validity), and David Buss (who Stephanie quotes and critiques above) is a firm proponent of such a viewpoint.

    The funny thing is it was only about 12 hours ago i was watching him talk on this very subject!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_FcTfl38NA
    You need to be about 6 minutes in (though, tbh, you ought to watch the whole set of 8 videos, regardless of whether you are pro-evopsych, anti-evo psych or anywhere inbetween, a bit like watching Ken Miller and Kent Hovind!!!)

    Jim.

  19. DeepThinker says

    There is a difference between “natural” and “adaptive”. Natural simply means that it occurs.

    Then you should have no problem at all with the statement, rape is natural. Because it occurs. Yet you say:

    Bad research that concludes rape is natural falls under that category.

    How can you object to a conclusion which is self-evident?

    Adaptive means that it has a purpose. A purpose is or can be an excuse, particularly in utilitarian ethics. Simple occurrence cannot. The appeal to nature doesn’t come into it.

    No, “adaptive” in this context has nothing to do with purpose or utilitarian ethics. Adaptive simply means that it provides an evolutionary advantage, in survival and/or reproduction. If you think evolutionary psychologists are arguing that rape has a purpose (as the term is understood in philosophy), you have fundamentally misunderstood the entire thing.

    There is no merely about it, and you cited my words to that effect.

    OK. Let me rephrase. It is not reasonable to object to research because some people might use it to fortify themselves in their fallacies.

    It is reasonable to note that the ethical failure that is doing shoddy science is compounded by the ethical failure of allowing that shoddy science to be used to bad ends, particularly when those ends are entirely predictable.

    No it is not reasonable. I’m not going to refuse to do research on sex differences merely because some daytime TV talk show host might try to use it (or more likely, misuse it) in order to reinforce his/her prejudices.

    Actually, if you want to talk violence, you’re going to have to get a whole lot more specific. No, you don’t just get to lump predation with violence within a social group of one’s own species and claim it’s all adaptive.

    Which is not what I did. There’s no excuse for a skeptic using the sophomoric technique of straw-manning.

  20. says

    I personally couldn’t see any other way to interpret what she said other than to liken it to the fallacious way creationists object to the modern evolutionary synthesis as justifying eugenics (through fallacious reasoning/ misunderstanding the nature of the evolutionary claims)

    That analogy requires research on rape as an adaptation to be solid science. It is not. The analogy doesn’t hold.

    Showing that some culture or other bucks the trend in no way dismisses the idea that genetics cannot play a part in predisposing the relevent behaviours on either the individual or societal level, all it shows is what we already knew – that nativistic factors would not be the only game in town.

    It isn’t “some culture or another”. It is a number of cultures with common features. That means that an adaptation should interact with those features in predictable ways. Given that the adaptation theory posits that rape is adaptive in that it allows low-desirability/fitness males to mate with high-desirability/fitness females, we can make some predictions.

    We should expect rape to decrease but not disappear in more egalitarian societies. They reduce the role of status as a factor in being able to provide for children, but they do not eliminate ugliness (as a proxy for poor immune function during development). In fact, we see rape essentially disappear.

    We should expect rape to increase in societies in which women have more political power. The more freedom women have to choose their mates, the more they should favor high-desirability/fitness men, and the more low-desirability/fitness men should be left out in the cold. Instead, we see decreases in rape.

    Culture is not a get-out-of-testing-free card. It is a set of variables.

  21. says

    How can you object to a conclusion which is self-evident?

    You are correct that this was badly phrased and did not accurately convey my meaning. It’s fixed in the post now.

    If you think evolutionary psychologists are arguing that rape has a purpose (as the term is understood in philosophy), you have fundamentally misunderstood the entire thing.

    If you think the people who are using this as a political argument get deeply into the philosophical details, I have a bridge to sell you.

    I’m not going to refuse to do research on sex differences merely because some daytime TV talk show host might try to use it (or more likely, misuse it) in order to reinforce his/her prejudices.

    I haven’t said anyone should refrain from researching sex differences. However, if you want to work in a field that has political ramifications, you have an ethical obligation to do good research–research that can actually address the research question and takes into account findings from other results and other disciplines–and to present your results in an honest way that does not encourage misunderstanding.

    Now, kindly stop leaving out the part where I’m talking about bad research presented in a misleading fashion. When you do, you are not accurately reflecting my argument.

    There’s no excuse for a skeptic using the sophomoric technique of straw-manning.

    That is not strawmanning. You talked about violence that we know can be adaptive. Predation, out-group violence–these can be adaptive. We know that. However, they do not tell us anything about the adaptiveness of a type of in-group violence, which hasn’t been demonstrated to be adaptive in the general case. You simply can’t talk about violence as a single phenomenon.

  22. Pteryxx says

    Eliding culture, case in point: *headdesking* at this headline that just happened to show up on BoingBoing via Reuters today:

    Women can “tell a cheating man”, but not vice versa —
    Reuters’ Tan Ee Lyn: “Women can tell with some accuracy whether an unfamiliar male is faithful simply by looking at his face, but men seem to lack the same ability when checking out women, according to an Australian study published on Wednesday.”

    http://boingboing.net/2012/12/05/women-can-tell-a-cheating-ma.html

    And what was the study really?

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/05/us-faithfulness-faces-women-idUSBRE8B405D20121205

    In the study, 34 men and 34 women were shown colour photographs of 189 Caucasian adult faces and asked to rate them for faithfulness.

    Small sample group, Australian university, Caucasian faces…

    “More masculine-looking men (were) rated as more probable to be unfaithful and having a sexual history of being more unfaithful.”

    And that turned out to have a slight positive correlation with the photographed subjects’ self-reported sexual histories.

    Men, on the other hand, seemed to have no clue. They tended to perceive attractive, feminine women to be unfaithful, when there was no evidence that they were, the scientists noted.

    Nothing about, say, cultural constructs of masculinity including a “stud” expectation that might influence behavior. Nothing about a cultural tendency to see attractive women as potential “sluts” even when they’re not. Nothing in the journalism at least about the results of males’ estimations of male photos, or females’ estimations of female photos. Nope, women are just inherently better at detecting infidelity because mate choice and resource risk! (mentioned in final paragraph.)

  23. karmacat says

    Reading about this research, I was wondering if the researchers know what percentage of men are rapists. If it is a minority, then can you assume it is adaptive. Maybe it is more adaptive to not be a rapist.
    The researchers are also assuming all rapists are alike. Some rapists have no problem with getting a woman to voluntarily have sex with him. So it is not like that these men would have trouble “spreading their seed around.”
    Have the researchers looked at the difference between men who rape their wives vs. men who rape someone they don’t know?
    How do you do this research while controlling for cultural factors. If researchers are looking for genetic basis of behaviors, they need to do twin and adoption studies. You can’t say something has evolved if you are not connecting it to DNA somehow (which, of course, is very difficult when it comes to human behavior)

  24. says

    @22 Stephanie

    That analogy requires research on rape as an adaptation to be solid science. It is not. The analogy doesn’t hold.

    No it doesn’t. Creationists hold evolutionary theory to be false but their argument that it legitimises eugenics lies entirely apart from that and in no way depends on it.
    Similarly, the flaws in the creationist linking the two can be made entirely apart from demonstrating, to any degree, the validity of evolutionary biology.

    The argument Rebecca made, at that point in the discussion, stands or falls irrespective of the validity of the claim that rape is an evolutionary adaptive strategy. You seem to be making the absurd assertion that if the claim were true (rape IS an adaptation) then no-one would be able to use fallacious reasoning to misapply it as a basis for advocating rape: unless you think it actually IS legitimate grounds to advocate rape your response here is nonsensical.

    Jim

  25. says

    @22 Stephanie

    PS: With regard to the second part of your reply. I was responding generally to what you yourself termed ‘the general shape of the problem’.
    I would sooner not get too embroiled in the specifics of defending the rape as adaptation hypothesis (either as you describe it applying purely to low status males or as is sometimes also argued applying to high status males also) because it seems far too convoluted and contrived for my liking (which is not intended as a statement on its truth value (I have no idea there), just evidential issues).
    I stand by the general point I made in response to your general point. Social counterpoints only falsify biologically determined explanations not hypothesised predispositions. What I would add wrt your response is that I was really scared by the way you look at differing societies as if the differences amount to one variable (how many other factors vary in societies where women have ‘more political power’ other than women having ‘more political power’ – where would you even begin?) when, in fact, they can often amount to a sea change.

    I humbly suggest that you and i would probably agree that in many cases the numbers of variable and confounding factors are so high anything more than a tentative conclusion in any direction is liable to amount to an overreading of the evidence?

    Jim.

  26. says

    Creationists hold evolutionary theory to be false but their argument that it legitimises eugenics lies entirely apart from that and in no way depends on it.

    It is very difficult, if not impossible, to lend legitimacy one doesn’t have or at least appear to have.

    You seem to be making the absurd assertion that if the claim were true (rape IS an adaptation) then no-one would be able to use fallacious reasoning to misapply it as a basis for advocating rape

    No, saying that both a premise and the argument from it are bad does not suggest that if the premise were good, the argument would be valid.

    unless you think it actually IS legitimate grounds to advocate rape your response here is nonsensical.

    Not at all. A fallacious argument from an accepted premise is more difficult to combat than a fallacious argument from an premise known to be dubious. That provides an ethical imperative to refrain from overstating the strength of the premise.

  27. says

    I humbly suggest that you and i would probably agree that in many cases the numbers of variable and confounding factors are so high anything more than a tentative conclusion in any direction is liable to amount to an overreading of the evidence?

    That’s going to depend on what you mean by “in any direction” and on what topics, but in general, yes. Cultural influence has a big leg up in the research, but in many ways, that’s because we have to do the work on discovering what cultural factors are relevant before we can account for them in anything less than direct genetic (or very, very early biological) research–which research we are not yet prepared to do technologically.

  28. DeepThinker says

    If you think the people who are using this as a political argument get deeply into the philosophical details, I have a bridge to sell you.

    They don’t. That doesn’t mean you get to choose your own definition of “adaptive” and construct a straw man argument. Let’s cut to the chase. The evopsych question is this:

    Did rape come to exist because this behavior produces an evolutionary advantage in reproduction?

    I hope you will agree that this is, in fact, the relevant hypothesis.

    Now is the feminist critique this:

    The quality of research to date in investigating this hypothesis is poor.

    Or this:

    Any researcher who posits an affirmative answer, even with good quality research in support, is guilty of condoning or excusing rape.

    Or this:

    Any researcher who posits an affirmative answer, without good quality research to support it, is guilty of condoning or excusing rape, and not merely of producing poor science.

    Which is it?

    You talked about violence that we know can be adaptive. Predation, out-group violence–these can be adaptive. We know that. However, they do not tell us anything about the adaptiveness of a type of in-group violence, which hasn’t been demonstrated to be adaptive in the general case.

    But you will accept that in-group violence may be a byproduct of out-group violence, which is adaptive? That’s all Vandermassen is arguing for in option (2):

    As Vandermassen (2010) points out, the two central contenders for explaining sexual coercion are (1) adaptations for rape, (2) byproducts of adaptations that evolved in non-rape contexts (e.g., desire for sexual variety; male use of aggression for other instrumental goals), or some combination of the two.

  29. says

    Stephaine @28

    Not at all. A fallacious argument from an accepted premise is more difficult to combat than a fallacious argument from an premise known to be dubious.

    Well, only in as much as it is wrong in an unnecessarily large number of ways.

    If I assert to you that the fact my house is overpopulated with howler monkeys is good grounds for overhauling inheritence tax, whilst I concede my erroneous premise grants you another avenue of dispute, i suggest to you that not only is that avenue unnecessary it is also somewhat dangerous territory. After all, i only need to invest heavily in a troop of monkeys to populate my residence and you are forced to hastily shift to the argument you maybe should have addressed in the first place.
    Similarly, if the choice is to attack the fallacious idea that rape is morally acceptable follows from it existing as an adaptation, or to attack the evo psych claim directly, I can’t help think that the most sensible strategy is to attack the fallacy; to attack the bit that could not, at a later date, turn out to be right after all.

    i really don’t see how this is much different to the chestnut of the basis for equality. Surely a firmer footing is to be found on the grounds that all people are to be treated by their own merits, when addressing someone who insists that people ought to be treated differently on grounds of sex or ethnicity or whatever, rather than insisting that all groups are equally talented in any relevant ways?

    Jim.

  30. says

    I hope you will agree that this is, in fact, the relevant hypothesis.

    No. I don’t. The relevant hypothesis as presented by researchers in this field is (among other things, a statement): Modern humanity contains within itself a rape module that has been selected for because it has allowed low-fitness/desirability males to mate with high-fitness/desirability females, thus selectively passing on the genes that control this module.

    I’ve even already laid this out in the comments here. Not sure how you missed it.

    Nor am I going to answer your “Which is it?” I’ve been quite clear about my thesis, correcting you several times. If you’re still confused for some reason, follow up on what I’ve told you. Interact with my answers if you want to be considered an honest conversational partner.

    But you will accept that in-group violence may be a byproduct of out-group violence, which is adaptive?

    In what species do we see in-group violence that may reasonably be inferred to be a byproduct of out-group violence? Why would that species, and not the multitudes of others in which the two are quite separated, be the model we would expect humans to follow? How does this square with the evolutionary psychology that tells us that making in-group/out-group distinctions is adaptive?

  31. says

    Jim, an argument that is simply a non sequitur is different from an argument that relies on a fallacy. For the reason why, I suggest you review what I had to say in the post about fallacies.

    Also, no, I don’t have to shift any argument to the fallacy from the premise when I am already arguing against both the fallacy and the premise. As was a major premise of my post, feminist arguments against rape do not rely on the idea that rape is unnatural. They already attack the fallacy. That they also attack the premise used in a fallacious argument does not change that. Please stop trying to insist it does.

    Seriously, it’s time to start addressing what I’ve actually said.

  32. says

    Jim, an argument that is simply a non sequitur is different from an argument that relies on a fallacy.

    Given that a non-sequitor IS a fallacy (or really a cover-all term for many kinds of fallacy….but always for a fallacy) then when you write this:

    Seriously, it’s time to start addressing what I’ve actually said.

    Ok, well I will start right away and tell you that your response to me is of the form ‘A is NOT A’

    As was a major premise of my post, feminist arguments against rape do not rely on the idea that rape is unnatural. They already attack the fallacy.

    Which is awesome. let me tell you, from a non-feminist perspective, my arguments against rape likewise do not rely on the idea that rape is unnatural.

    however, the subject of discussion, if i may remind you, was that Rebecca was making a point along the lines that the conclusion (that rape is adaptive) could be used via fallacious reasoning to reach an erroneous conclusion. This is an argument you could level at anything. Admittedly, in this case, it does actually take place (people do use naturalistic arguments to make ethical statements) but this is a criticism to be levelled at those making the ethical statements, instead of victim-blaming the researchers who are seeing their work bastardised and misapplied, sometimes for odious ends.

    Jim.

  33. says

    Jim, you are exceptionally close to the edge here. Given that you’ve been warned both about ignoring what a fallacy is and that your example doesn’t cut it and about acting as though we are talking about good research, yet you do both in one comment, it’s time to give me a very good reason to continue to put up with you.

    Go. You’ve got one comment.

  34. says

    There seems to be two topics under discussion:

    1. Bad vs. Good research (i.e. valid vs invalid inferences or conclusions from properly/poorly collected data)

    2. Bad vs Good uses of scientific research (i.e. valid vs invalid inferences or conclusions from research itself)

    Both are problems. I don’t think anyone denies this. The problem with (1) is with either the scientists themselves, and/or with whatever supervisory structure should be policing the field. This is the domain of criticism that applies properly to the field of, in this context, Evo Psych.

    The problem with (2) is wholly out of the control of the scientists. If feminists(or anyone else, including the researchers) conclude that an evolutionary explanation for rape entails any sort of ethical claim about rape, either positive or negative, they’re doing so via the naturalistic fallacy.

    In combatting one, we should apply pressure to the scientists, the review panels, or the university programs (or all three); in combatting the other, we can simply continue doing what skeptics do: lampoon bad arguments and logical fallacies.

    It seems to me that the confusion in this discussion, and with Ms. Watson’s presentation of this same issue as it pertains to (2) above, is in who gets the blame for (2).

    It’s not the biologists, paleontologists, theoretical physicists, psychologists, etc. They must be careful about drawing conclusions from the evidence, but, and this is essential, not because someone might use a fallacious argument with those conclusions as premises.

    That’s Noel’s point, that’s my point, and I think that was Deepthinker’s point. There is no knowledge of the adaptive nature of rape that will make a valid ethical argument in support of it, or against those who campaign against it. So naughty feminists; and naughty scientists; naughty anyone who tries.

    But NOT naughty knowledge. That’s essential.

  35. says

    And all of you seem to keep missing this distinction: We’re not talking about knowledge. Bad research does not produce knowledge. It can’t. If you produce “research” or descriptions of your research that are good for nothing but propping up fallacies, you have the responsibility for adding fuel for the fallacies.

    Look, I understand that this distinction is something that is almost always elided. Don’t just make knee-jerk statements because you’re not familiar with the argument, though. Think about it until you can actually deal with all the parts of what I’m saying. If you still want to argue then, fine. That would probably be interesting. But get to the point where you don’t have to drop part of my argument to make your point first.

  36. says

    Two things on that, then:

    you have the responsibility for adding fuel for the fallacies

    1. No one is responsible, ultimately or otherwise, for the product of a fallacious argument, save the proponent of said argument. (perhaps this is a point of disagreement, though I wouldn’t have thought so)

    If you produce “research” or descriptions of your research that are good for nothing but propping up fallacies

    2a. Nothing is any better or worse for propping up fallacies. They’re fallacious; you don’t say, “well, your argument is fallacious, but a better fallacious argument could be constructed if you used premise Y”. It’s senseless.

    2b. What research are you talking about that is “good for nothing but propping up fallacies”?

  37. says

    No one is responsible, ultimately or otherwise, for the product of a fallacious argument, save the proponent of said argument.

    Also someone who facilitates said argument directly and not as an inevitable byproduct of some other needed task. How is this controversial?

    Nothing is any better or worse for propping up fallacies.

    I’ve already gone over this. This is not true. Nothing is better or worse for making a fallacious argument logically sound, but a premise with apparent legitimacy is much better for making a fallacious argument be accepted by other people. A fallacious argument that is based on the idea that the moon is neon green will have a much lower acceptance rate than one based on the idea that people have fingers. You understand that there is a social component to arguing, right?

    Also, you’re turning what I said around. “Good for nothing but propping up fallacies” =/= “better at propping up fallacies”.

    What research are you talking about that is “good for nothing but propping up fallacies”?

    I’ve already gone over this multiple times as well. We’re talking about research that does not engage with the full body of prior knowledge on the topic, research that cannot address the research question, and research that presents conclusions not supported by the data.

  38. says

    Also someone who facilitates said argument directly and not as an inevitable byproduct of some other needed task. How is this controversial?

    Not to speak for anyone in particular, but this is the bit that I find objectionable. What you appear to be saying is that some (or all) of the research from Evo Psych is being disseminated deliberately in service to an agenda. Presumably, the agenda of legitimizing rape. Am I reading you correctly?

  39. LeftSidePositive says

    I also think there’s an important distinction to be made between “rape is adaptive, therefore rape is good” and “rape is adaptive, therefore rape is inevitable” (or expected, or unsurprising, or whatever…). Even if everyone discussing rape pays due lip service to the idea that rape is bad, faulty research that claims rape is natural is going to let our culture off the hook in lots of important ways–for one, it props up the myth that rape is about strangers-in-the-bushes, and frames it as a means of sexual access, ignoring the fact that most people are raped by people they know and trust (including those who already have sexual opportunities with that person). This sort of bad research actively misleads about what rape IS in the vast majority of cases, and leads to people thinking things like, “but he wouldn’t rape anybody–he has tons of girls who want to sleep with him!” (e.g., defenses of Ben Roethlisburger and Kobe Bryant).

    For another, areas and situations with high rates of rape (e.g., college campuses) may use the assertions of bad research about the adaptability of rape to conclude that the rapes at their university is beyond their control (even while they put on their somber faces and assure us that they think it’s Very Bad Indeed), while they refuse to look at things like their frat culture, the education they give to students, the resources for victimized or potentially-victimizable students in their residential settings or with school administration.

    Furthermore, if rape is considered an “adaptation” and thus part of the normal male psyche, these attitudes and faulty understandings will normalize a lot of behaviors that should be red flags. This is important because most rapists don’t just wake up and decide to rape someone–they often escalate boundary violations, groom their victims, and test the waters for social support within their peer group. So, if someone is making dehumanizing, objectifying comments about women, or is acting in persistent, low-level ways that coerce women, this person’s peers might consider this to be just “normal” and “he’s a good guy, he doesn’t mean anything by it…” and then will be shocked–SHOCKED!–that such a person would actually go farther into what they actually admit is “bad” (or they will refuse to admit that this guy could be a rapist, because he seems so normal).

    Then, of course, we have the problem of rape being considered natural means that it will also be perceived as natural and inevitable that women should have to protect themselves from the chance of being raped–because what else are ya gonna do, amirite? Given the cultural context of rape, and who and what our society considers to be “rapable,” and how the threat of rape is used as a means for social control of women, this leads to some major limitations on women’s freedom and quality of life. Now, we may **say** that we still hold the rapist accountable and not the victim, but abundant jury decisions show that this is simply not the case.

    (One final thing about the “science” that I always wondered–given how traumatic a rape often is for the woman, and given the high instances of depression, substance abuse, self-harming behaviors we see in rape victims today, wouldn’t women raped in the ancestral environment have similar reactions, and as such be much less capable providers for their offspring on average? Do the rape-as-adaptation theorists also consider that women impregnated through rape might try to abort their pregnancies or abandon the baby once born? It’s not like sperm-meets-egg=success! as far as perpetuating one’s seed for more than one generation–the kid actually has to be raised and fed in order for it to have a chance to perpetuate its genes–so why don’t I generally see these types of fitness calculations considered when people try to argue that rape is adaptive?)

  40. says

    @41

    I also think there’s an important distinction to be made between “rape is adaptive, therefore rape is good” and “rape is adaptive, therefore rape is inevitable”

    Was. And was. and was. and was. EP researchers are reaching into our past to try and explain phenomenon in the present, not overlay past behavior ON the present as though nothing has changed.

    A lot of what you said is the same “people will use this in fallacies” argument against EP research. Some of what you say is equally problematic on a culture-as-explanation paradigm (i.e. universities feeling powerless). You also make the bizarre claim, implicitly, that rape is about male perpetrators, and female victims, as though no male could have been raped for his reproductive value, or indeed that no men are raped today.

    You also seem to completely ignore the second hypothesis, that rape isn’t itself adaptive, but that it is a form of coercive behavior that we all, men and women, share as a throwback from our past. That explanation isn’t off the table, and I’ll freely admit that it strikes me as the most plausible of the two offered in the OP.

    But again, none of this legitimizes rape, nor does a fallacious argument cast aspersions on the premises used.

    Nothing is better or worse for making a fallacious argument logically sound, but a premise with apparent legitimacy is much better for making a fallacious argument be accepted by other people.

    This is why we, as skeptics, target fallacious reasoning. This idea that we attack EP is akin to hacking at the branches of a tree, rather than the root of the problem. The problem is bad reasoning, and the stakes are far higher than rape statistics, as horrible as they obviously are.

  41. LeftSidePositive says

    Lee–no, actually natural–>inevitable is much less fallacious than natural–>good. The incorrect attribution of a “rape module” paints certain behaviors as hardwired, which overlooks important cultural causes. It actively disguises important areas for improvement in how our society and our criminal justice system operate, and it misunderstands key points about the causes of rape. It’s not fallacious to conclude that a certain prevalence of rape is to be expected when one’s theory states that rape is hardwired–that is what is predicted by the theory itself.

    Your idea that identifying cultural forces is equally problematic makes no sense–firstly, universities are responsible for the culture that they create on campus, from the people they let in, to the residential policies, to the party planning requirements, to the education modules, to the administrative policies, etc., etc. If they believe a certain amount of bad stuff is “natural,” it will blind them to their failures in addressing it. Moreover, while culture on the larger-than-a-college-campus scale is hard to change, it is a hell of a lot more plastic than hardwired adaptive traits!

    Focusing on the fact that the vast majority of rapes are committed by men against women, and that the vast majority of the rape theorizing in EvoPsych adopts this paradigm is in no way saying that this is the only type of rape. However, your comment is coming very close to a “What about the menz?!” and is pretty tiresome.

    I didn’t comment on rape as a byproduct of other aggressions because I don’t have as much issue with that and of the two of theories consider it relatively more plausible (although I do think it bypasses some important cultural factors), and in my reading I find it comes up less often than the first one. My comment was already long enough and nowhere in the Grand High Rules of Internet Commenting does it say that one must comment on every aspect of a blog post.

    By the way, the problem is bad reasoning AND bad research. We attack EP because a lot of the conclusions it gives–especially with regard to gender roles and rape–seem, upon comparison to the more data-driven experimental studies in sociology, anthropology, psychology, to be WRONG. This isn’t just about a noble, misunderstood idea that has some great truth to it being abused for nefarious ends: it’s that the idea at the heart of the matter just doesn’t hold up to scientific scrutiny.

  42. Silentbob says

    @ 38 Lee

    No one is responsible, ultimately or otherwise, for the product of a fallacious argument, save the proponent of said argument.

    @ 39 Stephanie Zvan

    Also someone who facilitates said argument directly and not as an inevitable byproduct of some other needed task.

    @ 40 Lee

    … this is the bit that I find objectionable. What you appear to be saying is that some (or all) of the research from Evo Psych is being disseminated deliberately in service to an agenda. Presumably, the agenda of legitimizing rape. Am I reading you correctly?

    Sorry to butt in, Lee, but no, I don’t think you’re getting it.

    Suppose I were to invite a recovering alcoholic out to lunch, and I take them to a bar and order a round of drinks. It’s true it’s not my fault they’re an alcoholic, and it’s true that it’s their responsibility to remain sober, not mine. But I’m not exactly helping am I? Knowing they’re an alcoholic, it’s irresponsible of me to create an environment where their sobriety is more likely to be tested, if it wasn’t necessary for me to do that.

    As I understand it, Stephanie is not saying that research that could be misused should be forbidden or suppressed. And I don’t think she is necessarily saying that researchers are deliberately coming to false conclusions to promote an agenda.

    I think she is saying that if you are a researcher working in a field that has a reputation for shoddy research that jumps to hasty conclusions that are often used to reinforce harmful stereotypes, then it behoves you to be especially careful not to do shoddy research and jump to hasty conclusions. It might not be your fault if you’re conclusions are misused, but you are contributing to an environment where such misuse is more likely.

    I think she is saying that researchers should be conscious of that, and be very sure of their conclusions before publishing. Just as if I’m inviting an alcoholic to lunch, I should be aware of their situation and be very sure that it’s really necessary to take them to a bar, rather than a coffee shop.

    I don’t think Stephanie objects to researchers reaching conclusions that could be misused. I think she objects to researchers jumping to unwarranted conclusions without apparently giving a thought as to how they could be misused.

  43. says

    Lee–no, actually natural–>inevitable is much less fallacious than natural–>good.

    Still…fallacious.

    The incorrect attribution of a “rape module” paints certain behaviors as hardwired, which overlooks important cultural causes.

    Assuming it’s false. Assuming those cultural causes are root causes, and not themselves the products of the hardwiring. Assuming rape isn’t just a subcategory of coercive violence as an adaptive trait. None of which is settled, so far as I know.

    It’s not fallacious to conclude that a certain prevalence of rape is to be expected when one’s theory states that rape is hardwired–that is what is predicted by the theory itself.

    Just because a certain level of a thing is to be expected, doesn’t entail that it’s inevitable. Knowing why it’s expected will allow a predictability we might find useful in solving problem of it’s occurrence. The simple fact is, if it’s not culture, or not entirely culture, or not even mostly culture, fixing the culture won’t fix the problem. At best, culture will just revert; at worst, the problem might be exacerbated somehow. It’s unpredictable. Tribalism is still a problem, but knowing that it’s tribalistic thinking helps in solving the problem. I fail to see why the same wouldn’t apply to this situation.

    Focusing on the fact that the vast majority of rapes are committed by men against women, and that the vast majority of the rape theorizing in EvoPsych adopts this paradigm is in no way saying that this is the only type of rape.

    It does risk prejudging where the boundaries between behaviors lie. If rape is a subset of the latter hypothesis, then these statistics would be folded into the general statistics of violence, where the numbers are a bit shifted. It’s also non-trivial data (trivial to you, but not trivial to the question EP is facing).

    However, your comment is coming very close to a “What about the menz?!” and is pretty tiresome.

    In a mens’ prison? In subsaharan Africa? As an altar boy? These aren’t important victims? This doesn’t count as data for a potential evolutionary explanation for coercive violence? That, no, it’s not just about sex, or reproduction, but also territory, status, dominance. All the things you want to use culture to explain, EP gets a crack at too.

    But leaving aside all of that, where is the evidence that, say, Universities are trashing their anti-rape programs based on Evo Psych papers? Where is the causal link been demonstrated between the claim that rape may have performed an adaptive function, and a rise in raping and pillaging? All of this sounds delightfully catastrophic, but it’s no more shown factually problematic than that the claims are factual. It sounds an awful lot like you’re assuming culture is the problem, assuming EP contributes to the negative aspects of that culture, and concluding that therefore EP is a problem.

    If you can establish those two things, I’m on board with scrapping EP research into rape as adaptive, or coercive violence as adaptive. Don’t misread me: I’m anti-rape, anti-coercive violence. I’m pro-solution. I just find a number of things you say to be wrong.

  44. says

    Lee, are you incapable of distinguishing between research into a topic and bad research into a topic, or just unwilling? Either way, the time to knock it off is several comments ago, when it was pointed out that you were doing so. If you can’t or won’t, you have no place in a discussion that is about only one of those.

  45. says

    I think she is saying that researchers should be conscious of that, and be very sure of their conclusions before publishing.

    Scientific “conclusions” are tentative. Here is the data, here is what we think, what do you think? That’s the purpose of publishing. I agree, scientists should be careful drawing conclusions that can be adequately supported by the data. Full stop. That’s the project of science, and if that’s not happening, the fact that someone else is misusing those conclusions is wholly irrelevant. They would have misused a carefully evidence conclusion, too. That is how fallacious arguments work.

    The problem is bad research. Of course. The problem is also fallacious arguments. It is impossible to construct a valid argument linking the two, because the latter is invalid by definition.

    Recovering alcoholics don’t start drinking again because someone takes them to a bar, but if they did, it is in no way the responsibility of the person who took them to a bar. Drinking is a choice, an internal struggle, much the same way making shoddy arguments for money or personal gain is a choice.

  46. says

    They would have misused a carefully evidence conclusion, too.

    No, they would not, in this case. The carefully evidenced conclusion from the research done is not one that supports their argument.

    Really, this is not that hard to understand. We’re not talking abstractions where you can talk in generalities.

    It is impossible to construct a valid argument linking the two, because the latter is invalid by definition.

    I’ve already addressed this as well. Remember that comment up there about the difference between a correct argument and an effective one? Do not forget it. Do not fail to take it into account in future answers. If you can’t do that, drop out of the conversation because you’re not actually talking to anyone but yourself.

    Drinking is a choice, an internal struggle, much the same way making shoddy arguments for money or personal gain is a choice.

    No, it is not. That is both an insulting and a grossly unscientific comparison. Don’t do it again.

  47. says

    Lee, are you incapable of distinguishing between research into a topic and bad research into a topic, or just unwilling?

    I have said all along that even bad research cannot be blamed for fallacious reasoning, because good research can give rise to fallacious reasoning just as easily. Your objections, in my humble opinion, should be against bad research, and fallacious reasoning, not the former for reasons of the latter. I *get* the distinction, I have repeatedly acknowledged it, but it’s irrelevant.

    I’ll skip the part where I reply in an equally insulting manner(i.e. are you stupid or stubborn?), and just ban myself (save you folks the trouble).

    Ciao.

  48. says

    karmacat

    The researchers are also assuming all rapists are alike. Some rapists have no problem with getting a woman to voluntarily have sex with him. So it is not like that these men would have trouble “spreading their seed around.”

    This.
    We know that statistically speaking the most likely man to rape me is my own partner, the one with whom I have sex voluntarily and who already got to spread his seed. So that doesn’t really fit with the stranger who jumps out of the dark night to impregnate random women by rape…

    Lee

    What you appear to be saying is that some (or all) of the research from Evo Psych is being disseminated deliberately in service to an agenda. Presumably, the agenda of legitimizing rape

    Nobody is talking about an “agenda”, although there are some on the MRA side who actually have one. You don’t need an “agenda” to reproduce harmful bullshit that is deeply entrenched in society. All you need is to fail to learn about that bullshit first before you get to work.
    The question EP should ask is “Why are we so desperately looking for an evolutionary explenation of rape”?
    Oh, and this?

    Drinking is a choice, an internal struggle, much the same way making shoddy arguments for money or personal gain is a choice.

    Please take this heartfelt fuck you from the child of an alcoholic.

    LSP

    wouldn’t women raped in the ancestral environment have similar reactions, and as such be much less capable providers for their offspring on average?

    Let’s also not forget about probably milenia where either the rape-baby alone or the rape-fetus pluse the walking incubator around it would be disposed of by the rightful owner of said incubator.

  49. Joe musashi says

    I too found the specific point in clints post on the naturalistic fallacy to be kind of incoherent and off point, but that doesn’t change the general perception of most of the critics I’ve read so far, which is that the argument that RW makes, namely that rape research from an EP perspective might lead to people commuting the naturalistic fallacy and is therefor bad, is a fallacious argument.

    It presupposes that all EP rape theory either must be bunk, or that even if it isn’t, its potentially dangerous, and therefore still bunk. That’s a rather unscientific stance to take as far as I’m concerned. If she meant to say the former, then as a layman(or women if you will), then that’s a rather broad and strong claim to make about an entire field of science which she knows very little about, and did next to nothing to substantiate. If she meant the latter, this is obviously anti-science as this means RW thinks truth and research into the human condition is less important than that people are comfortable and safe with whatever opinion or faith they hold – which is problematic when you claim to be a skeptic and spend a large amount of time challenging the opinions and beliefs of others on the grounds that you think they’re false.

    I find it doubly alarming that many people have voiced the opinion that the “naturalness” of rape is unimportant, or that EP as a field can do nothing good in researching the topic, as if accurate understanding of problems we face as humans, have no bearing on how to best approach solving said problems.

    In either case, I find it disingenuous to the extreme to attempt to simply whisk away criticism of RWs presentation by making the case that her critique of EP is warranted due to the example she raised, and then grant that example as valid criticism because the field of EP is bunk. Thats circular reasoning on its finest.
    I’ll grant that I might have completely misunderstood the nature of the objections you’ve raised in your post, and comment replies, but this is the impression you’ve left me with.

    If EP, as field, is be, then sure, your point stands, but that remains to be demonstrated, which neither you nor RW have – and lack the qualification to do. If, EP, as a field, isn’t utter bs, which by its academic trackrecord, I think we can assume it isn’t(at least more safely than assuming the opposite), the RW is guilty of dismissing a field of science and research merely on the basis of what said research might do, while using that as a point to demonstrate why said field is bunk…

    In either case, the behaviour is blameworthy. You’re either laypeople dismissing science, or people dismissing science based on a guilt by association fallacy(“you are enabling the fallaciously based hatred of others by doing that science, so stop it”).

  50. GodlessForeigner says

    Sry for posting in a dead thread but hey, I just got here and the comments are still open.

    ****** Im not sure if I managed to convey my arguments correctly (I lack confidence in my English today) so feel free to skip to the end of my comment for the part I find important******

    Anyway, I wont go into the whole whose responsibility are the fallacious arguments derived from conclusions of research thing.

    First let me clarify what I consider bad science because you seem to be using a slightly different definition. Bad science as I see it is when because of either malice or greed or incompetence etc. researchers use bad sampling techniques, distort data or draw conclusions unsupported by their data.

    Now far from me saying that EP isnt wrong or anything like that (I actually know very little about it) and some of your arguments if correct suggest that they are wrong but its still a far reach from them doing bad science. Any research is perfectly capable of being wrong while still being good science.

    The only good argument from you or in the comments that I found about EP being bad science is that they used a subset of the rape phenomenon and presented it as the whole. And that still can be just a misunderstanding or simply using different definitions.

    The rest of your arguments simply boils down that they ignored data and conclusions from other fields and went ahead, did their own research and produced their own conclusions. And you keep on about this as if they did something bad. As I see it, that is actually doing good science.

    And you keep going on as if contradictory conclusions and data from other fields prove EP being bad science. Thats not even proof that they are wrong, It does prove that someone is wrong, but it might as well be the conclusions from other fields that are wrong.
    *****************************

    Anyway, what really drove me to comment here is something else.

    “Drinking is a choice, an internal struggle, much the same way making shoddy arguments for money or personal gain is a choice.”
    (sry, dont know how to use html tags and dont think I should experiment here where I cant edit it later)

    You keep attacking him about this sentence but I have to say that as an alcoholic myself, I dont find anything wrong about it.
    It is true that alcoholism isnt a choice, but he didnt say it was. Its also true that while they are drinking alcoholics dont have a lot of control over their rate or frequency of consumption, but he said nothing about this either.
    What he did say is obvious from the comment he was responding to. He said that alcoholics have a choice in continuing or breaking their abstinence and that this is their internal struggle.
    And unless you agree to the AA drivel that your abstinence is under the control of the God/higher power, its a perfectly true statement.

  51. says

    It presupposes that all EP rape theory either must be bunk, or that even if it isn’t, its potentially dangerous, and therefore still bunk.

    No. There’s no presupposing here. There is, however, repeated observation that the data on which rape-as-adaptation relies looks very little like rape as it occurs in the rest of the scientific literature.

    I find it doubly alarming that many people have voiced the opinion that the “naturalness” of rape is unimportant, or that EP as a field can do nothing good in researching the topic, as if accurate understanding of problems we face as humans, have no bearing on how to best approach solving said problems.

    Well, when we have a decent amount of information about what makes rape more and less likely to occur–say, from looking at rape around the world and the success or failure of a number of prevention programs–whether rape evolved as an adaptation isn’t particularly important. When the “research” conducted results in “Don’t wear a short skirt or go anywhere alone”, which contradicts the real-world information, it’s worse than useless.

    In either case, I find it disingenuous to the extreme to attempt to simply whisk away criticism of RWs presentation by making the case that her critique of EP is warranted due to the example she raised, and then grant that example as valid criticism because the field of EP is bunk.

    If I understood what you were saying I did, and if I had actually done that, I might(?) agree with you.

    I’ll grant that I might have completely misunderstood the nature of the objections you’ve raised in your post, and comment replies, but this is the impression you’ve left me with.

    An impression you are entirely incapable of confirming or falsifying before telling me what you think of me based upon it. How ever would you go about figuring out whether you’d made you impression up out of whole cloth before blathering on about how awful it is for paragraphs on end? Whomever could you possibly ask?

  52. says

    The only good argument from you or in the comments that I found about EP being bad science is that they used a subset of the rape phenomenon and presented it as the whole. And that still can be just a misunderstanding or simply using different definitions.

    Uh, no. Rape doesn’t stop being rape just because the victim is too young or the wrong sex to be fertile. If fertility is a major variable in what you’re studying, you can’t artificially limit the range of that variable and claim that your results tell you anything about the whole.

    The rest of your arguments simply boils down that they ignored data and conclusions from other fields and went ahead, did their own research and produced their own conclusions. And you keep on about this as if they did something bad. As I see it, that is actually doing good science.

    Maybe you should take some classes or do some reading on…well, what science is.

    And you keep going on as if contradictory conclusions and data from other fields prove EP being bad science. Thats not even proof that they are wrong, It does prove that someone is wrong, but it might as well be the conclusions from other fields that are wrong.

    This is true. However, there is a very large body of evidence that contradicts, not the conclusions of the researchers, but the foundations they use to draw their conclusions from the data they collect. That’s a serious problem for any field.

    It is true that alcoholism isnt a choice, but he didnt say it was.

    Actually, he did. Nobody gets addicted to making shoddy arguments.

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