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Jun 18 2012

Pinker explains Group Selection

I found this very satisfying: Steven Pinker summarizes all the problems with group selection. It’s a substantial essay, but if you just want the gist of it, here’s the conclusion.

The idea of Group Selection has a superficial appeal because humans are indisputably adapted to group living and because some groups are indisputably larger, longer-lived, and more influential than others. This makes it easy to conclude that properties of human groups, or properties of the human mind, have been shaped by a process that is akin to natural selection acting on genes. Despite this allure, I have argued that the concept of Group Selection has no useful role to play in psychology or social science. It refers to too many things, most of which are not alternatives to the theory of gene-level selection but loose allusions to the importance of groups in human evolution. And when the concept is made more precise, it is torn by a dilemma. If it is meant to explain the cultural traits of successful groups, it adds nothing to conventional history and makes no precise use of the actual mechanism of natural selection. But if it is meant to explain the psychology of individuals, particularly an inclination for unconditional self-sacrifice to benefit a group of nonrelatives, it is dubious both in theory (since it is hard to see how it could evolve given the built-in advantage of protecting the self and one’s kin) and in practice (since there is no evidence that humans have such a trait).

Group selection is one of those ideas people succumb to all the time…but it’s also a fringe concept that demands really good evidence before anyone should believe it, and no one seems to be able to come up with any.

108 comments

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  1. 1
    chrislawson

    But…but…it’s mathematical. See, I even have some equations here. If they don’t convince you, then by definition you don’t understand the maths.

  2. 2
    machintelligence

    Back when I was a grad student in Biology (40+ years ago) I thought group selection was pretty much a dead issue, except in very special circumstances, i.e. parasite/host mortality driven evolution. I am not a practicing biologist now, so this is a bit of a surprise. Could this be a misunderstanding of evolution by sociologists rather than biologists?

  3. 3
    ChasCPeterson

    Could this be a misunderstanding of evolution by sociologists rather than biologists?

    We’re talking about E.O. Wilson, most prominently. And D. Sloan Wilson. Definitely biologists.

  4. 4
    New England Bob

    D. Sloan Wilson is an angry biologist. Angry at the world because his arguments have convinced almost no one for +/-30 years.

  5. 5
    mark4nier

    I can see adaptations which act at the level of the group–that is, that allows greater group cohesion, larger groups, a potential for greater specialization, etc. But all of these still confer advantages to the members of the group. They are adaptations at the individual level which confer an advantage to all members of the group. So greater viability in the group means greater viability of the members of that group over members of other groups. The actual selection still occurs at the individual level. It still happens at the gene level, the only thing that survives in the long term. Is this what they actually mean?

  6. 6
    millssg99

    I highly recommend everyone read the whole article, even though I realize most people no longer have an attention span longer than a couple of minutes.

    This is an excellent article on a fascinating topic by a really good writer, Steven Pinker. As someone who evidently has been seduced by the “superficial appeal” of group selection, I found this article very helpful.

  7. 7
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I found this article very helpful.

    And given your previous fuckwittery, making you Heinlein’s “well meaning fool”, your support means it is a pile of shit. Take your opinions somewhere else.

  8. 8
    chigau (違う)

    millssg99
    The title of the Post contains “Pinker”.
    The first paragraph contains “Steven Pinker”.
    Why did you think it necessary to inform us the article was written by Steven Pinker?
    Your writing sucks.

  9. 9
    sw

    I know I don’t visit the comment sections too often, so I don’t know the backstory, but Jesus Fucking Christ, what did Mills do to get that kind of response from such a seemingly inoffensive comment?

  10. 10
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I know I don’t visit the comment sections too often, so I don’t know the backstory, but Jesus Fucking Christ, what did Mills do to get that kind of response from such a seemingly inoffensive comment?

    He was an overly obtuse troll on the “Here’s the situation” thread. I believe his post here was simple trolling, to be obnoxious, and commented appropriately.

    Your concern is noted and rejected.

  11. 11
    Dabu

    I realize most people no longer have an attention span longer than a couple of minutes.

    Hi, millssg99.

    Too bad how people here have a memory that goes back further than a couple of minutes, eh?

  12. 12
    millssg99

    Too bad how people here have a memory that goes back further than a couple of minutes, eh?

    Nope, I would have expected nothing less. If I’m a troll then obviously this is exactly what I want. If I’m not then it is the blathering of idiots. Either way it matters not to me.

  13. 13
    chigau (違う)

    Either way it matters not to me.

    Uh-huh.
    That’s why you posted.

  14. 14
    carlie

    mills, you’re calling everyone else an idiot, yet you admit that you bought into group selection?

  15. 15
    A. R

    mills: You must be going for the troll trifecta, first misogynist, now creobot (you must be the misunderstanding evolution variant), are you going to go godbot on us next, or just skip it all and go full on raj?

  16. 16
    millssg99

    you’re calling everyone else an idiot

    No, not everyone, just a few.

    yet you admit that you bought into group selection?

    Yes. I’m not so insecure as to not be able to admit I find good arguments persuasive. I also used to be theist and a Republican. But I changed my mind. Shoot me.

  17. 17
    echidna

    millssg99,
    You insult us by saying we collectively have the attention span of no more than a couple of minutes. You assume we don’t know of Steven Pinker. You assume that your opinion would be highly regarded by us, which after the Situation thread is just sheer arrogance.

    Your use of language suggests a decent education, the stuff you say is incredibly arrogant and stupid. You don’t regard other people very highly, do you?

  18. 18
    machintelligence

    ChasCPedersen@3

    We’re talking about E.O. Wilson, most prominently. And D. Sloan Wilson. Definitely biologists.

    New England Bob@4

    D. Sloan Wilson is an angry biologist. Angry at the world because his arguments have convinced almost no one for +/-30 years.

    In 1975 E.O. Wilson wrote “Sociobiology” and received a barrel load of crap for his efforts. Most notable were demonstrations against him at events where he was a speaker and having a pitcher of water poured on his head at a sociobiology symposium of the AAAS. He was at the time a believer in group selection. Ullica Sergerstrale in her article “An Eye on the Core” which appeared in the 2006 book “Richard Dawkins — How a scientist changed the way we think” said the following:

    In other words, in his book Wilson is not promoting a move away from the 1960s ‘good for the species’ group selection in favor of kin selectionist thinking: he is, if anything doing the reverse.

    She then cites several examples (which I am feeling too lazy to type up, but will do so on request.) My point is that E.O. Wilson, while trying to forge a connection between Biology and Sociology was of the “old school” of group selection and may not have abandoned that viewpoint.
    D. Sloan Wilson I am less familiar with, but I too remain unconvinced by his arguments for group selection.

  19. 19
    echidna

    I’m not so insecure as to not be able to admit I find good arguments persuasive.

    I suspect that you might mistakenly take smooth rhetoric for a good argument.

  20. 20
    Gnumann+, out&proud cultural marxist (just don't ask me about Gramsci)

    Shoot me.

    No, that’s your line of thinking. Decent humans don’t do that.

    And no-one ever gave a good argument for anything that explains that on a group selection level.

    If you stick around and post you’ll just get an ever-swelling stack of rotten porcupines soiled with faeces. Why don’t you shut up, lurk for a year or two and then post if (and only if) you think you have become a decent human being in the interval.

  21. 21
    millssg99

    OK, this is the last I’m going to say on the topic of me on this comment thread. You guys can comment on me all you want if it makes you happy. I’m not going to feed your needs any longer.

    I couldn’t give a crap what you think of me. If I did, I would be looking for a mutual admiration group somewhere else.

    Actually I think very highly of a lot of people, have no opinion on most, and don’t think much of some. BTW, given the tone of this blog and the comments contained herein, I find that comment laughable. Many regulars here make their opinion of other people quite obvious. It’s like sharks on chum as soon as they find someone they don’t agree with or like.

    And talk about arrogance – that would be assuming you can derive all kinds of psychological traits of someone based upon a few blog comments.

  22. 22
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    couldn’t give a crap what you think of me.

    The feeling is mutual. We don’t give a shit what you think, period. You don’t think….

    It’s like sharks on chum as soon as they find someone they don’t agree with or like.

    Actually it all depends on the attitude of the person disagreeing. You were disagreeable and nasty, so we reacted in kind. We’ve had long evidence based and polite discussions with people who disagree. Gee, you were evidenceless, which means you only have fuckwitted OPINIONS. Stick your flounce, but 10 e-ductats says the loser has to try to get in the last word…

  23. 23
    Gnumann+, out&proud cultural marxist (just don't ask me about Gramsci)

    It’s not just the regulars Mills, a lot of lurkers came out of the woodwork to say what a pathetic fuck you are too.

  24. 24
    echidna

    millssg99,

    It’s like sharks on chum as soon as they find someone they don’t agree with or like.

    Not quite. It’s sharks on chum when they find someone who posts comment after comment, without showing any understanding of what other people have written, and without actually engaging in the discussion. By doing so, you show no regard for the other people on this blog.

    This behaviour is arrogant. How you conduct yourself in real life may be quite different, but you don’t seem to be very aware of the core values of other people on this blog.

  25. 25
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Oh proud soldier! You bless us so.

  26. 26
    chigau (違う)

    sw #9
    Any more questions?

  27. 27
    devoniansplit

    Nerd of Redhead, you seem to spend more time bitching about other people than actually contributing to the conversation. Is this due to your extraordinarily small penis or is it merely incidental?

  28. 28
    Tethys

    I also used to be theist and a Republican. But I changed my mind.

    I know old habits die hard, but the world would really appreciate it if you could stop being an asshole too.

    thx!

  29. 29
    feralboy12

    Nerd of Redhead, you seem to spend more time bitching about other people than actually contributing to the conversation. Is this due to your extraordinarily small penis or is it merely incidental?

    Is this your contribution? If so, you might consider using a roll of quarters.

  30. 30
    nohellbelowus

    This is a superb piece by Steven Pinker. My thanks to you for posting it, Professor Myers!

    Pinker’s brief analysis of war contains some powerful words that are not to be missed by any liberal thinker:

    Nor has competition among modern states been an impetus for altruistic cooperation. Until the Military Revolution of the 16th century, European states tended to fill their armies with marauding thugs, pardoned criminals, and paid mercenaries, while Islamic states often had military slave castes. The historically recent phenomenon of standing national armies was made possible by the ability of increasingly bureaucratized governments to impose conscription, indoctrination, and brutal discipline on their powerless young men. Even in historical instances in which men enthusiastically volunteered for military service (as they did in World War I), they were usually victims of positive illusions which led them to expect a quick victory and a low risk of dying in combat. Once the illusion of quick victory was shattered, the soldiers were ordered into battle by callous commanders and goaded on by “file closers” (soldiers ordered to shoot any comrade who failed to advance) and by the threat of execution for desertion, carried out by the thousands. In no way did they act like soldier ants, willingly marching off to doom for the benefit of the group.

    To be sure, the annals of war contain tales of true heroism—the proverbial soldier falling on the live grenade to save his brothers in arms. But note the metaphor. Studies of the mindset of soldierly duty shows that the psychology is one of fictive kinship and reciprocal obligation within a small coalition of individual men, far more than loyalty to the superordinate group they are nominally fighting for. The writer William Manchester, reminiscing about his service as a Marine in World War II, wrote of his platoonmates, “Those men on the line were my family, my home. … They had never let me down, and I couldn’t do it to them. . . . Men, I now knew, do not fight for flag or country, for the Marine Corps or glory of any other abstraction. They fight for one another.”

  31. 31
    Gnumann+, out&proud cultural marxist (just don't ask me about Gramsci)

    PZ: Sockpuppet-check at aisle 27 please!

    And just in case not: We don’t do gendered slurs round this parts. If you’re truly new here #27 – do some frigging groundwork before defending rape apologists with gendered sure that reeks of toxic masculinity.

  32. 32
    devoniansplit

    Gnumann: I truly hope you are satirizing the atmosphere around the blog lately. Otherwise, you are pretty fucking boring with your drawn out overplayed rape apology rant. Using the phrase ‘bitching’ doesn’t even begin to defend rape apologists – that is fucking ridiculous. In fact pretending that they are even remotely similar issues is marginalizing a legitimate and relevant issue. Try to be less of a fuckwad.

  33. 33
    Gnumann+, out&proud cultural marxist (just don't ask me about Gramsci)

    No, I was saying that the guy you are defending is a rape apologist, and that you’d better shut your mouth instead of blundering into ongoing conversations you hopefully know nothing about.

    Eliminating gendered insults was a side point (but it is a point, and the real costs of doing so is pretty fucking close to zero- so why the idiot restistance. And the small-penis meme is one of the worst, but I’m not going to derail by going over the reasons here. Take it to the zombie thread if you must)

  34. 34
    Patricia, OM

    I realize most people no longer have an attention span longer than a couple of minutes… I used to be a theist and a republican…

    Please don’t try to pawn off your sexual problems, political wrong mindedness, and religious fuckwittery on the rest of us.

    *la snort*

  35. 35
    flatlander100

    More than a little disconcerting how often, and how quickly, some duscussions here descend into “You’re an idiot!”, “No, you’re an idiot!” mode.

  36. 36
    devoniansplit

    I made a fairly obvious observation about Nerd’s posting habits. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the individual he was – yet again – so pointlessly hostile toward.

    Idiot resistance…shut your mouth…blah blah blah – boring, boring, boring. How about rather than regurgitating these tired rants of yours you A) fuck off or B) fuck off. Either works great for me.

    Thanks.

  37. 37
    Gnumann+, out&proud cultural marxist (just don't ask me about Gramsci)

    Flatlander: Read “here’s the situation” of 15. June. Context matters!

  38. 38
    Rick

    WTF? Second time in as many weeks that I’ve visited this blog and seen so much schoolyard crap in the comments. It detracts from an other wise interesting blog.
    It gives the impression of a locker room ruled by a group of arrogant & immature jocks.
    Not sure why I bothered to post, but its very unappealing.
    Too many other good blogs to visit.

  39. 39
    Dabu

    Flatlander100, in those discussions, careful reading of the context inevitably reveals who the idiot is.

  40. 40
    strange gods before me ॐ

    devoniansplit, your use of gendered insults against both women and men renders the rest of your comment as low priority.

    It is not worth humoring you.

  41. 41
    Gnumann+, out&proud cultural marxist (just don't ask me about Gramsci)

    devoniansplit: all fine and dandy, except:
    1: It wasn’t really a typical Nerd rant. Note the lack of key phrases like “evidence”
    2: Nerd’s rant in this case certainly wasn’t pointless. I occationally think he’s too triggerhappy, in this case he is if anything too mild.
    3: I haven’t seen you contribute to anything (unlike Nerd who’s done heavy lifting for years and years).

    And if you really have been reading the comments long enough to aquire a distaste for Nerd’s comments you really should know that the small-penis-taunt really isn’t appropriate. So take a used porcupine from Mill’s heap – you know what to do.

  42. 42
    robro

    PZ: Thanks for the pointer. Nice to have a challenging read, and an interesting perspective.

  43. 43
    Amphiox

    I truly hope you are satirizing the atmosphere around the blog lately.

    No, he was stating a plain fact.

    Namely that you were directly defending a demonstrated rape apologist who was banned from a previous thread specifically for his rape apologetics.

    It has absolutely nothing to do with your use of words, (which are unacceptable for other reasons) but for whom you chose to use those words for.

    Otherwise, you are pretty fucking boring with your drawn out overplayed rape apology rant

    Until the toxic culture surrounding rape apology changes, rape apology rants cannot be overplayed.

  44. 44
    Amphiox

    How about rather than regurgitating these tired rants of yours you A) fuck off or B) fuck off. Either works great for me.

    And by what divine edict do you arrogantly presume yourself entitled to dictate to Nerd what he can or cannot do?

    Since either “works fine” for you, NEITHER will be done, as you have not demonstrated that you do deserve such consideration.

  45. 45
    madscientist

    It sounds just like the multitudes of software ‘models’ to predict global economic growth: no matter how many times they’re shown to be bunkum, folks still use it. Same for software to pick stocks and so on. People just want to cling to delusions.

  46. 46
    qwistrod

    Maybe I misunderstand group selection but it seems as if it would have to work like this. You have a large community of different species. One species has an individual that experiences a mutation that is detrimental to the individual but would be beneficial for the survival of the species as a whole. Somehow this mutation manages to spread itself throughout the members of the species. This part is a bit of a mystery. The whole species then has a competitive advantage against other species. Thus when the species speciates the daughter species have more chance of surviving long enough to speciate anew. Those species without this beneficial group trait would be more likely to go extinct. Would there be enough time for group selection to work given that each ‘generation’ would consist of a creation of a new species? Are there lots of species that have been wiped out due to competition with other species? Can group selection enable a slightly beneficial trait to the group to easily spread through the population of species occupying a certain niche? Is the environment sufficiently stable enough for it to select different species for survival on the slow time scale that group selection would have to work? Perhaps I’m talking complete crap, but then I’m not a biologist. I am not sure how group selection could work and find it strange that it seems to be endorsed by Michael Shermer. Perhaps I’m missing something.

  47. 47
    Matt Penfold

    Maybe I misunderstand group selection but it seems as if it would have to work like this. You have a large community of different species. One species has an individual that experiences a mutation that is detrimental to the individual but would be beneficial for the survival of the species as a whole. Somehow this mutation manages to spread itself throughout the members of the species. This part is a bit of a mystery.

    The problem is that there is no known means by which the mutation can increase in frequency in the population. In fact it would very quickly become extinct, since it would be deleterious for any individual to have it, and it is individuals who reproduce.

    There is a concept called kin selection which appears superficially similar, but the key word is kin. Kin are closely related individuals who by definition will share a lot of genes. If one takes a gene eye view of selection then it becomes easy to see how in kin selection an individual who through an altruistic action reduces the chance to reproduce can bring about an overall increase in the frequency of a gene being successfully passed down to successive generations. It gets quite mathematical, but it works whereas group level selection does not.

  48. 48
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Nerd of Redhead, you seem to spend more time bitching about other people than actually contributing to the conversation. Is this due to your extraordinarily small penis or is it merely incidental?

    Contributing what to the conversation? If you present real evidence, not just OPINION, I respond in kind. You present nothing but attitude, you get nothing but attitude in return. In your attitude based post, here’s your rotting porcupine…

  49. 49
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Try to be less of a fuckwad.

    Check the mirror. Pot, kettle, black.

  50. 50
    alektorophile

    I always found E.O.Wilson’s works on ants fascinating, and found him an engaging speaker the two times I was lucky enough to see him. His obsession with group selection is however rather puzzling, even for a non-biologist like me, and his somewhat haughty way of dismissing his critics I find quite unappealing in a scientist. I heard him last on NPR’s Science Friday 4-5 weeks ago, and the way he misrepresented group selection as an accepted and proven theory while declaring kin selection to have been consigned to the dustbin of history was a bit much, and when asked about the fact that a majority of biologists seem to think otherwise, he dismissed their opinion as unimportant. Rather sad, I found.

  51. 51
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Is group selection a favorite fuckwittery of liberturds?

  52. 52
    abb3w

    chrislawson:

    But…but…it’s mathematical. See, I even have some equations here. If they don’t convince you, then by definition you don’t understand the maths.

    Actually, it seems more plausible that you’ve more time on biology than mathematics.

    Now, I’m just a dabbler. I didn’t do particularly well in high school biology; it involved too much memorization of the stamp collection that science has accumulated and named, not enough unifying theory. Math, however, mostly just made sense. And, going back years later, Crow’s “An Introduction to Population Genetics Theory” seemed fairly straightforward.

    So, there’s Price’s Equation. The derivation is pretty straightforward. The covariance term looks to establish the existence of “group selection”. There’s relatively few possible reasons this would not be the case.
    1) The covariance is always zero. This, however, would seem to be trivially falsified due to the potential to reduce to Fisher’s fundamental theorem of natural selection. Even without discarding Fisher’s fundamental theorem, this leaves open that the covariance is always zero for all traits save fitness itself. However, that statement would seem an immense theoretic claim (bigger than Darwin’s initial results) requiring massive empirical backing before it would be accepted. If true, it would seem a Nobel-caliber finding.
    2) The term “group selection” is also (or only) being used by proponents to refer to things that do not correspond to such mathematical covariance; or, alternately, that biologists have a specialized meaning associated to “group selection” that precludes its being used to refer to such covariance.

    There might be one or two others, but they don’t come to mind at present.

    Looking at Coyne’s particular criticisms mentioned in the Wikipedia group selection article, they strike me as mostly being directed to the relative strength of covariance effects (inefficient, rare requirement conditions) rather than the bare existence. This horrifyingly reminds me of how creationists dismiss the potential for mutational benefits on the ground of relative rarity. It also looks like there’s a secondary question involved: whether group selection is the force underlying the evolution of human prosocial behavior. This is a different question than whether group selection exists at all, but seems to be being conflated in the argument. (There’s unpleasant echoes of creationist conflation of natural selection and uniform common descent, also.)

    I’ll have to look at Pinker’s criticisms in detail; maybe I’m fundamentally misunderstanding a few things.

  53. 53
    John Scanlon FCD

    Since the Horde always seems to be hating on Ev Psych, how come Pinker’s still Our Hero?

    No really, I’m (fairly) serious. I mean, I don’t generally see PZ or commenters rigorously distinguishing Ev Psych Done Properly from the Other Kind, but in practice some such categories must be applied.

    Or is it just a tide-comes-in, tide-goes-out thing?

  54. 54
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I mean, I don’t generally see PZ or commenters rigorously distinguishing Ev Psych Done Properly from the Other Kind,

    You mean there is evo-psych that isn’t bullshit and investigator projection from start to finish? Not from what I hear…

  55. 55
    Ing

    Since the Horde always seems to be hating on Ev Psych, how come Pinker’s still Our Hero?

    Who the fuck are you and why are you using “our”?

  56. 56
    chigau (違う)

    Who the fuck are you and why are you using “our”?

    Seconded.

  57. 57
    ChasCPeterson

    This thread is fucking pitiful. It’s actually exemplary in its pitifulness.

    The covariance term [of the Price equation] looks to establish the existence of “group selection”.

    would you mind trying to unpack that part in words?

    johnscanlon @#53: Ignorant internet evolutionary-psychology haters usually hate Pinker too. They just haven’t weighed in here yet, but–hey, there’s Ing now!

    Ing & chigau: johnscanlon is, I believe, this guy. He’s been around a while. You didn’t notice his ironic capitalization of Our?

  58. 58
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    An interesting review article:

    Leigh, E.G. 2010. The group selection controversy. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23:6-19. (doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2009.01876.x)

    I don’t have much to add that abb3w hasn’t written more coherently than I would have. Dabbler, indeed ;)

  59. 59
    Frank Asshole

    54. NERD OF REDHEAD: You’ve just reached the Mount Everest of hypocrisy and self delusion. ARE YOU SO MUCH CRITICAL IN RELATION TO YOUR OWN BELIEFS? I don’t think so.

    You mean there is evo-psych that isn’t bullshit and investigator projection from start to finish?

    Hey it’s nice to dissmiss something without evidence by stating something which was totally pulled out of ass. Without understanding of basic concept or empirical support. Projection is a freudian asshattery. FUCK YOU!

    For those interested in evolutionary perspective in psychology, for starters check some classic Arne Ohman’s papers about anxiety and fear.

  60. 60
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Without understanding of basic concept or empirical support.

    And where is your empirical support if Evo-Psych isn’t bullshit? I always thought that was the problem…

  61. 61
    Antiochus Epiphanes
    The covariance term [of the Price equation] looks to establish the existence of “group selection”.

    would you mind trying to unpack that part in words?

    The covariance term represents the regression of population fitness on trait variance. One of the determinants of trait variance could be relatedness…Therefore, if I’m not mistaken, this covariance term could be explained in part by inclusive fitness in the same way that kin selection is (although group selection doesn’t have to be).

    Clear as mud, no?

  62. 62
    Frank Asshole

    I’m not gloryfing EvoPsych. You’ve stated that EvoPsych is all the way bullshit. So if i find just one which is good, your statement will be false. So check this [http://tinyurl.com/d2dskcm] out. It is a good example of humility and awareness of limitations in evolutionary approach applied to research in human behaviour.

    You are making big claims, not me. Without sufficient evidence.

  63. 63
    Gnumann+, out&proud cultural marxist (just don't ask me about Gramsci)

    Since the Horde always seems to be hating on Ev Psych, how come Pinker’s still Our Hero?

    Could it be that some of us actually have the mental capacity to take the man on a case-by-case basis.

    When he’s right he’s right, when he’s wrong he’s wrong and when he (very frequently) is both you salvage what you can and critique the rest.

    Hey it’s nice to dissmiss something without evidence by stating something which was totally pulled out of ass. Without understanding of basic concept or empirical support

    Quite amusing. At this point, I’ve yet to see any evopsych evangelists who have any evidence for their assumptions about prehistoric human society and evolutionary selection pressures. If you know of any please point them out, otherwise you get the Hitch treatment.

  64. 64
    Tethys

    Here is one of Arne Ohmans papers about fear and snakes.

    IANANeurobiologist, but it presents zero evidence and a lot of “just so” type of theorizing.

    http://www.psychologicalscience.org/journals/cd/12_1/Ohman.cfm

  65. 65
    andyo

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says:

    He was an overly obtuse troll

    That’s statistically unlikely.

  66. 66
    Frank Asshole

    Gunman

    Quite amusing. At this point, I’ve yet to see any evopsych evangelists who have any evidence for their assumptions about prehistoric human society and evolutionary selection pressures. If you know of any please point them out, otherwise you get the Hitch treatment.

    I KNOW THAT INTENT IS MAGIC, but i was refering to projections in this part of my post

    by stating something which was totally pulled out of ass. Without understanding of basic concept or empirical support

    I AM NOT DEFENDING EVO PSYCH. I AM AGAINST UNSUPPORTED GENERALISATIONS.

  67. 67
    chigau (違う)

    Current Psychology™ does a marginal job explaining the motivations of living humans.
    How well could it do on people who’ve been dead for 20,000 years?

  68. 68
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Antiochus Epiphanes mentions:

    “Leigh, E.G. 2010. The group selection controversy. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23:6-19. (doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2009.01876.x)”

    It’s free! Click here.

  69. 69
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    You are making big claims, not me. Without sufficient evidence.

    Nope, I’m awaiting for claims of evo-psych to be evidenced/proven. Just like I do with imaginary deities, bigfoot, etc. Show me evo-psych isn’t mostly bullshit (bullshit being the null hypothesis). And if 95% is trash, it doesn’t say much for the other 5%, which is the split I’ve seen in the past.

  70. 70
    nooneinparticular

    Thanks for the link to Pinker’s article, PZ. I remember when I first learned of Group Selection (GS) way back in undergraduate from a former student of Wilson’s. At the time many still found the idea plausible. Pinker’s article, though making a few weak points at the beginning of the article (which amount to an argument by word meaning) he outlines the some of the reasons why GS is unnecessary. They are well-put. I remember attending a seminar late in my undergraduate days where a debate about GS was the focus. Many of the same arguments Pinker makes (he does a better and more succinct job than what I remember) were made then. IIRC, the gist was that GS as a hypothesis does little more than co-opt the mechanisms of Natural Selection, thus adding nothing new.

    Pinker restates this very well here;

    “Some mathematical models of “group selection” are really just individual selection in the context of groups.[2] The modeler arbitrarily stipulates that the dividend in fitness that accrues to the individual from the fate of the group does not count as “individual fitness.” But the tradeoff between “benefiting the self thanks to benefiting the group” and “benefiting the self at the expense of the rest of the group” is just one of many tradeoffs that go into gene-level selection. Others include reproductive versus somatic effort, mating versus parenting, and present versus future offspring. There’s no need to complicate the theory of natural selection with a new “level of selection” in every case.”

  71. 71
    Frank Asshole

    69. Nerd: So wait till someone show you the evidence. I will also be interested. I am not defending this field. Only sufficient defence will be from evidence. I somewhat agree (not that the numbers are supported by data) with your feeling about the proportions of good and bad in evo psych. But i am against strong dismissal of a field. WE JUST NEED MORE OF GOOD SCIENCE.

  72. 72
    Gnumann+, out&proud cultural marxist (just don't ask me about Gramsci)

    I AM NOT DEFENDING EVO PSYCH. I AM AGAINST UNSUPPORTED GENERALISATIONS

    1: Urgggh! Caps. There are other ways of marking things you know.
    2: If you’re going to misspell my name, please do it less distastefully. Guns=bad. The gnumann is not a gunman.
    3: As Nerd have pointed out – if you want to combat baseless generalisations you’d better learn how to indentify the null hypothesis.

  73. 73
    shoshidge

    I’m a big fan of Steven Pinker, so thanks for the link.
    Being a layman, I am also someone who thinks that group selection makes at least superficial sense, I may have to rethink things after reading the essay.

    But I am also curious why Pinker seems to get such a free pass on this blog, it’s not just that he supports some aspects of Evo Psych, (that is usually bad enough),it is that his book ‘The Blank Slate’ is a thorough refutation of the sort of pseudo-left political attitutes that are reflected so stridently on this blog and its regular commenters.

    Seriously, you people have ripped apart others for saying a fraction of what Pinker has asserted about rape, feminism, sexism etc.,(he actually defends ‘A Natural History Of Rape’ in the Blank Slate and you want to take him on a case by case basis!)

    Now, as you are cracking your knuckles, getting ready to call me all sorts of names,(gender neutral of course, we wouldn`t want to offend anyone), in the usual Pharyngula style, making all kinds of assumptions about my intelligence based on two and a half paragraphs,remember that Steven Pinker penned a whole,(Pulitzer nominated),book which to my knowledge he has never refuted, of pure PZ`s flying monkey poison.
    How is it that his name is not mud..

  74. 74
    daniellavine

    it is that his book ‘The Blank Slate’ is a thorough refutation of the sort of pseudo-left political attitutes that are reflected so stridently on this blog and its regular commenters.

    “Pseudo-left”. What do you mean by that? That egalitarianism isn’t really a leftist political attitude? About three hundred years of political history would like to argue with you on that score.

    Honestly, this looks like trolling. How is it relevant?

    Seriously, you people have ripped apart others for saying a fraction of what Pinker has asserted about rape, feminism, sexism etc.,(he actually defends ‘A Natural History Of Rape’ in the Blank Slate and you want to take him on a case by case basis!)

    This is going to blow your tiny fucking mind, but sometimes people are wrong, and then other times the very same people are right! Isn’t that weird? So it’s not contradictory at all for me to have the following opinion:

    Pinker is dead wrong on IQ and a few other related issues, but there is still a great deal of merit to his arguments against the idea of a ‘blank slate.’ In ‘Stuff of Thought,’ Pinker cogently argued that features of natural languages hint at very definite cognitive structure; in essence, that there is such a thing as human nature.

    How is it that his name is not mud..

    Because unlike imbecile trolls like yourself, Pinker makes principled arguments based on evidence and reason and attaches his really real real name to those arguments so that he is held accountable for them — again, unlike imbecile trolls like yourself. Pinker is also attempting to make scientific arguments rather than moral ones. Imbecile trolls such as yourself can’t help involving politics in matters of fact (egalitarianism is “pseudo-left”, remember?). That is not Pinker’s approach.

    This is not to say Pinker is some magical superman who is always right. I’ve already said I think he’s dead wrong about IQ (though I can see the sorts of biases that would lead him to his conclusion on that). But he argues honestly for what he thinks is true.

    , making all kinds of assumptions about my intelligence based on two and a half paragraphs,

    A few parting thoughts:
    1) We can only work with what you give us. Give us two and a half paragraphs of unalloyed stupid and we’re forced to make a conclusion on the basis of the evidence we have at hand.
    2) If you wrote zero paragraphs we wouldn’t make ANY assumptions about your intelligence.
    3) If you wrote zero paragraphs you wouldn’t have to worry about us calling you names.
    4) You should realize that “daring” people to call you names probably makes you look dumber than anything else you wrote. I get what you’re trying to do — reverse psychology, trick people into NOT calling you out for being a transparently stupid troll. Unfortunately, reverse psychology only works on toddlers, and even then only the dumb ones (maybe that’s why all you idiots think it works? Because it worked on you one or a few times?). What it really does is make people think, “Wow, this guy thinks he’s somehow being brave by putting himself at risk of being called nasty names on the internet? That’s kind of sad. I’d almost feel sorry for him if that wasn’t one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.”

  75. 75
    strange gods before me ॐ

    4) You should realize that “daring” people to call you names probably makes you look dumber than anything else you wrote. I get what you’re trying to do — reverse psychology, trick people into NOT calling you out for being a transparently stupid troll. Unfortunately, reverse psychology only works on toddlers, and even then only the dumb ones (maybe that’s why all you idiots think it works? Because it worked on you one or a few times?). What it really does is make people think, “Wow, this guy thinks he’s somehow being brave by putting himself at risk of being called nasty names on the internet? That’s kind of sad. I’d almost feel sorry for him if that wasn’t one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.”

    XD

    I lol’d.

  76. 76
    RFW

    @ 68 life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says:

    Antiochus Epiphanes mentions:

    “Leigh, E.G. 2010. The group selection controversy. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23:6-19. (doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2009.01876.x)”

    It’s free! Click here.

    Quoting the reference:

    Group selection grabbed biologists’ attention when Wynne-Edwards (1962, 1963, 1965) invoked it to explain why animals exploit resources sustainably. Citing Wright’s (1929, 1945) view on how group selection could influence evolution, he proposed that most animal populations do not overexploit their resources as people so often do because those groups in a species that do not overexploit their resources survive to multiply.

    The author has clearly never seen the devastation caused by goats all around the Mediterranean and points further east. They eat everything and (iirc) are believed by some ecologists to be among the primary factors leading to the semi-desert conditions around the Mediterranean today. Nothing worse for the landscape than feral goats. Or, for that matter, goats with goatherds looking after them. Remember, in classical times, Greece was a forested country.

    Admittedly, even causes have causes and in this case, it’s the eradication of predators that has allowed the goat population to explode out of control. Just as the deer population is exploding in urban areas all across Canada and the US, quite likely because their predators are nearly extinct (cougars, wolves) or tightly controlled (domestic dogs controlled by leash laws).

  77. 77
    shoshidge

    Thank you to daniellavine, if I wanted to write the perfect padody of a Pharyngula comment I coundn’t do better.

    By ‘pseudo-lefist’, I mean someone who has taken the idea of egalitarianism to such an absurd extreme, that by comparison a mere liberal like myself is seen as a political enemy.
    I am also reminded of a Christopher Hitchens quote, which I’ll paraphrase because I don’t have the book in front of me…

    …I had become too used to the pseudo-left new style, whereby if your opponent had uncovered your lowest possible motive for asserting something, he was quite sure to have arrived at the only possible one, this has the effect of turning any noisy moron into a master analyst…

    I can’t merely be mistaken or misinformed in other words, no benefit of the doubt is to be given, if I disagree with you I’m either evil or stupid,(usually both).

    Back to the point I was trying to make earlier, you claim that Pinker is given a pass because his arguements are scientific, yet most of his arguements in the Blank Slate are coming from an Evo Psych perspective, which according to many of you, is pseudo-science at best and total drivel at worst.

    That book should’ve damned him for life in your eyes.
    He wasn’t merely wrong about IQ, but race and gender as well, he should be getting the full Ken Ham treatment,(or perhaps Satoshi Kanazawa treatment would be more accurate).

    If I wanted to write a book detailing why Pharyngula, the subset of leftism it represents, (and the nasty self-satisfied way it is represented) was noxious and wrong headed, it would look a lot like the Blank Slate.
    So… I’m still left wondering why Steven Pinker gets a pass…

  78. 78
    daniellavine

    Thank you to daniellavine, if I wanted to write the perfect padody of a Pharyngula comment I coundn’t do better.

    There’s a lot of things you couldn’t do, but that’s not really saying much.

    By ‘pseudo-lefist’, I mean someone who has taken the idea of egalitarianism to such an absurd extreme, that by comparison a mere liberal like myself is seen as a political enemy.
    I am also reminded of a Christopher Hitchens quote, which I’ll paraphrase because I don’t have the book in front of me…

    …I had become too used to the pseudo-left new style, whereby if your opponent had uncovered your lowest possible motive for asserting something, he was quite sure to have arrived at the only possible one, this has the effect of turning any noisy moron into a master analyst…

    I can’t merely be mistaken or misinformed in other words, no benefit of the doubt is to be given, if I disagree with you I’m either evil or stupid,(usually both).

    Excuse me if I don’t take Hitchens’ political attitude as exemplary leftist thought. Incidentally, you’re not wrong because you’re stupid. You’re wrong AND stupid. You see the distinction? (Probably not.)

    Back to the point I was trying to make earlier, you claim that Pinker is given a pass because his arguements are scientific, yet most of his arguements in the Blank Slate are coming from an Evo Psych perspective, which according to many of you, is pseudo-science at best and total drivel at worst.

    That book should’ve damned him for life in your eyes.
    He wasn’t merely wrong about IQ, but race and gender as well, he should be getting the full Ken Ham treatment,(or perhaps Satoshi Kanazawa treatment would be more accurate).

    So wait. Are you criticizing me for not living up to your ridiculous stereotype of commenters here? Or are you praising me for it? The latter would seem to make more sense, but your diction suggests otherwise. I think you may be a little confused at what you’re actually trying to accomplish here.

    Let’s back up a minute because you seem to think you know everything about me and my opinions. The only thing you know about me is that I already have a low opinion of you. Does that clear things up? Onto the specifics:
    1) The thesis of evo psych makes sense. Brains are evolved, so properties of brains have evolutionary explanations. That’s fine. There’s no reason why such a thesis couldn’t potentially be scientific. There’s no problem with evo psych in principle. In practice, most evo psych researchers are just terrible scientists — and so most of the evo psych “research” that has been done to date is terrible pseudo-science. You understand the distinction between “in principle” and “in fact”, right? So if there ARE people doing legitimate scientific work in evo psych (there are, and Pinker is one of them) then I’m in fact not a hypocrite for acknowledging as much. I’d be a hypocrite to deny it.
    2) I haven’t actually read the book. I’ve read some of what Pinker has written about IQ, and it’s very mainstream “my field studies it so it must be real” psych bullshit. I have no doubt Pinker’s been wrong about things other than IQ, but I haven’t gone looking for reasons to hate on Steven Pinker. Because he’s a good writer and, as far as I can tell, a fairly scrupulous scientist. Also, once again, he is arguing about matters of fact, not values. If I thought he had racist, sexist, bigoted values then I would probably not be so kind. But I’ve never had that impression; he’s at worst a devil’s advocate, and I’m fine with that as long as it’s done in the spirit of honest discussion of ideas.

    People on the blog don’t get mad about honest discussion of ideas. They get mad about idiots like you intentionally trying to make people feel sick, sad, and/or angry. Pinker doesn’t go out of his way to lecture rape survivors about his theories of gender. Trolls like you do.

    If I wanted to write a book detailing why Pharyngula, the subset of leftism it represents, (and the nasty self-satisfied way it is represented) was noxious and wrong headed, it would look a lot like the Blank Slate.
    So… I’m still left wondering why Steven Pinker gets a pass…

    Again, politics is about values, “The Blank Slate” is about facts. That’s probably what you’re missing. You keep conflating the two. I suspect that’s because you’re just trying to get people angry rather than have an actual discussion.

    Or maybe you should just be clear about it: what are you trying to accomplish by asking your question? Especially since it’s already been answered?

  79. 79
    ChasCPeterson

    There’s also this:

    Steven Pinker has a new book coming out next week, and I’m very much looking forward to it. It is titled The Better Angels Of Our Nature: How Violence Has Declined, and its premise is that humans have been becoming increasingly less violent over time. I’m very sympathetic to this view: I think cooperation, not conflict, has been the hallmark of human evolution.

    which seems to suggest it’s not all about the quality of his arguments or the rigor of his scholarship.
    Rather, unlike those other evopsyches, he somethimes says stuff we already agree with.

  80. 80
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    “Refutation”
    -A play of one act, by Antiochus Epiphanes
    Two people sit at a table in an empty cafe. Coffee mugs and dessert plates lie unbussed on other tables signifying the business day’s end.

    Wynne-Edwards: Group selection!
    RFW, 76: Goats of the Mediterranean, motherfucker!

    Curtain

  81. 81
    daniellavine

    which seems to suggest it’s not all about the quality of his arguments or the rigor of his scholarship.
    Rather, unlike those other evopsyches, he somethimes says stuff we already agree with.

    This doesn’t apply to me. I don’t like Pinker any more for arguing that violence has declined than I would if he had argued that it has increased. Either way he’s not advocating violence or peace, he’s making an empirical historical argument. It’s a question of fact, not values.

  82. 82
    ChasCPeterson

    When I was in grad school, the Wynne-Edwards/GC Williams thing was not such ancient history. One prof went so far as to decree the Three Deadly Sins of modern evolutionary biology: Group Selection, Anthropomorphism, and Teleology.

  83. 83
    ChasCPeterson

    This doesn’t apply to me.

    That’s fine. I was opining on the more general question of ‘why Pinker [apparently, or according to some] gets a pass at Pharyngula‘.

  84. 84
    daniellavine

    @80:

    Actually, that is one of the most plausible arguments for group selection I’ve ever heard:
    1. Group is predominantly selfish.
    2. Since group is predominantly selfish, best strategy is more aggressive selfishness.
    3. Which leads to resource depletion.
    4. Selfish group goes extinct by changing their environment to one in which selfish behavior is not adaptive.

    That actually does a great job of why there are no stable populations of locusts. When a cricket gets the locust mutation its offspring out-compete local crickets by reproducing like mad, but by doing so they deplete the resources that had been enough to keep the cricket population stable. Once the food is gone the locusts die off. Crickets, on the other hand, have some trait that keeps them from reproducing very quickly. If you wanted to explain why crickets have not been out-competed by locusts group selection doesn’t seem so bad.

    On the other hand, I think Pinker’s argument applies. This isn’t really “another level” of selection. It’s just plain old gene-level natural selection. I might have to think about this a little more though.

  85. 85
    shoshidge

    Sorry, daniel, but my original questions haven’t been answered,I’ve been called a stupid troll a few dozen times but back to that book you haven’t read…

    Please go do so, a brief skim of the dogeared copy at the local library will tell you that the ‘facts’ that the book is based on come from evloutionary psychologists whose research concludes that radial feminism is bullshit, a lot of what you call egalitarianism is bullshit.

    It’s easy to accept Evo Psych in principle, until its results come in which contradict your deeply held political convictions.

    It’s easy to accept, for example, that humans crave fat and sugar due to their scarcity in the ancestral environment, hence the obesity problem.
    No political friction there
    But if I dare to speculate, as Pinker does, and his sister Susan,(The self described liberal feminist) does in her book The Sexual Paradox, that, say, inherent biological differences explain most of the gender disparity regarding income..

    Fuck, I wouldn’t dare. Like all of the other reasonable commenters that have been scared off of Pharyngula, we exert our mostly-white-male privilage by keeping our heads down and our mouths shut.
    Congrats, here on ‘Freethoughtblogs’, the only ones who feel free to offer contradicting opinion are masochists and guys like me who are half into a bottle of wine and have an afternoon free to play punching bags to a bunch of pious hypocrites.

    As for Christopher Hitchens, I do consider him to be mostly exemplary as an example of leftist thought and I’m not alone.

    He was, and is, a pillar of libaralism and people will be toasting his memory long after you are gone and forgotten

  86. 86
    Ing

    As for Christopher Hitchens, I do consider him to be mostly exemplary as an example of leftist thought and I’m not alone.

    He was, and is, a pillar of libaralism and people will be toasting his memory long after you are gone and forgotten

    Oh god that’s pathetic

  87. 87
    Ing

    You keep such wonderful company Chas.

  88. 88
    millssg99

    ChasCPeterson

    which seems to suggest it’s not all about the quality of his arguments or the rigor of his scholarship.
    Rather, unlike those other evopsyches, he somethimes says stuff we already agree with.

    Huh? It seems to suggest no such thing. Do you ever look forward to reading a book that has a thesis you agree with? I do. Who doesn’t?

    How does say anything about your assessment of the quality of the arguments or the rigor of the scholarship? Another interpretation is that he is looking to a book on a topic he is interested in written by a person whose arguments and scholarship he appreciates.

    Whether he does or not I have no idea, but your conclusion is not warranted, unless of course that is what you do and you are simply projecting it upon other people.

  89. 89
    jamescarlton

    Can anyone answer an apologetics related question with regards to group selection?

    I’ve thought for a while that group selection is a good example of a genuine ‘non-mainstream’ theory. That while generally discredited by the majority of scientists – it at least is an idea worth investigating and spending the time to disprove and that pro-group selection and an anti-group selection advocates could have a half decent discussion and come away from it not thinking the other was completely barking mad.

    This is compared with say a young-earth creationist’s idea of a ‘non-mainstream’ theory which is so ludicrous that any kind of discussion on the matter is just a gift of legitimacy to something that is barely worth the effort of ridicule let alone serious inquiry.

    Do people agree or is bad science just bad science regardless of the magnitude of the error?

  90. 90
    PZ Myers

    Actually, I didn’t care for The Blank Slate at all — I thought it was a big straw man argument that didn’t deal with the real complexities at all. So it’s like anyone: no free pass, some stuff I like, some I don’t.

  91. 91
    Amphiox

    daniel, the locust example isn’t a good analogy. Locusts aren’t new mutants that compete directly with grasshoppers. Locusts are typically, IIRC, an alternate developmental phenotype of grasshoppers. Most (all?) locust/grasshopper species have both a grasshopper form and a locust form. In certain environmental conditions the young develop into “normal” grasshoppers (smaller, solitary, etc), in others they develop into locusts (larger, swarming, etc). It is an example of phenotypic plasticity. The locust phenotype allows for rapid dispersal from a suboptimal environment in times of stress.

  92. 92
    strange gods before me ॐ

    By ‘pseudo-lefist’, I mean someone who has taken the idea of egalitarianism to such an absurd extreme, that by comparison a mere liberal like myself is seen as a political enemy.

    You just don’t know history. The original leftists were the Jacobins.

    Far as I’m concerned, if you don’t support guillotining the enemies of the revolution, then you’re the pseudo-leftist.

  93. 93
    Jadehawk

    By ‘pseudo-lefist’, I mean someone who has taken the idea of egalitarianism to such an absurd extreme

    that’s… not how prefixes work. something that’s beyond or extreme is not pseudo-, that’s ultra- or hyper- or supra-

  94. 94
    Dabu

    I mean someone who has taken the idea of egalitarianism to such an absurd extreme

    I call that “Procrustean”.

  95. 95
    Jadehawk

    …I’m even willing to accept uber-, even if it is a godwin…

  96. 96
    ChasCPeterson

    I’m sorry: Whose company am I keeping here? I lost track.

    ‘über-leftist’ is good. Contains the seeds of its own contradiction either way.

  97. 97
    shoshidge

    When I used the term ‘pseudo-left’ I was referring to a political mentality which manages to be,(or at least sound) left wing while being at heart non-liberal.
    If anyone who is not a 18th century Jacobin head chopper is non-liberal in your eyes than that says more about you than me.

    The vernacular definition of ‘liberal’ has changed significantly since then,(although I admit, if you asked 10 random people on the street to define the term ‘liberal’ you would probably get 10 different answers).

    There is something disturbingly non-liberal about the regular commenters here, the tendency to insult, to pedantically point out typos and grammatical errors, to assume the worst of dissenters and their motivations, the general inhospitality of it all galls me.
    If you spoke like this to guests at my party I would ask you to leave and never have you back, if it was your party I would excuse myself and never come back.

    Are you sharpening your claws on me? hoping one day some real prey will wander into your reach?
    Hey, if Ray Comfort chimes in feel free to give him the full treatment, I’ll hold the tar bucket and feather basket for you.

    But one thing I have noticed, is in spite of the fact that Pharyngula has enormous readership, the comment section is always clogged with the same few dozen arrogant, vitriolic douchebags.
    Is that what you want? An inbred mutual masturbation society?

  98. 98
    strange gods before me ॐ

    When I used the term ‘pseudo-left’ I was referring to a political mentality which manages to be,(or at least sound) left wing while being at heart non-liberal.

    Then you meant to say pseudo-liberal.

    The majority of liberals in the world are not leftists.

    And probably the majority of leftists in the world are not liberals, although this is arguable — there’s a broad sense in which liberalism is perhaps not quite “the end of history”, but has clearly captured the imagination of the modern world.

    Liberalism and leftism are only presumed to be synonymous in the USA, and only since the fifth party system, although the beginnings of the alignment can be seen in the fourth party system.

  99. 99
    millssg99

    But one thing I have noticed, is in spite of the fact that Pharyngula has enormous readership, the comment section is always clogged with the same few dozen arrogant, vitriolic douchebags.

    Oh but you couldn’t be more wrong. Just ask them. For example #20. They repeatedly pat themselves on the back for being “decent human beings.”

  100. 100
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    If you spoke like this to guests at my party I would ask you to leave and never have you back, if it was your party I would excuse myself and never come back.

    So, I would no longer be invited to the shoshidge party?

    FYI: This ain’t no party. This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no foolin’ around.

    You want some of that, head over to the endless.

  101. 101
    chigau (違う)

    millssg99
    Please stop whinging.

  102. 102
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Please stop whinging.

    Well, how else can he prove to us his OPINION on any topic isn’t worth the electrons used to post its tone-trolling whinging? After all, it is by its own estimation the brightest blubberhead posting here. By our estimation, something to be scraped off our shoes.

  103. 103
    Amphiox

    This is NOT your party, shoshidge. So your non-hypocritical course of action is clear – take your own advice and go away.

  104. 104
    daniellavine

    Sorry, daniel, but my original questions haven’t been answered,I’ve been called a stupid troll a few dozen times but back to that book you haven’t read…

    It was clearly answered several times. You asked why Pinker “gets a pass.” He doesn’t get a pass. What Pinker is doing is fundamentally different from what you and other trolls do. Incidentally, there’s a reason I’m calling you a troll. On the basis of your first post here I was able to come to a conclusion about why you posted. Do you really think you’re trying to provoke real discussion or are you just stirring shit? The answer has been obvious to me since you started on this thread. But can you be honest enough with yourself to answer it?

    Please go do so, a brief skim of the dogeared copy at the local library will tell you that the ‘facts’ that the book is based on come from evloutionary psychologists whose research concludes that radial feminism is bullshit, a lot of what you call egalitarianism is bullshit.

    It’s easy to accept Evo Psych in principle, until its results come in which contradict your deeply held political convictions.

    Already addressed evo psych. Some is good, some is not good. The goodness has nothing to do with my politics, the goodness has to do with whether the evidence and arguments offered support the conclusion. Some day I might actually read Blank Slate. Right now my reading list is a little full-up, though.

    It’s easy to accept, for example, that humans crave fat and sugar due to their scarcity in the ancestral environment, hence the obesity problem.
    No political friction there
    But if I dare to speculate, as Pinker does, and his sister Susan,(The self described liberal feminist) does in her book The Sexual Paradox, that, say, inherent biological differences explain most of the gender disparity regarding income..

    There’s an alternative view of the inherent biological differences causing a gender disparity…in hunter gatherer societies males and females seem to pretty consistently divide up the work. Men hunt, women garden and gather. The catch is that hunting is not usually a stable source of calories — sometimes there’s a glut of meat that can’t be efficiently used, sometimes there’s none at all. So the majority of calories and nutrients consumed by such societies are provided by the women. And this is the sort of society in which homo sapiens have lived much longer than they have in agricultural societies.

    So maybe the right way to view the gender differences from an ecological/evolutionary point of view is that humans are like angler fish: the females do all the work of child raising and survival while males are useless parasites that the females keep around for the sake of breeding. How does that sound to you? Or will you refuse to consider it because it contradicts your “politics”?

    Fuck, I wouldn’t dare. Like all of the other reasonable commenters that have been scared off of Pharyngula, we exert our mostly-white-male privilage by keeping our heads down and our mouths shut.

    So can I take it from the fact that you won’t shut up that you don’t consider yourself a reasonable commenter? I concur.

    Congrats, here on ‘Freethoughtblogs’, the only ones who feel free to offer contradicting opinion are masochists and guys like me who are half into a bottle of wine and have an afternoon free to play punching bags to a bunch of pious hypocrites.

    Oh, brave soldier. I’m sure your brothers in arms are singing your praises for doing such important work in the face of such danger. Incidentally, every post you’ve made here is meant to advance some sort of bullshit evo psych-based value system and WE’RE the pious hypocrites? You’re proselytizing — this is obvious because non-evangelicals don’t feel the need to “walk into the lion’s den” to set the heretics straight — but WE’RE the pious hypocrites? You accuse people of “pseudo-leftism” — “pseudo” meaning false — suggesting that you really do think Pharyngulites are liberal heretics and WE’RE the pious hypocrites?

    As for Christopher Hitchens, I do consider him to be mostly exemplary as an example of leftist thought and I’m not alone.

    He was, and is, a pillar of libaralism and people will be toasting his memory long after you are gone and forgotten

    *Snort* So you’re talking about the “public intellectual” whose great contribution to civil society is a bunch of snarky one-liners? The guy who couldn’t even live up to Mencken’s legacy? The guy who started his political career in one of the most wacky, dogmatic forms of leftism — Trotskyite communism for fuck’s sake — and ended up in one of the most wacky, dogmatic forms of authoritarianism — neoconservativism? How does one go from one pole of dogmatism to the other like that? I think the only way is that if values don’t really mean much to you. I don’t think Hitchens really believed in shit. I think he just liked arguing with people (I can see why you like him so much).

    This is the guy whose career for the last ten years has basically amounted to “Muslims are stupid children who need to be told what they should believe” is supposed to be a “pillar of liberalism (sic)”? “Exemplary of leftist thought” — what exactly has he contributed to leftist thought? A few little witticisms?

  105. 105
    daniellavine

    daniel, the locust example isn’t a good analogy.

    It was an example, not an analogy.

    Locusts aren’t new mutants that compete directly with grasshoppers. Locusts are typically, IIRC, an alternate developmental phenotype of grasshoppers. Most (all?) locust/grasshopper species have both a grasshopper form and a locust form. In certain environmental conditions the young develop into “normal” grasshoppers (smaller, solitary, etc), in others they develop into locusts (larger, swarming, etc). It is an example of phenotypic plasticity. The locust phenotype allows for rapid dispersal from a suboptimal environment in times of stress.

    Anywhere (besides wikipedia) where I can read up on this? It’s interesting and does take care of that particular example but if you just look at the pattern I’m talking about it probably wouldn’t be too hard to come up with another example. Like I said, I need to think more about it, but I at least feel like I have an idea of why people like Wilson find group selection reasonable. Before I had no idea where they were coming from.

  106. 106
    daniellavine

    Ooh, how about reciprocating vampire bats? You can imagine a few different colonies, some of which share blood with the unlucky bats and some that don’t. Presumably a “free rider” bat would undermine the sharing strategy from within a cooperative group by the usual argument against group selection — but we’ve observed cooperating vampire bats so there must be something wrong with that argument in this case.

    Caveats:
    1) The individual bats within a colony are almost certainly more closely related than bats chosen from different colonies, at least on average. So it’s not clear this isn’t just kin selection.
    2) The assumption that “free riding” undermines cooperative strategies in all cases isn’t necessarily true; one can imagine a scenario in which “free riders” are introduced into a cooperative population but instead of cooperators simply getting outcompeted by “free riders” they develop new evolutionary strategies — like recognizing and punishing free riders.

    To be clear, I’m not advocating or arguing for group selection, I’m trying to understand what advocates of group selection actually are arguing. Seems to me even if group selection was a thing it would really just be wholesale kin selection as a result of caveat (1).

  107. 107
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    daniellavine: I’m not even entirely sure what people mean by group selection anymore.

  108. 108
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Preacher is preaching. Nobody is listening. Must be a true believer, but in what???

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