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Well, I guess I’m not a feminist then

I like much of what Steven Pinker writes, but I thought his book, The Blank Slate, was terrible for its black-and-white version of the nature/nurture argument. As a developmental biologist, I’m probably about as far to the plastic, environmentally-influenced side of the argument as you can get, and I don’t believe the human mind is a “blank slate”. I don’t know anyone who does (I’m sure they exist, spinning out endless wordy fables in humanities departments…but they’re not operationally significant at all in the biology departments).

Now Pinker gets cited by a British loon who wants to use his arguments as veiled racism, and of course he’s also anti-feminist. So he cheerfully cites Pinker in support, and unfortunately, this is Pinker setting up a false dichotomy…but it’s also Pinker writing wonderfully clearly and economically.

Equity feminism is a moral doctrine about equal treatment that makes no commitments regarding open empirical issues in psychology or biology. Gender feminism is an empirical doctrine committed to three claims about human nature. The first is that the differences between men and women have nothing to do with biology but are socially constructed in their entirety. The second is that humans possess a single social motive – power – and that social life can be understood only in terms of how it is exercised. The third is that human interactions arise not from the motives of people dealing with each other as individuals but from the motives of groups dealing with other groups – in this case, the male gender dominating the female gender.

Oh, man, where to begin…

First, that’s straight from Christina Hoff Sommers, the one ‘feminist’ (she’s more of an anti-feminist) writer the misogynists love to quote. I have heard so many raving nutcases throw around the terms “gender” and “equity feminism” as authoritative put-downs of any attempt to promote feminist issues, when what they really are are silencing tools to misrepresent people’s views.

Equity feminism, as presented in that quote, is nonsense. It’s like those people who claim they “don’t see color”, and therefore they aren’t racist and are treating all non-white people equally. You can’t pretend to be color-blind or sex-blind in a culture that privileges white maleness! Yes, we want to promote equal opportunity for all, but you won’t achieve that by pretending that the historical and social consequences of sex and race don’t exist. Respect human beings as male, female, or trans; as black, brown, or white. Recognize the realities of culture and biology, neither of which are as discrete and binary as postulated there.

It’s like we’re all running a hundred meter dash, and some people get a 95 meter head start, while others begin 100 meters behind the starting line…and we’re all going to agree to turn a blind eye to those inequities because we’ve sworn to pretend that everyone gets a fair start. So no, I’m not an “equity feminist”.

But now look at that definition of gender feminists. I’m sure such creatures exist — in a country with a Tea Party, we all know by now that caricatures do come to life — but look at the details there. Pinker lists 3 defining characteristics, and I don’t agree with a single one of them. 1) Men and women have different biological predispositions (which cannot be reduced to trite cliches, like women are good at housecleaning and men like football), 2) social interactions are complex and cannot be distilled down to a single factor, and 3) there are multiple levels of interaction — individual, race, sex, class — that affect motives and outcomes. Gosh, I differ because I think human interactions are actually complicated!

So I read that nice clear statement by Pinker, and I have to conclude that I must not be any kind of feminist at all.

Either that, or Christina Hoff Sommers is full of shit.

Comments

  1. says

    I’m still confused when people bring up biological differences as if there are feminists who pretend they don’t exist. I always thought most were just skeptical of unproven claims that this or that inequity was due to biology, especially when these claims were always so… convenient. Like the still not proven claim about color perceptions being biological due to something something gatherers something.

  2. ChasCPeterson says

    Equity feminism, as presented in that quote, is nonsense. It’s like those people who claim they “don’t see color”, and therefore they aren’t racist and are treating all non-white people equally….

    The quote doesn’t say anything like that. It says it’s a moral doctrine about equal treatment. Period. You made up the rest as a giant strawperson so you could conclude that you don’t like it. Maybe it’s what Sommers thinks (I don’t know), but it’s not what Pinker said in that quote you’re supposedly arguing with.

    people bring up biological differences as if there are feminists who pretend they don’t exist. I always thought most were just skeptical of unproven claims that this or that inequity was due to biology

    No, I have argued with people right here at Pharyngula who are hyperskeptical about any possibility of biological difference. They may be few but they definitely exist.

    he still not proven claim about color perceptions being biological due to something something gatherers something.

    You know, if people are going to talk about science, they need to learn the difference betwen conclusion and hypothesis (reading this, SC?). The claim that the empirically demonstrated color preferences (not perceptions) had a biological basis was based on comparative studies of people from different cultures. The gathering-ripe-fruit thing was a tossed-off hypothesis offered as a possible explanation for the data, not a ‘claim’ that anyone thinks was ‘proven’.

  3. bjartefoshaug says

    I don’t get it. How is defining Equity feminism as “a moral doctrine about equal treatment that makes no commitments regarding open empirical issues in psychology or biology” in any way “like those people who claim they “don’t see color”, and therefore they aren’t racist and are treating all non-white people equally”? I see no logical connection here what so ever. What am I missing?

  4. bjartefoshaug says

    Btw. if The Blank Slate was “black-and-white”, then I have never read anything that wasn’t.

  5. dorfl says

    I kind of have to second this. Even if the things you said about equity feminism are true – I think they are – they don’t really have anything to do with the stuff you quoted.

  6. strange gods before me ॐ says

    bjartefoshaug, history didn’t have to happen this particular way, but Christina Hoff Sommers has made a point of defining “equity feminism” to essentially be “libertarian feminism” — meaning that governments and businesses have no role in promoting gender equality except for removing discriminatory laws.

    So, no Title IX, for instance. CHS’s thing is that feminism has accomplished all possibly legitimate goals-of-feminism already in the United States and western Europe, for instance, and therefore any feminists there still bothering with any issues are “stealing feminism” from what it’s supposed to mean, which is only the lack of government discrimination (note the libertarian bent).

    She comes up in this other thread, unfortunately — this’ll give you more of an idea what she’s about: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/12/14/the-ugly-facts-about-rape/

    +++++
    It’s unfortunate, since “equity feminism” is a nice term that sounds great to everyone when they first hear it, but that’s what she’s rather successfully made it mean

  7. jimmauch says

    One of the biggest fallacies that free thinking machismos like myself can fall into is that the duty of the male is to begat and go to work. Though as is often the case dispute the fact that Mom is the primary breadwinner in the household it is her responsibility to get Jenny to the soccer game and help Tommy with his chemistry homework. Having a family does means shirking your responsibilities by hiding away at work. It’s time we men take out the garbage.

  8. John Morales says

    PZ quotes someone:

    Gender feminism is an empirical doctrine committed to three claims about human nature. The first is that the differences between men and women have nothing to do with biology but are socially constructed in their entirety.

    What?

    It’s one thing to claim that the differences between men and women aren’t entirely about biology and to claim that the differences between men and women have nothing to do with biology. Different claims.

    (And that’s beside the point: both are humans, both are people is the basis for egalitarianism (sometimes known as feminism) rather than that gender is sociologically-constructed)

  9. garnetstar says

    The trouble with trying to sort out which differences between men and women are biologically vs. nurture-based is that there’s no control group, and never will be.

    You take a bunch of male infants and a bunch of female ones, instantly after birth if not sooner, and completely isolate them from any social environment whatsoever, even interactions between each other. Then you assess what differences in behavior emerge when they are adults vs those seen in adults reared in different social environments, i.e. normally. These, then would be the biologically-based traits only, the control group.

    Not an experiment that the Public Health Service would fund.

  10. lexie says

    John Morales, I may have the wrong end of the stick but egalitarianism in my opinion does not equal feminism. While feminist beliefs do fall within egalitarianism, in that I doubt that you could agree with egalitarianism without believing that women should be treated equally with men. The reverse is not true, feminism is about the equality of the sexes and does not specifically equate to the equality of all people, regardless of colour, sexual identity, gender identity etc. While most feminists I have met are also egalitarians that has not always been true in my experience some are horribly transphobic or hold other bizarre ideas which would not be consistent with egalitarianism. I do realise that recognition that it is wrong to treat women as subordinate to men should lead to a recognition that all people should be treated equally, however, the definition of feminism doesn’t specify this and in practice they are not always held together thus I feel it is wrong to equate them.

  11. marcus says

    What Pinker says: Equity feminism is a moral doctrine about equal treatment that makes no commitments regarding open empirical issues in psychology or biology.
    How I would implement it: The pursuit of equal rights and treatment for women in society is a moral imperative that supersedes any discussion about actual or perceived psychological or biological differences.
    The second part, as far as I can tell, is a description of the roots claims of those who believe in gender feminism, I don’t really see any evidence that Pinker agrees with them either.

  12. says

    I’ve read Sommers. That bit about “a moral doctrine about equal treatment”? That’s exactly what it means, that equal treatment implies that we simply turn a blind eye to gender. If Pinker doesn’t mean that, he shouldn’t be parroting Sommers. As #6 points out, it is a fundamentally libertarian view of the sexes.

    I’d be surprised if there were people here on Pharyngula that believe there is no difference at all between the sexes. Don’t confuse arguments against naive EvPsych conclusions with a denial of biological differences. That business with Radford, for instance, where he tried to claim a biological basis for preferences for pink and blue…you can oppose the absurdity of that without denying the existence of potential differences in perception between the sexes, and you can also disagree with the sloppy and inconclusive experiments of EvPsych researchers while still recognizing that there can be biological differences in the brains of men and women…just that you’re not going to figure them out if you’re dedicated to rationalizing traditional gender roles.

  13. says

    Also notice something peculiar about Pinker’s definitions.

    Equity feminism is about ignoring biology. (And culture, too!)

    Gender feminism is about pretending biological differences don’t exist.

    No biologist in their right mind could be either one.

  14. says

    Hmmmmm. I can’t think of a single school of feminism which doesn’t make some sort of empirical claim, but I can think of several which make no attempt to gather evidence for that claim in an organized fashion. They’re mostly early movements, and the authors of those early ideas were busy trying to define a platform which was later used to gather evidence, using personal experiences.

    Generally speaking, a fairly significant amount of those claims turned out to be substantiated when information started to be gathered, justifying the personal observations of early writers using a methodology which we tend to recognize as producing accuracy, all the sneering in some other schools about qualitative research and surveys aside (because really, sometimes you CAN’T experiment in the lab.)

    On the issue of gender/sex (which is Butler’s framing of that issue), our ability to draw conclusions from information which we may gather on ‘biological’ differences is a problem. As I’m sure everyone here knows, once you get results, you have to make sense of them. All too often, the sense made couldn’t get more essentialist if you were trying to write a script for it (women like cooking!?!!!! Must belong in kitchen!) because the gender script we have confuses cause and effect like a state fair tilt-a-whirl.

    Which is to say that many feminists are skeptical of claims based on biology for a reason: we can see that they’re full of shit. I have no problem with the statement that on average, women are shorter than men (though I know at least 20 exceptions to that rule from my family and friends alone.) On average descriptions are exactly that, not proscriptive so much as generally descriptive.

    Also, Christina Hoff Summers is full of shit.

  15. says

    Cordelia Fine has some very fine stuff in Delusions od Gender about the apparently cognitive differences between men and women, especially about the history of this, like the fact that they always used physical differences to explain the cognitive ones without ever bothering a null hypothesis or showing an actual causal relationship.
    Like bigger brains in men and the structural differences between large and small brains were cited as proof of the differences (we now know that the actual structural differences follow from size, and that size follows from skull size and that structurally you can’t tell if it’s the brain of a small man or a woman, or a tall woman or a man, but the small men don’t show “feminine behaviour”.)

    She criticises Pinker rather often…

  16. says

    #15: Yeah, that’s what bugs me. I don’t have an a priori bias against the possibility that men and women have different cognitive abilities, but those differences are so strongly shaped by environment that it’s really hard to sort out biology from culture…and the science that’s been done is so superficial and awful that I’m left unimpressed.

  17. jamessweet says

    I thought overall The Blank Slate was great, but it did have some problematic portions, and this is one of them. I think part of the problem is that Pinker has this tendency to try to be really apolitical, and ends up engaging in some false balance as a result.

  18. ab says

    Yeah, PZ, you certainly didn’t engage with what Pinker actually says. This isn’t one of your better posts.

  19. peterhearn says

    You can’t pretend to be color-blind or sex-blind in a culture that privileges white maleness!

    So just be racist and sexist, instead. Its ok as long as its toward the group being oppressed. Is that it?

  20. says

    PZ: “…British loon who wants to use his arguments as veiled racism”

    You know PZ it is possible to engage someone’s argument without calling them a racist. I’m very interested to see specifically what you thought was racist in that article and consequentiality how it’s author is a racist at heart – which is what you explicitly accuse him of.

    I know many people on the left have the assumption that anyone that disagrees with them on any minutiae is at heart a racist, facist, homophobe, misogynist etc. (it’s almost the Godwin’s law of the left, the longer you debate anything with anyone on the left your chances of being baselessly slandered as a fascist approach 1) but have you never stopped and thought: ‘perhaps the phantom fascist I seek in the hearts of those that disagree with me might just be a phantom’? That perhaps that guy isn’t actually a woman-hating racist, just an average guy who’s read a Pinker book and came to some conclusions you rightly/wrongly disagree with? Why the automatic attribution to malice?

    IMHO baselessly shouting ‘racist’, ‘misogynist’, ‘fascist’ every time someone disagrees with your views is a very effective way of getting people to switch off (even the ones that agree with you). C.f. “The boy who cried wolf”

  21. bjartefoshaug says

    @ strange gods before me ॐ

    Christina Hoff Sommers has made a point of defining “equity feminism” to essentially be “libertarian feminism” — meaning that governments and businesses have no role in promoting gender equality except for removing discriminatory laws.

    Thanks for your reply. I can definitely see why people would take issue with “equity feminism” defined as “libertarian feminism”, but this seems very far from anything Pinker was talking about (perhaps that’s the problem?). I still don’t get which part of Pinker’s definition PZ has a problem with (even if it’s not the same as that of Sommers). Is feminism not an ethical position? If it is an ethical position, doesn’t the is-ought distinction require that we (feminists) abstain from making “commitments regarding open empirical issues in psychology or biology”? It is, off course, perfectly possible that I am missing something obvious (it has been known to happen…).

  22. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You know PZ it is possible to engage someone’s argument without calling them a racist.

    And it is possible to provide evidence that the loon isn’t engaged in veiled racism. Where is your evidence for that? All I see is your complaint. Which tacitly says you have no evidence, making your argument concern/tone trolling.

  23. says

    On the issue of gender/sex (which is Butler’s framing of that issue), our ability to draw conclusions from information which we may gather on ‘biological’ differences is a problem.

    It’s even worse: they start with the conclusion and then gather evidence to support it.

  24. says

    Pinker wrote one sentence about equity feminism. I have no complaint with “moral doctrine” (it is!) or “no commitments regarding open empirical issues in psychology or biology” (without good evidence, we can’t use that as a basis for decision-making). The “equal treatment” bit is what I addressed, and which I find stupid about Christina Hoff Sommers’ work.

    It certainly is what Pinker was talking about, given that his paragraph is literally a short summary of Sommers’ position. How can you ignore Sommers’ body of work when Pinker’s paragraph is simply a nicely written abstract of it?

  25. says

    bjartefoshaug

    I still don’t get which part of Pinker’s definition PZ has a problem with (even if it’s not the same as that of Sommers).

    The problem is that it sets up a false dichotomy between the CHS equity feminism and a gigantic strawfeminism that doesn’t exist. It’s like saying in the US you can either be for private healthcare or for publicly funded healthcare where everybody gets free vacaations on the Bahamas and you have to pay for it.

  26. says

    @Nerd of Redhead

    “And it is possible to provide evidence that the loon isn’t engaged in veiled racism. Where is your evidence for that?”

    Are you asking me to prove a negative? Seriously? In a board full of atheists as well… *shakes head*

    I couldn’t care of PZ’s tone; it was the fact that he (IMHO) baselessly accused Ed West of being a racist, and I’d like to know on what evidence he justifies that.

  27. ab says

    Jamerschambers, don’t start with that “people on the left” do X bullshit. The criticism here is that PZ hasn’t fairly addressed Pinker’s actual claim. By trying to through aspersions against liberals, you just show your own bias and discredit yourself.

  28. bjartefoshaug says

    @ PZ:

    Also notice something peculiar about Pinker’s definitions.

    Equity feminism is about ignoring biology. (And culture, too!)

    This seems an awful lot like strawmanning to me. There’s a major difference between ignoring biology/culture and not making commitments (a priori) regarding open (i.e. scientifically unsettled) empirical issues in psychology or biology based on what’s desirable from an ethical point of view. That’s kind of what the whole book is about.

  29. dorfl says

    PZ:
    It certainly is what Pinker was talking about, given that his paragraph is literally a short summary of Sommers’ position.
    Fair enough. I was just complaining because it wasn’t actually in the quote, and you seemed to imply that it was.

  30. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Are you asking me to prove a negative?

    No, I’m asking you to provide evidence that veiled racism isn’t occuring. Like showing how statements are misinterpreted. Proving a negative is only a problem if the falsification can’t be well defined. In this case, it can be well defined. You can show evidence that misinterpretation is occuring.

    Funny how folks who complain about the use of racism tend to have sentences that are like “I’m not a racist but…(followed by a racist statement)”

  31. says

    Giliell: Yep. Which is what makes those early authors interesting for me. Experimentation requires an ideological space in thought at the least, if not in theory, with which to conceptualize what is being tested.

    They literally had to rethink (or think against conceptions of) nature and gender.

  32. says

    @PZ

    Thanks for the reply! (And oops, I made an empty post above! Mea culpa! Plz delete!) Sadly (possibly thankfully) I can’t see that Stormfront link (it’s blocked as a hate site).

    Although Immigration Watch might be quoted by people with a racist agenda or accused of bias (it’s certainly less biased than your second link might I add, which is either openly biased or being ironic or both, I can’t tell), there’s no evidence to say that the organisation is racist or that their studies have a race based agenda and the results of their studies have been cited in many reputable new sources e.g. The Guardian, The BBC, The Times etc.

    @ab

    “Jamerschambers, don’t start with that “people on the left” do X bullshit.”

    Face facts, many do and my point is they do this not just to people on the far-right (where it is justified), but also those on the right, in the centre and even to people that hold almost exactly the same view as them. Being too quick to fire off labels ‘racist’ or ‘misogynist’ is a good way to alienate people who would/could otherwise be your allies.

  33. charlessoto says

    Having watched a bunch of Track & Field lately, I have a better analogy-

    The habitually oppressed , through course of laws and other societal changes, may have moved to the same starting line as those in a position of privilege. Yet, there are hurdles placed only in their lanes, largely by the action of systems created to trip them up. It’s reasonable to both recognize these hurdles and work to remove them. Until the systems that keep placing these hurdles are eliminated, it’s not “equitable” to ignore them.

  34. jonathancantwell says

    Saying that The Blank Slate is an argument in favour of the tabula rasa, nurture-over-nature side of the debate, is an error approximately on the level of imputing that The Selfish Gene is a theory about genes for selfishness and how therefore altruism is silly and we should all be Randbots.

    It’s the opposite of that; the thrust of the book is precisely that the question is immensely complicated and that the tabula rasa idea is discredited and wrong, and that people who take it as the baseline moderate view aren’t doing themselves any favours.

    And, before freethoughtblogs, every vocal feminist I ran into or read anything of- every single one- kept saying at -length- that the differences between genders was purely societal, etc. and it really bugged me. Since then I’ve read PZ, Greta Christina, Natalie Reed, and have a much better understanding of feminism – freethoughtblogs saved me from a slide into misogynistic asshattery – but those voices definitely -are- out there, and they’re what a lot of people immediately think of when they think of ‘feminism’, I’m afraid.

    Can’t actually comment on the content of the post, although even as a Pinker fan I doubt I’d see eye to eye with him with regards to feminism at this point, and I think it’s probably safe to say that he’s being quoted even further out of context.

  35. says

    @27

    Are you asking me to prove a negative? Seriously? In a board full of atheists as well… *shakes head*

    Please tell me you aren’t parroting that old nonsense about how “you can’t prove a negative.”

  36. says

    @Nerd of Redhead

    “I’m asking you to provide evidence that veiled racism isn’t occuring.”

    Ok I understand that, now tell me: what evidence of veiled racism occurring has been put forward? Answer: none!

    So how am I supposed to provide evidence against that?

    Are you sure you’re not a deist?

    Anyway, as far as I (and you) know Ed West has no record of racism, his article will have passed at least one editor who would presumably know racism if he saw it, the Telegraph is a popular, mainstream reasonably middle of the road paper and not a racist rag and there’s no cry of racism from anywhere but here. Does that count as evidence? I’m not sure, probably not, but it seems better than yours.

  37. says

    the question is immensely complicated

    I agree completely with that part of The Blank Slate.

    and that the tabula rasa idea is discredited and wrong

    And that part was a total strawman.

  38. says

    Anyway, as far as I (and you) know Ed West has no record of racism

    Actually, he does. Not overt racism, but the same kind of racism we see institutionalized in the American Republican party.

    his article will have passed at least one editor who would presumably know racism if he saw it

    Like that would stop it from getting published?

    the Telegraph is a popular, mainstream reasonably middle of the road paper and not a racist rag

    Yeah, they say the same sort of thing about Fox News. “Popular” and “mainstream” are no defense against racism.

    and there’s no cry of racism from anywhere but here.

    I cited one article. Do you need more? They’re easy to find.

  39. says

    his article will have passed at least one editor who would presumably know racism if he saw it,

    I see no evidence for your assumptions (a) that the editor was male, (b) that the editor would presumably know racism if they saw it.

    Please provide evidence for these (surely you don’t expect me to, zomg, prove the negative statements that the editor wasn’t male or wouldn’t know racism.)

  40. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    So how am I supposed to provide evidence against that?

    You must be very unintelligent not to be able to figure that out. It is not refuting the claim, but showing how the claim can be misinterpreted. But a stormfront link toasted any ability to show misinterpretation.

    You aren’t showing that PZ misused the term “veiled racism” with this hyperskepticism of yours, and the stormfront link toasted any ability to do that. You needed direct evidence to show PZ was wrong to have your point of racism being introduced too quickly, not just your OPINION that it happened. The evidence proved PZ right and you wrong.

  41. says

    The Tabula Rasa is a strawman only insofar as it is not an idea that is seriously held by many thinking people, especially not scientists.

    It is not a strawman in that it is a perspective that seems to be taken for granted by some laypeople without considering it deeply. It’s the attitude that leads to fatuous bullshit like “You can achieve anything as long as you set your mind to it!” and to beliefs that people who don’t succeed don’t deserve success, they just didn’t try hard enough.

    Steven Pinker’s book is an eloquent argument against this assumption.

    It seems clear to me that equity feminism is his label for the view that we should create a just society with equal opportunities for all. Gender feminism is his label for the ideological predisposition to discount any scientific findings of statistically different aptitudes in the two genders.

    Probably very few of us here are “gender feminists”, but I don’t think it’s fair to call it a straw man. I believe this attitude does exist and that’s what he’s arguing against. We are all “equity feminists”, in Pinker’s definition at least.

    I think it’s a bit unfair to be blaming Steven Pinker for the perspectives of others when you’re just assuming that his one statement on equity feminism brings with it all the baggage of Sommers’ position.

    Since he said so little on the subject, why not just take it on face value, and interpret it as I did, that he is simply making the point that recognising biological differences does not imply that we need to make sexist laws.

    For example, imagine the biology shows that women are better at accounting. That does not mean that it should be legal for businesses to discriminate against men when hiring accountants. Nor does it mean that we rule out affirmative action to correct against historic societal disadvantages. It’s just pointing out that scientific statements of fact do not mean we need to create discriminatory laws.

  42. Amphiox says

    And the “alienating potential allies”* insipidity too?

    Has this specimen managed to bingo the cupcake board in one post?

    *If they can actually be irreversibly alienated by mild remonstrances such as these, then they are not and will not ever be trustworthy allies worth having.

  43. says

    I think it’s a bit unfair to be blaming Steven Pinker for the perspectives of others when you’re just assuming that his one statement on equity feminism brings with it all the baggage of Sommers’ position.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but as I recall Pinker was explicitly referencing Sommers there. If he didn’t want to be taken as agreeing with certain aspects of her position, he ought to have made that explicit.

    Probably very few of us here are “gender feminists”, but I don’t think it’s fair to call it a straw man. I believe this attitude does exist and that’s what he’s arguing against.

    “Gender” feminism as he presents it is a straw representation of a number of feminists who are not equity feminists in the Sommersian sense. If he was aware that a third (and fourth, and so on) options exist outside of his two (equity vs. gender), then he should have said so. Otherwise it reads like he is saying that those are the only two options. Thus, feminists who aren’t Sommers-style equity feminists must be his charicatured “gender” feminists. Sure, they may exist, but by making it the only other option he is strawmanning a whole group (imo, one of the largest) of feminists.

  44. says

    I have never been a big fan of Pinker. The Blank Slate is one of the reasons, though the same excess of biological determinism affects his earlier writings, too.

    The first is that the differences between men and women have nothing to do with biology but are socially constructed in their entirety.
    Wow! I support feminism, but I could never believe that. The biological differences are quite clear. I take feminism to be opposition to the socially constructed differences, of which there are far too many. The biological differences are to be celebrated, not denied.

  45. says

    @2 People do claim it was proven. Articles in magazines and newspapers bring that stuff up all the time. Entire fucking books on gender differences have been written using that shit. Don’t sit there and bullshit to me that it was a tossed off hypothesis. http://www.asu.edu/news/research/womencolors_090104.htm

    An academic institution positing that it is genetic with absolutely no evidence to suggest that.

    The reason people are so skeptical of claims to genetic origins of difference is because they tend to be espoused without evidence, and because sex and gender are not as clear cut genetically as most people assume.

  46. says

    @46

    I have to admit I had never heard of Sommers when I read The Blank Slate, so I didn’t catch that he was referencing her (and BTW, if there’s any quick or easy way to prove that he was I would appreciate a look).

    Not being aware of Sommers, I interpreted it the way I described in my post, and it still seems a reasonable interpretation to me.

    Perhaps he should have written it more clearly, but I think the problem is because feminism is not the issue he was writing about.

    It’s really genetic predispositions that are the topic of interest in this book. He possibly doesn’t even mean to imply that there are only two types of feminism. He’s just illustrating that there are different ways to approach feminism in order to make the point that feminism need not be incompatible with any hypothetical results which show that men are better at some tasks than women. We need not be committed to the viewpoint that men and women are (on average) equally suited to all jobs in order to have a just society.

  47. says

    I predict more people whipping out the “racist is as bad as blank” thingy too. Ad hominems don’t prove anything but they don’t invalidate other arguments.

  48. marcus says

    @ me #11 I did not clarify that in my definition “equal treatment” would also include efforts to rectify historical mistreatment and discrimination by taking affirmative action to advance the standing and opportunities for individuals and groups who have suffered due to bigotry and prejudice. I realize now that for some people that means “color-” or “gender-” blindness and is a “dog-whistle” for such and I certainly do not support that type of “equity” anything.

  49. says

    @49 Disagreeable Me (Myself)

    Yeah, you’re just ignorant. He was clearly referencing Sommers. Why don’t you look up Wikipedia on feminism before posting, you cretin!

    So, yeah, he may either have objectionable views on feminism (if you find Sommers objectionable) or he may simply have not had the space to get into an in-depth discussion of feminism in the context of his book which was not on that topic.

    Having been impressed with The Blank Slate, I am biased. I am inclined to believe that the example was simply illustrative of how recognising differences does not mean that we sacrifice the goal of an equal society. I doubt that he would necessarily be opposed to affirmative action as he was interpreted in the original article.

  50. says

    @aleph squared

    Hahah OK, ok you got me there! =-D Now I’m just waiting for someone to call me a sexist misogynist because of it! ;-D *ducks* (In my defence I’m having to quickly type this stuff on the sly, no offence was intended to any female newspaper editors reading this!)

    @Nerd of Redhead

    I’m not attempting to refute the claim, I don’t care one way or another if he is or is not a racist, my point was that I see no basis to accuse him so. You still haven’t produced any evidence other than the weakest of ‘guilt by association’. Some idiots on Stormfront quote/agree with him, therefore he’s a Nazi in disguise. By that logic Richard Dawkins is a communist (he was quoted in the North Korean anti-west propaganda film “Propaganda”), Friedrich Nietzsche is an anti-semite (Hitler loved his stuff) etc etc etc.

    In short. Your claim to evidence is nonsense.

    @PZ

    I just did a pretty lengthy search on him and I found numerous references to him in various respectable (inc. lefty / progressive) papers (The new statesmen, The Hindu etc) and none, not a single one, said that was or ever has been a racist.

    The only pages I can find claiming anything of the sort that are blogs (mostly anonymous, openly biased) whose only ‘evidence’ is that he’s been linked to by racists on racist sites.

    So let’s say he’s a racist, a secrete one, so to get out his views he needs a racist sub-editor and a racist editor and a racist publisher… etc and so on, the tree gets bigger and ever more unlikely (IMHO).

    Doesn’t this strike you as conspirational? Like all that ‘false flag’ and ‘false conciousness’ nonsense spewed by far right/left nutjobs?

  51. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You still haven’t produced any evidence

    you are the one claiming racism was introduced too quickly. It is not up to me to refute that claim, but up to you to produce evidence to back up that claim. Why haven’t you done so? I don’t need to produce anything, as the burden of evidence is always on the claiment, in this case you. Demonstrate that the “veiled racism” either didn’t exist, or shut the fuck up. Welcome to science.

  52. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Still waiting for a single shred of evidence of any kind of racism to be put forward

    Sorry, it is up to you to provide evidence it isn’t racist. Period, end of story. Why aren’t you doing so? Oh, that’s right, you know it is racist.

  53. says

    For Ed West being racist, he refers to the riots (which were blamed on English citizens of African and Caribbean descent) and is pro prison, excusing the incarceration in the US (of largely non whites) as some sort of cure for crime. Not explicitly racist but when put together with the problems of the US prison system any claim that it is awesome are suspicious at best.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100174084/a-year-on-from-the-riots-the-lesson-is-clear-prison-works/

    Or where he defends the racially insensitive statements about anglo-saxons, whips out “Hispanic leader” strawmen who want to take over the US with people from latin america, conflates anglo-saxon history with real history (the anglo saxon BS was always a racial/ethnic thing. Britain is not actually anglo saxon exclusively or even predominantly). You don’t have to hang someone to help continue racist false histories and cultural memes.

  54. Amphiox says

    The evidence that West is racist is obvious in the article he wrote. No reasonable person can read that and not see the barely veiled racism therein. Which PZ linked to in the OP. And chambers has the nerve to claim “not a shred of evidence” for racism? This repeated statement is pretty clear evidence that chambers is either blissfully ignorant and privileged with regards to understanding what racism IS, who thinks the only form of racism is the raving skinhead type, or he is a intellectually dishonest closet racist himself, who knows and recognizes the racism but doesn’t think it a problem.

    When it is incompetence vs malignity, the null hypothesis is always incompetence, but the evidence against the null is mounting. (The p will be hitting 0.05 very soon!)

  55. says

    @”Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls”

    I am not claiming “racism was introduced too quickly” I pointed out that PZ made the (initial) claim of “veiled racism” and I said that without backing evidence it’s far too soon to jump to accusations of racism. I don’t see anything racist in the article at all, and no evidence has been presented to the contrary – none, except some noddy blog sites put together by gawd knows who.

    I’m not sure if you’re trying to troll me (most likely) or if your face-palm inducing grasp of logic is so poor you’re unable to fully comprehend the drivel you’re posting; but please enlighten me as to what kind of evidence you’d put forward to prove that someone with no history of being racist, who has been accused (entirely without evidence) of being a secrete racist, is not a racist. What possible evidence could you produce?

  56. caseycarrington says

    PZ,

    Could you not refer to trans* people as a third gender alongside men and women like you did here?

    Respect human beings as male, female, or trans…

    It would be better to say “male or female, cis or trans”, or maybe “male, female, or genderqueer”. I know you didn’t mean to be hurtful, but it really does hurt to be de-gendered like that, even accidentally.

    Thanks.

  57. jeremynel says

    @29 – Exactly.

    Equity feminism is a moral doctrine about equal treatment that makes no commitments regarding open empirical issues in psychology or biology.

    And then (comment 13) PZ says that he doesn’t see how any biologist could agree. Wow, I don’t think Pinker could be more clear. To be an equity feminist, you don’t have to “ignore” biology (PZ’s word). It’s just that equity feminism doesn’t require any empiric input since it is a purely moral stance that is unaffected by whether or not there are cultural or biological differences between men and women.

  58. says

    Pinker is a sexist ass who’s been long beloved of other sexist asses, like Larry Summers. His commentary on rape is repulsive. See also his sneering at the “campus rape bureaucracy” in Better Angels.

    James Chambers:

    That perhaps that guy isn’t actually a woman-hating racist, just an average guy who’s read a Pinker book and came to some conclusions you rightly/wrongly disagree with?

    Yes, yes, “intent is magic.” He’s still stepping on my foot and needs to get the fuck off it.

    IMHO baselessly shouting ‘racist’, ‘misogynist’, ‘fascist’ every time someone disagrees with your views is a very effective way of getting people to switch off (even the ones that agree with you).

    Whee, tone argument and pretending that being called a bigot is worse than saying bigoted things!

    Now I’m just waiting for someone to call me a sexist misogynist because of it! ;-D *ducks*

    Awww, aren’t you precious. Other people’s oppression is a big fucking joke to you, isn’t it?

    I don’t care one way or another if he is or is not a racist

    Of course you don’t.

  59. Amphiox says

    chambers, I would have to post the whole article. It is a classic example of racist code phrasing which when taken separately don’t appear overtly racist, but when put together hot all the veiled racist and misogynist code words that the far right has developed to legitimize their positions in the modern media sound-byte climate.

    And to ask for quotes of specific passages is the standard racist rightwing response to criticism of it.

    If you can’t see it you are either hopelessly privileged and ignorant, of you are lying about not seeing it.

    Not to mention that the prior evidence of West’s veiled racism (he is not some new naive commenter who has no prior history of racist remarks, as you have tried to claim) has already been posted by other commenters here.

    Comments which I note that you have ignored.

    The p drops another notch.

  60. florianholl says

    Like bjartefoshaug (thanks for your comments here! :) ) and some others, I’m astonished about PZ’s misreading of what Pinker wrote and meant. PZ wrote:

    Equity feminism is about ignoring biology. (And culture, too!)
    Gender feminism is about pretending biological differences don’t exist.
    No biologist in their right mind could be either one.

    PZ is right, of course, that biologists (and other scientists, and all reasonable people) can’t support so-called gender feminism because pretending that biological differences don’t exist is unscientific.
    But this is exactly what so-called equity feminism is not: It is not, as in PZ’s misrepresentation, about ignoring biology altogether in the discussion about women’s rights.
    The only possible thing to criticise Pinker for is his choice of words in this one sentence, and only if one looks exclusively at that one sentence could it be unclear what he means by that EF “makes no commitments [my emphasis] regarding open empirical issues in psychology or biology”). But at least from the context, it should be crystal-clear: Pinker means that, firstly, EF doesn’t make use of unsubstantiated biological or psychological claims and dresses them up as facts, pretending to know what isn’t actually known (yet). But, secondly, we not only should leave the scientific details to the scientific experts to work out, we (as feminists, ethicists etc.) also safely can: Because the basic moral position of feminism (that women should be treated equally, because nobody should be discriminated against because of their sex/gender) simply doesn’t rely on minute details about biological/psychological differences between men and women. This is exactly the point of Pinker’s not false, but true and needed dichotomy: That feminism is a moral doctrine, and as such should, like any other moral position, of course be backed up with as much real science as possible – but not make (un-)scientific claims of its own. Such ‘schools’ of feminism would instead become scientific doctrines, something nobody should want.
    If PZ owns a copy, he could have seen that The Blank Slate elaborates on this very point in the paragraph immediately following the one quoted in this blogpost (and throughout that whole chapter 18, “Gender”). Pinker’s criticism of GF doesn’t only come to the defense of proper scientists (against bad or false science per se) but is also meant to raise consciousness about its strategic danger to the feminist movement. The first sentence is even quoted in Ed West’s article, too: “In embracing these [scientific] doctrines, the genderists are handcuffing feminism to railroad tracks on which a train is coming down.” If we let feminism rely on certain unproven scientific claims (= force it to stay on a certain point on the tracks), it is doomed to be damaged when science (the train) advances beyond that point (= gives better explanations, proving feminism’s claims wrong), and as a consequence, to avoid this, “Gender feminists want either to derail the train or to have other women join them in martyrdom”; both those alternatives are bad.

  61. says

    I’m currently reading “Brain Storm – The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences” by Rebecca Jordan-Young. It’s meant to be a good critical examination of the core theory of sex-difference research, which is that fetal hormone exposure sets males and females on different paths for life. She’s done a synthesis of 400 of the most-cited studies in sex-difference research (or “brain organisation research” as she prefers to call it) and interviewed about 20 of the most well-known scientists in the field. Somehow it doesn’t seem as well-known as Cordelia Fine’s book – they complement each other well. Amazon link

  62. unclefrogy says

    I just do not understand what the argument that male and female are different has to do with whether one should be treated differently or not by society. Why would that have anything to do with their rights and responsibilities? Just sounds like a distraction from and rationalization for maintaining social position (privilege).
    there are differences so what!
    uncle frogy

  63. Amphiox says

    I doubt anyone denies that there are differences in abilities, biologically, between talk and short people. But socially and legally we should be “blind” to height, making our customs and laws without references to those biological differences, unless there is compelling reasons, such as safety, to make exceptions.

  64. Esteleth, Who Knows How to Use Google says

    To play with Amphiox’s analogy a bit there, there are those who say that the are differences in abilities, biologically speaking, between tall and short people, and that short people are weak, stupid, passive, and need to submit to tall people and be protected by them. Then there are those who say that society should be blind to height. Then there are others who say that being blind is insufficient – lots of useful stuff is on high shelves (because tall people are the ones who have the most stuff, and they build the shelves to suit themselves), so there need to be stepstools around, and maybe the shelves should be hung lower.

  65. says

    But socially and legally we should be “blind” to height, making our customs and laws without references to those biological differences, unless there is compelling reasons, such as safety, to make exceptions.

    Similarly, should we be “blind” to physical handicaps, making no laws to require, for instance, handicapped access to public buildings?

  66. Esteleth, Who Knows How to Use Google says

    Being “blind” to height/sex/race/ability/etc has the effect of removing the obstacles for the privileged group and failing to remove the pre-existing obstacles that act against the unprivileged.

  67. barfy says

    It seems that in any discussion about feminism, assumptions about relevant biological gender differences are not explicitly stated and agreed to by the parties involved. Mostly, because like discussions on race differences, most of us choose to guard our assumptions for fear of having them exposed to scientific scrutiny.
    As such, we end up talking past each other.

    In my worldview, feminism is a political movement necessitated by mostly unproven assumptions about gender behavioral differences that has led to an inappropriately privileged male patriarchy. This unfounded bias destroys and destabilizes human potential by capturing and subjugating freedom of expression. The vast majority of this subjugating burden falling upon females.

    Ultimately, feminism and gender politics has to be based upon a scientific methodology.

    It also has to fall under the aegis of identity politics. That is, in every human society, every individual should have the right to claim her/his identity and be allowed to fully express his/her predilections for any activity, as long as it doesn’t cause harm or retard anothers.

  68. lostintime says

    Ms Daisy cutter, I followed the link to Pinker’s commentary on rape that you found repulsive:

    Well-respected evolutionary psychologist and author Steven Pinker says “I believe that the rape-is-not-about-sex doctrine will go down in history as an example of extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds. It is preposterous on the face of it, does not deserve its sanctity, is contradicted by a mass of evidence.”

    I don’t think this paragraph deserves such vilification. He has never discounted the fact that power, contempt and violence are part of the psychology of rape, and it would be monstrous for him to do so. But to say that it has nothing to do with sex is surely wrong and an impediment to our understanding of this terrrible form of violence. The blog post is far too sensational all the way through and to accuse him of being a ‘rape apologist’ at the end is just inexcusable.

  69. ChasCPeterson says

    PZ: the misunderstanding resulted from your assumption that everybody would know that “equal treatment” is some kind of a Sommersian buzzword. You didn’t even reference the source of the quote or say “summarizing Sommers, Pinker wrote:”. You just went straight to the apparent non-sequitur.

    All too often, the sense made couldn’t get more essentialist if you were trying to write a script for it

    Bullshit. No biologist or psychologist is an “essentialist”. We have to deal with very variable data all the time. It’s others, like you, that insist on applying the frame of ‘essentialism’. Here’s an example right here:

    I have no problem with the statement that on average, women are shorter than men (though I know at least 20 exceptions to that rule from my family and friends alone.)

    The fact that you think the exceptions you know (presumably women taller than most men and/or men shorter than most women) are even worth mentioning suggests that you simply don’t get the idea of statistical differences among groups, despite your first clause.

    (women like cooking!?!!!! Must belong in kitchen!)

    Unless you can link to a scientist actually saying anything like that, it’s a stupid rhetorical strawman of which you ought to be ashamed.

    because the gender script we have confuses cause and effect like a state fair tilt-a-whirl.

    I don’t even know what that means.
    (btw the tilting and whirling are both effects, with separate causes, in case your analogy was supposed to mean something along those lines.)

    Which is to say that many feminists are skeptical of claims based on biology for a reason: we can see that they’re full of shit.

    Nice absolute statement about all claims based on biology. You’re a denialist. At least you write like one.

    it’s really hard to sort out biology from culture

    Now, that’s for damn sure.

    There’s a major difference between ignoring biology/culture and not making commitments (a priori) regarding open (i.e. scientifically unsettled) empirical issues in psychology or biology based on what’s desirable from an ethical point of view.

    I think that’s a good point.

    Articles in magazines and newspapers bring that stuff up all the time. Entire fucking books on gender differences have been written using that shit. Don’t sit there and bullshit to me that it was a tossed off hypothesis.

    OK. We’re both a little confused here.
    In the first place, please mention an entire book about sex differences in color vision.
    Second, I was unfamiliar with the study behind the press release that you linked. Yes, that one is about color perception, not preference, and yes, there in the press release is a bullshit just-so paragraph about gathering fruit. Here’s the actual article; you can read all of it instead of a (notoriously stupid) press release. The fruit-gathering thing is in the penultimate paragraph of the Discussion. That’s where you put tentative ideas and suggest explanatory hypotheses. So, not quite ‘tossed off’, but also explicitly a trial-balloon hypothesis, not an empirical conclusion of the study.

    An academic institution positing that it is genetic with absolutely no evidence to suggest that.

    LOL. The data reported are genetic data, you confused person you. They show a sex difference in variation of color-vision genes empirically. It follows directly from X-linkage.

    See, my confusion resulted from the fact that most of the women-used-to-pick-red-berries bullshit came out in response to this paper instead. It’s about preference (not perception), the sex difference is again empirical, and again the evolutionary hypothesis is offered as a (arguably stupid) hypothetical explanation for the data reported, not as a proven conclusion. But it was the only paragraph of the press release that everybody ran with.

    Mr “ipods are better that oppertunity or stability”

    wut

    Pinker is a sexist ass who’s been long beloved of other sexist asses, like Larry Summers.

    hey, another cogently reasoned argument from Ms. Cutter.

    To play with Amphiox’s analogy a bit there

    *eyeroll* nice exclusion of the middle.

  70. Esteleth, Who Knows How to Use Google says

    Chas:

    *eyeroll* nice exclusion of the middle.

    Meaning?

  71. Esteleth, Who Knows How to Use Google says

    I can parrot the views of the extreme rethuglican pretty well – it’s very hard to overdo it.

    I can also express my own views pretty well.

    What I have a hard time doing is successfully parroting the mealy-mouthed “well, yes, you’re right, but be quiet and polite about it and don’t inconvenience anyone by asking for change” position. Probably because I am so blinded by rage at it. Quite frankly, I see it as worse that the blatant bigotry.

  72. says

    @Amphiox

    Hahah don’t flatter yourself! I wasn’t ignoring you, I was driving home, and now I’m here I can pour over all of the evidence you’ve supplied… or not, as the case clearly is. I’d like to paraphrase your last argument for you, “the whole article is evidence but it’s invisible evidence, therefore I can’t even attempt to point it out, take me on my word, I’m correct and you’re wrong, and if you disagree you’re a racist.” That could have almost came from Ken Ham, seriously.

    Look I’ll help you out, here’s wiki’s definition of racism:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism

    Now go back to that article and show me how he’s being racist; you don’t even have to prove it, I’d be happy if you just tell me how you -think- he’s being racist (anyone, please!). Supply some links showing his past racist history/writings etc if you can, because I’ve searched and can’t find any – seriously I’ve looked. Google says no. (Anonymous blogs, citing anonymous sources -do not count-.)

    Oh and top marks for this psyche-revealing turd of wisdom: “If they can actually be irreversibly alienated by mild remonstrances such as these, then they are not and will not ever be trustworthy allies worth having.”

    Leaving aside your obvious idiotic fallacy of “will never be trustworthy allies”; I think that statement shows just how far off the planet you are. I don’t know where you come from, but here (in the northern UK) calling someone a racist is only a small notch below calling them a pedophile. I’ve witnessed guys (both white) beat the living shit out of each other in a bar because one of them accused the other of saying something racist, and the accused tried to take the other guys head off in outrage.

    In short: calling someone a racist isn’t the “mild remonstration” you think it is, it’s (to many, many people) one of the worst, most personal, denigrating insults you can hurl at someone (and so it should be!) – it is ->literally<- fighting talk!

    Tossing about such a serious term willy-nilly at anyone who doesn't support all the same things you do, for all the same reasons, will win you little more than grief and opposition – and that's a fact Jack.

  73. (e)m says

    Respect human beings as male, female, or trans

    trans women are female, trans men are male, non-binary people are neither or both. The phrasing used makes it sound like trans* people aren’t male or female.Please don’t do that.

  74. Esteleth, Who Knows How to Use Google says

    Chambers,
    You are wrong.

    Firstly, appealing to the dictionary for a definition of a type of bigotry? Wrong.

    Secondly, something doesn’t have to rise to the level of screaming racist epithets in the town square or openly calling for lynching to be racist. Racism can be – and is – subtle and pervasive.

    Thirdly, do you know how dogwhistles work? Like, the whistles that emit at a wavelength that a human ear cannot detect but a dog ear can? Likewise, there are words and phrases that look totally innocuous that are code words – dogwhistles, if you will – for bigoted stuff. To cite a sexist example, ever notice that a lot of conservative types go on a bit about how the Dred Scott USSC decision was horrible? It is a position that gets few arguments today – that ruling said that black man was not a person. So why are they going on about it? Abortion. They think that embryos and fetuses are more people than women, but that isn’t an acceptable thing to say openly, so they talk about how nasty it is to say that PoC aren’t people. Likewise, there are racist dogwhistles – and this guy’s writings are chock full of them.

  75. Amphiox says

    Hahah don’t flatter yourself! I wasn’t ignoring you

    Who said you were ignoring me?

    I was referring to posts by others that everyone can read, such as post #59.

  76. Amphiox says

    Leaving aside your obvious idiotic fallacy of “will never be trustworthy allies”

    “Irreversibly alienated” = “will never be trustworthy allies”.

    If someone who is a potential ally says something clearly racist or misogynistic, it is possible that they did so unknowingly and out of unrecognized privilege.

    If we call them out on it, which is what we do and what I was referring to – NOT calling someone racist or misogynist, but calling WHAT THEY SAY RACIST OR MISYOGYNIST WHEN IT IS, BECAUSE IT IS., it is possible their first reaction is to be angry. But if they are truly a potential ally, they will think about what we said rationally and come around. In other words, they won’t be irreversibly alienated.

    But if they double down, and start insisting that calling what they say racist (because IT IS) is the same as calling THEM racist, then they are not allies. Nor would we WANT such people to be allies, because they would be Trojan (well, Greek) “allies”, fifth column “allies”. They would be people who have plainly demonstrated that they do NOT share the values that we do, the values upon which any “alliance” is actually predicated on.

    Or you think that we shouldn’t be telling the truth, and calling obviously racist or misogynistic statements what they actually are, racist and misogynist? You think we should be lying about those statements?

    Your p-value for mendacity has just crossed the significance threshold, and I do not talk to deliberately intellectually dishonest liars. I might talk about them, but I will not talk to them.

    So you and I are done.

    Goodbye.

  77. jefrir says

    In short: calling someone a racist isn’t the “mild remonstration” you think it is, it’s (to many, many people) one of the worst, most personal, denigrating insults you can hurl at someone (and so it should be!) – it is ->literally<- fighting talk!

    Well, yeah that’s the problem. We’ve ended up with a society where saying that someone is doing something racist is somehow worse than actually being a racist.
    And that’s really fucked up.

  78. says

    @Ms. Daisy Cutter, Vile Human Being

    So tell me what bigoted things do you think he said in TFA?

    “Awww, aren’t you precious.”

    Awww thank you! I’m sure you’re very special too, sweety.

    “Other people’s oppression is a big fucking joke to you, isn’t it?”

    Well, it wasn’t before, but keep going like that and you just might make it one! But please, step down from your self-appointed role of Grand Arbiter of All Things Funny for a moment and please see my first post on searching for the phantom inner fascist, then come back here and, remembering that you don’t know a thing about me, think about the conclusions you’ve jumped too. I asked for nothing more than specifically which bits of this article you/PZ considered racist and why. Instead you’ve supplied yourself as an excellent example of what I was talking about in my first post.

    FYI, I hate racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, fascism, communism (the worst type of fascism heheh [oh dear... I'm laughing at other peoples oppression again]) etc. etc. etc. I happen agree with PZ on religion ~98% of the time, and on politics ~50% of the time and I’m not by a long stretch right wing.

    Not that I think for a second you’ll take my word on any of that…

  79. KG says

    (women like cooking!?!!!! Must belong in kitchen!)

    Unless you can link to a scientist actually saying anything like that, it’s a stupid rhetorical strawman of which you ought to be ashamed. – ChasCPeterson

    Well there was that risible study claiming that baby boy monkeys preferred trains and baby girl monkeys preferred pans, and implying that this told us something about human gender differences. Some idiot here took it seriously IIRC.

  80. Paul says

    Well there was that risible study claiming that baby boy monkeys preferred trains and baby girl monkeys preferred pans, and implying that this told us something about human gender differences. Some idiot here took it seriously IIRC.

    Unless said idiot was a scientist, that doesn’t really touch on Chas’s point of contention. I don’t find it unlikely that such scientists exist, personally (see: “Scientists against evolution”), but I do not know of any that stated such as the conclusion to their piece.

    I’m somewhat sympathetic to Chas’s differentiation of “conclusion” and “hypothesis” when it comes to discussion and dissection of EvoPsych papers here (if not his method of presenting that point), but I think his statement misses the point in that the whole ostensible goal of many EvoPsych studies seems to be to forward those hypotheses to reinforce traditional gender roles. There is no good reason to forward many of them (as they are not in any way necessary or helpful in explaining the data and actual conclusions of the paper), yet somehow they always get included. It’s far too consistent to be coincidence. Sure, they may be hypotheses instead of conclusions. It still reeks of sneaking in one’s preconceptions and attempting to use SCIENCE to give them undue weight.

  81. KG says

    I don’t see any obvious racist dog-whistles in the article PZ linked to – although there’s plenty of strawmanning of feminism and ridiculous nonsense about discussion of human nature being “taboo” – a claim that discussion of X is taboo is a pretty good indication (a) that it isn’t and (b) that the writer is an idiot (note that West blames the dominance of blank slate views he falsely claims to exist for “ordinary men and women rejecting feminism”). However, here’s West from the second most recent article on his blog (the context is an argument about whether to make it easier for Chinese nationals to get visas to visit the UK):

    In the longer term, we’ll want to attract more Chinese visitors, and will be able to, as Chinese average incomes rise. That’s because the most beneficial type of immigration, from the receiving country’s point of view, is between states of relatively equal economic development. It follows from this that Britain should adopt very strict immigration policies towards the developing world (especially towards family migration, the least progressive form), but have fairly open borders with countries above a median average income of $12,000.

    The real question is whether China would reciprocate. So far, none of the countries outside the European world have adopted Western-style immigration policies, nor have any Asian countries embraced the ideology behind “diversity”. So when China reaches the Lewis turning point, will it start importing millions of people from Indonesia, Bangladesh and Africa to do the jobs the Chinese wont do? I would bet my bottom yuan that the answer will be no.

    Summary:
    paragraph 1: We should keep the blacks out.
    paragraph 2: Because the Chinese are racists too. Note particularly the dog-whistle of scare-quoting “diversity”.

  82. pacal says

    This Pinker quote:

    I believe that the rape-is-not-about-sex doctrine will go down in history as an example of extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds. It is preposterous on the face of it, does not deserve its sanctity, is contradicted by a mass of evidence.

    Pinker once again illustrates that he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Pinker ignores the mountain evidence indicating that rape is indeed about things other than sex as well aas sex; for example power and indeed Pinker ignores that sex and power can be very closely linked indeed. Further as he does often he caricatures a position / opinion. As for being preposterous, what is preposterous is Pinker’s absurd strawman.

    I should note that I’ve hardly ever heard from anyone, even people who worked at rape crisis centres that sex wasn’t involved in rape. what they emphazised was the power component involved and its role in the rape. Further they damn well knew sex and power could be and were often linked.

    I note the agit-prop way he characterizes the position.

    What is esspecially galling is that Pinker ignores that in rape there are at least two people, the rapist and the rape victim. The rape victim experiences the rape not as sex but has an assualt. In other words as the exercise of power over her/him.

  83. says

    @Jefrir Damn right! It’s totally f*cked up!!! :-(

    @Amphiox Your arguments were completely baseless, you never supplied any facts and the only thing I’m certain of is that you have some vague understanding of p-values. So don’t fool yourself, we never even got started. Adios.

    @Esteleth, Who Knows How to Use Google
    @Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    RE: ‘Dog Whistle’. Now this is more interesting; but how do you tell a ‘dog whistle’ from a legitimate scientific statement that highlights some difference between some group of peoples? According to the ‘dog whistle’ theory racists will just appropriate any and all language that allows them to hide their true motives. I’m sure this does go on; but how can / could we or anyone else ever stop such a thing? If this is inevitable, will not all scientific work on geographically localized genetic differences inevitably tend over time to appear racist as its language gets progressively appropriated, even if that was never the intent? Can we make language impossible of expressing racial hatred a la G. Orwell / 1984?

    But you see, this is my other problem with this kind of thinking, that it bears (IMHO, and no insult is intended here btw) striking resemblance to the ‘false flag’ thinking of the 911 truthers and ‘false consciousness’ of the Marxists.

    According to the 911 truthers, everything is a ‘false-flag’ operation by the US government. The fact that something is incredibly damaging to the US only seems to reinforce their belief in the ‘false flag’ – that the US is in fact behind it’s own misery. Now I’m sure false flags operations do exist, but how do you tell them from the real thing?

    When is a dog whistle not a dog whistle? It seems to me that as the ‘dictionary’ of dog-whistles increases so to does the chance of an innocent person giving off a ‘whistle’ and it seems to me that this will lead to a case of assuming guilt before innocence – if you look for whistles everywhere and have no way to be sure when you’ve found one, I don’t think it’ll be long before you think they’re popping up everywhere.

    Parrots whistle too! You get me? =-)

  84. says

    @KG

    Thank you! Someone finally delivers!

    I can see your point about the scare quote emphasis on diversity, (though TBH I read it initially as him implying that China’s government are themselves anti-immigration / hostile to other cultures) but isn’t the first part just a (somewhat mercenary) analysis of immigration in general?

    I do see your point, that you may read it as him saying ‘stop blacks immigrating’, but he is also saying ‘more Chinese please’, which is not something I’d expect a racist to say.

    How do you square the two up?

  85. jefrir says

    James, you seem to be assuming that the idea that someone is racist is somehow extraordinary.
    It really, really isn’t.
    Seriously. There are a fuck of a lot of racists out there. And so long as they can keep their racism less obvious and more subtle than the really blatant groups like the BNP or the KKK (and even the BNP claim not to be racist) they get relatively little push-back.

    The Telegraph publishes somewhat-but-not-blatantly-obviously racist stuff pretty regularly. So do pretty much all news outlets. And they are supported by a large proportion of the population, who hold a variety of racist views without ever considering themselves “a racist”.

    And you are reinforcing the situation, by saying that writing someone off as an ally when they fail to respond intelligently and humanely to the suggestion that they are being racist is somehow unreasonable.

  86. jefrir says

    I do see your point, that you may read it as him saying ‘stop blacks immigrating’, but he is also saying ‘more Chinese please’, which is not something I’d expect a racist to say.

    That’s because you have a rather stupid, limited image of what “a racist” is.
    It’s not even as if racist stereotypes of, say, Chinese people as being quiet and intelligent and orderly are a new thing.
    Racists are perfectly capable of thinking that some races are better than others. That’s kind of what makes them racist.

  87. Esteleth, Who Knows How to Use Google says

    Do you understand the phenomenon of the “model minority?”

    Basically, in exchange for toeing certain lines (largely revolving around not being bothersome), some minority groups are given status that is almost-but-not-really honorary status of the powerful group.

    For some time now (say, 30/40 years?) Asians (specifically, Chinese and Japanese) have held this status in the US.

  88. Amphiox says

    I see jameschambers has doubled down on one of the most pernicious stereotypes against Asians, which is frequently used to sneak in other flavors of racism against Asians and make them appear more acceptable.

    This is exactly the kind of reasoning used to justify the old Chinese head taxes, that the “Yellow Peril” had superior fecundity to whites and would swamp the population if allowed to immigrate unchecked, just applied in reverse.

    And since every nation limits it’s immigration to a quota, saying “more Chinese” is also a thinly veiled way of saying “less Blacks”.

    Odious.

    Putting a group on a pedestal is still racism. Especially since it is one step removed from trying to restrict them to keep them on the pedestal, or pulling them down to make things “fairer” from everyone else.

  89. Amphiox says

    It’s worked, too. For a generation and a half Asians have come to North America and quietly gone about their business, contributing to the economy and paying their taxes, while not stirring the pot, staying quiet and polite, shrugging off what racism they encounter as just the price of doing business in America, teaching their children that they must always make sure they are at least twice as good as the white kids, because if they are just equally good the white kid will be chosen over them every time, and never protesting their 1b status, with the lowest rates of political participation or engagement of any ethnic group.

    This has only started to change very recently.

  90. says

    Unless said idiot was a scientist, that doesn’t really touch on Chas’s point of contention.

    lol. the “idiot” in KG’s comment was chas, who is a scientist.

  91. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Jameschambers, I have understood the racist “dogwhistles/codes” since the ’60s, when the racists had to start pulling in their words. If you have a problem figuring things out, it’s because you haven’t been listening past the surface words to the real ideas behind them. I just shut the fuck up and listened when the Rethuglicans changed them in the early ’90s, and decoded their real message almost on the fly. The racists now hide underneath what sounds innocuous on the surface. If you know what to look for, and look for the tacit nods and winks, it is easy to tell who is who.

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

  92. Amphiox says

    And of course the quid-quo-pro for the 1b group is to stand on the side of the 1a’s against the 2′s and 3′s. I cannot count the number of Asians in my parents’ generation, including my parents (though at some point after I left home they did a 360 on this), who were frequently against civil and minority rights issues spearheaded by other groups like Hispanics, Blacks, or Native Americans because they were noisy and rocked the boat, thinking instead that all the other minorities should do as they do and keep quiet and obedient and cooperative and wait for the four or five generations to pass until things got better on their own.

  93. dereksmear says

    I love Ed West’s blog. It is such deliciously awful drivel. West is a hard right loon who one day learned how to use a word processor. I wish I could leave links to all his greatest hits of stupity but it would take too long.

  94. ChasCPeterson says

    *eyeroll* nice exclusion of the middle.

    Meaning?

    Meaning you left out those that acknowledge that “there are differences in abilities, biologically speaking, between tall and short people” but who nevertheless do not think that “short people are weak, stupid, passive, and need to submit to tall people and be protected by them.”

    Some idiot here took it seriously IIRC.

    Unless said idiot was a scientist, that doesn’t really touch on Chas’s point of contention.

    Yeah, KG is needling me–I was that “idiot”. And this:

    there was that risible study claiming that baby boy monkeys preferred trains and baby girl monkeys preferred pans, and implying that this told us something about human gender differences.

    …is either disingenuously rhetorical twist, stupid and misremembered, or meant to be humorous. (I’ll still stand by everything I wrote about that paper, btw. I doubt you remember anything I actually said at the time.)

    the whole ostensible goal of many EvoPsych studies seems to be to forward those hypotheses to reinforce traditional gender roles. There is no good reason to forward many of them (as they are not in any way necessary or helpful in explaining the data and actual conclusions of the paper), yet somehow they always get included. It’s far too consistent to be coincidence.

    I hear this argument pretty often (most recently from Esteleth on the first podcast), and yet I have never even once been directed to a single real example. I’m not talking about blogs and columns, I’m talking about published studies.

    If I publish data, I am duty-bound to try to explain them in my Discussion. If there are alternative hypotheses, I have to try to distinguish among them with use of supplementary evidence. If I don’t have (or don’t trust) such evidence, than I have to present speculative hypotheses as speculation. That part gets lost a lot in press releases written by PR people trained as journalists who, like some sociologists, just don’t get the nuances in how science is communicated.

    If you are saying that people push explanations that reinforce traditional gender roles preferentially, without also discussing plausible alternatives, then it’s poor science.
    If you can show me an example, I’ll opine about it. Otherwise, I view this claim very skeptically–I think people have been taught it’s true and buy it because they like it.

  95. says

    @Amphiox @Nerd etc

    It actually (and I honestly mean this) never even occurred to me that you/RX meant you think he is saying ‘stop blacks immigrating (because they are unintelligent or lazy)’, and saying ‘more Chinese please (because they are clever / hardworking)’. [I interpreted it as ‘stop blacks immigrating (because they are black)’, and saying ‘more Chinese please (because they are not black)’] That dog-whistle, if it was one, blew utterly silently for me! Haha But now I see where you’re coming from, can’t say I’m entirely convinced in this case, but I think we’re more on the same wave length RE: that article.

    “And since every nation limits it’s immigration to a quota, saying “more Chinese” is also a thinly veiled way of saying “less Blacks”.”

    Probably, but not necessarily, true. I still can’t see how you can tell apart ‘veiled-racists’ from people making an economic argument around maximizing the benefits of immigration to their country. It seems to me there’s a danger of tarring everyone with the same brush, and as most races have positive as well as negative stereotypes it’s easy to turn every…

    ‘stop X immigrating’, and ‘more Y please’ into

    ‘stop X immigrating (because of negative unfair stereotype)’,
    and ‘more Y please (because of positive unfair stereotype)’

    I mean if he’d have written…

    ‘stop Chinese immigrating’, and ‘more blacks please’

    would you have read…

    ‘stop Chinese immigrating (because they ‘steal our jobs’), and ‘more blacks please (because they are athletically/musically gifted)’

    [To get the most out of this argument you may have to substitute your own suitably unfair positive / negative racial stereotypes in place of my offerings, which are admittedly a bit crap ;) ]

  96. florianholl says

    @Pacal (post #92):
    From your bold statement

    Pinker once again illustrates that he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    and from remarks like “as he does often”, one would like to assume that you are familiar with what Pinker actually has written. But almost all of what you wrote casts serious doubts on that.
    I don’t want to assume that your opinion of Pinker comes from not much more than the two sentences you cared to quote. But neither can I believe that you have actually read the eleven-and-a-half pages on rape in chapter 18 in The Blank Slate. Allow me to juxtapose your sentences with quotes from my copy of the 2003 Penguin paperback, all within only three pages.

    But before that, let’s start with a logical problem:

    Pinker ignores the mountain evidence indicating that rape is indeed about things other than sex as well aas sex;

    If you refer to evidence that rape is “about things other than sex as well aas sex” [my emphasis], you are acknowledging that rape is indeed, at least also, about sex. How could this, then, be a refutation of a “rape-is-not-about-sex doctrine”? It doesn’t even matter whether there actually are people who believe in this doctrine (there are; Pinker quotes several examples, and I know some such people myself); the point is that Pinker is not argueing at all that rape is ‘just sex’ and that there are no other aspects to discuss. But I guess the main problem is that you lump together everything there is to discuss, confusing problematic experiences of the victim with actual motives of the rapist.
    On to the quotes.

    You:

    Pinker ignores that in rape there are at least two people, the rapist and the rape victim.

    No, he doesn’t. This is too fucking absurd to even deserve to be commented, but what the hell.
    Pinker, p.365 (he talks about what is good about Thornhill and Palmer’s 2000 book A Natural History of Rape):

    Most important, the book focuses in equal part on the pain of the victims. [...]

    You:

    The rape victim experiences the rape not as sex but has an assualt.

    Pinker, p.362 (ironically, the very paragraph immediately preceding the one you quoted!):

    “The violence-not-sex slogan is right about two things. Both parts are absolutely true for the victim: a woman who is raped experiences it as a violent assault, not a sexual act. [...]
    From the woman’s point of view, rape and consentual sex are completely different.

    You:

    Pinker ignores that sex and power can be very closely linked indeed.

    No, he doesn’t.
    Pinker, p.363:

    The great contribution of feminism to the morality of rape is to put issues of consent and coercion at center stage.

    Pinker, p.365:

    [Women] resist being raped, and they suffer when their resistance fails, because “control over their sexual choices and relationships was wrestled from them.”

    What have you actually read?!

  97. says

    every vocal feminist I ran into or read anything of- every single one- kept saying at -length- that the differences between genders was purely societal, etc. And quite frankly, most of us will continue to do so in response to 99.9% of the specific claims that are usually made.

    Because nobody in everyday life actually goes around claiming that there are overlapping bell curves with a slightly higher mean for men in the distribution of strength; or that there are overlapping bell curves with a slightly higher mean for women in the distribution of long distance swimming ability.

    All the claims you ever hear are about justification of current inequities, based on pretending that overlapping bell curves are instead heavily bimodal distributions. Ooh, men are better at spatial ability than women and that’s why they’re highly-paid engineers and women are all good at caring stuff and that’s why they’re underpaid nurses and so on and on. And girls like pink and boys like blue. These claims are all full of shit, and that is readily demonstrable by history, anthropology, psychology, and sociology.

    Basically, given brain plasticity and the way babies are treated and interpreted totally differently from birth (and before, now that we tend to know from ultrasounds), we have no ground to stand on for any claims of inbuilt psychological differences. Even physical differences are heavily socially exaggerated. Consider body hair. Consider the strength differences likely in a society where women do all the construction work, and one where girls are encouraged to be physically passive and to starve themselves during their adolescent growth period.

    Shorter: if all this gender difference is natural, then how come there’s so much social pressure required to enforce it?

  98. says

    Aaaah shit blockquote fail. This is all there was in quotes:

    every vocal feminist I ran into or read anything of- every single one- kept saying at -length- that the differences between genders was purely societal, etc.

    And quite frankly, most of us will continue to do so in response to 99.9% of the specific claims that are usually made. (etc)

  99. gillt says

    @107. Thanks!

    This addresses the question I was lurking for: what is the pro-science (I’m assuming) feminist position on biological/innate differences between the genders. (I’m aware of feminist, mainly academic, writing that considers science part of the ruling hegemony and dismisses out of hand).

    I hear a lot of lip service given to genetic variation between genders but every time one is brought up it’s dismissed as crude, racist or half-baked. Obviously it’s possible in theory to tease out environment influence from genetic predispositions in regard to human behavior in general, so does anyone here think a case can be made for gender differencess as well?

  100. says

    Obviously it’s possible in theory to tease out environment influence from genetic predispositions in regard to human behavior in general, so does anyone here think a case can be made for gender differencess as well?

    Sure. First, we create a society in which men and women are treated equally, 100% of the time.

    Then, it will be easy to figure out which differences are genetic, because all the cultural and societal influence on gender differences will have disappeared. And there will probably still be plenty of societies with lingering gender inequality to compare it to.

    Unfortunately, we’ll probably all be dead before the experiment can conclude.

    Still worth running, though, if you ask me.

  101. says

    Chambers:

    “Other people’s oppression is a big fucking joke to you, isn’t it?”

    Well, it wasn’t before, but keep going like that and you just might make it one!

    So why should I take anything you say seriously, especially your insistence that you actually oppose all forms of bigotry? Your ability to give a fuck is in direct proportion to how thoroughly your ass is kissed. Amphiox describes you well at #86. Fuck off.

  102. Amphiox says

    Well, it wasn’t before, but keep going like that and you just might make it one!

    Tells us all we need to know about chambers the closet bigot, doesn’t it?

    Someone whose commitment to opposing oppression can be made conditional on something as trivial as this is someone who never honestly opposed oppression to begin with, and someone who is clearly lying about it.

    And is someone who was not and is not a potential “ally” on the subject.

    How pitiful.

  103. John Phillips, FCD says

    Well he gave the game away when he called The Telegraph, i.e. a Tory broadsheet, a generally middle of the road newspaper. Has the overton window shifted that far to the right even here in the UK now?

  104. says

    I’m not going to do any more research tonight, since I’ve been in either graduate statistics and theory courses or doing a twelve year literature review for the field of medicine since 8:50 this morning, but I have to say my favorite is the article which asserts that resentment and poor treatment of step-children is a result of their parasitic theft of resources from the reproductive capital of the step-parent.

    Love that one.

  105. says

    @Ms. Daisy Cutter & @Amphiox

    That’s it you’re correct! You totally found my hidden inner fascist! There I was, thinking my lack of seriousness was directly proportional to your inability to produce a coherent logical argument backed by evidence and instead, after all these years, it turns out to be due to my inner sexist, racist, bigot.

    Congratulations, now you don’t have to address anything I said or justify your beliefs, nice work! *Applause* It’s just as well you found it too, because your arguments were looking distinctly like, well, paranoid 911 truther bullshit.

    I can I make a request, for your next amazing feat can you disappear in a puff of smoke up your own arse? You can and just have? Bravo! *Applause*

  106. John Morales says

    [meta]

    jameschambers @117, you are being mocked, and your attempted sarcasm only concedes ground.

  107. KG says

    jameschambers,

    isn’t the first part just a (somewhat mercenary) analysis of immigration in general?

    No. If the argument were really about what immigration benefits the host country, it would be couched in terms of the skills of individuals, not in terms of countries of origin.

    I do see your point, that you may read it as him saying ‘stop blacks immigrating’, but he is also saying ‘more Chinese please’, which is not something I’d expect a racist to say.

    Even if it did mean that (it doesn’t, in context, rather he’s saying that once China is richer, there will be little risk of Chinese on visitors’ visas overstaying), this would not follow, as others have already pointed out, and only demonstrates your ignorance. Racists very often have specific minorities at which their prejudice is aimed and others which they exempt. What is most characteristic about the paragraph, however, in addition to the scare-quoting of “diversity”, is the excuse that “others do it too”. This is both true, and completely irrelevant.

  108. jmst says

    ChasCPeterson writes:

    The claim that the empirically demonstrated color preferences (not perceptions) had a biological basis was based on comparative studies of people from different cultures.

    Are you perchance referring to this study? Not much of a meaningful cross-cultural comparison there, I am afraid. The study demonstrated that there is a statistical effect of gender on color preferences both among British and Chinese subjects, and that in both cultures, the effect goes in the same direction. That is not a sufficient basis for ascribing it to biology, by a long stretch. Assuming that within each culture, gender will affect color preferences, the a priori chance that when you sample two populations, the effect will be in the same direction in both is a full 50%. All your efforts to achieve large enough samples for your measurements to be reliable within a culture do not help you to demonstrate a biological basis when you don’t also extend the same scrutiny to your sample of cultures. Also, it’s not like the color preference patterns of Chinese men and British men, or Chinese women and British women, are the same. If anything, the effect of culture seems to be larger than the effect of “biology”, if that’s what it is, and Chinese men’s preferences are as “girly” as British women’s.

    That’s even if we pretend that Chinese and British culture in the early 21st century are isolated from each other, while in reality young urban middle class (what you get from sampling students) people in both cultures have likely, e.g., watched some of the same TV shows. If you’re really scrutinous about demonstrating a biological basis, you may not even want to count them as separate data points just to be on the safe side.

    See, my confusion resulted from the fact that most of the women-used-to-pick-red-berries bullshit came out in response to this paper instead. It’s about preference (not perception), the sex difference is again empirical, [emphasis added]

    No it isn’t, by a far cry, as pointed out above. The study demonstrated a fairly robust sex or gender difference within two populations (you read that right, n=2), and the effect was in the same direction in both cases – the priors of which are 50%. The effect was large in the British sample, but pretty small in the Chinese sample – indeed Chinese men’s preferences were closer to both British and Chinese women’s than to British men’s, and if they’d done a comparison for culture by collapsing the sexes within each culture, they’d probably found that the effect of culture far outweighs anything else. That’s not an empirical demonstration of a sex difference, that’s an empirical demonstration of gender differences within two cultures. Now, if they’d sampled a dozen different cultures as isolated from each other as is achievable in the 21st century, and found an effect of sex/gender in the same direction (preferrably even: of roughly the same magnitude) in all or nearly all of them, they might have a case for a biologically conditioned sex difference in color preferences. But not with n=2.

  109. ChasCPeterson says

    The following is just for you.

    Thank you for taking time out from what sounds like a very busy and impressively academicky life to post those links just for me. Are they supposed be be typical? Or are they cherry-picked to make a point or somehow argue with something I said? You seem to have left it as an exercise for me to try to figure out what point you’re trying to make.

    Let’s see:
    1. Data-free bullshitting by a Professor of Communications Studies. I have little interest in the opinions of media scholars on pornography research, to be honest, and so I can’t claim a careful reading, but it looks like the guy is dabbling in EP to be among the first (1996) to apply the concept to media/porn studies. It’s apparently part of an entire symposium on the subject.
    I give up. What’s your point here? Is this supposed to be an example of intentional or motivated reinforcement of traditional gender roles? Is your problem with the putatively evolutionary model presented, with the literature review, or with the conclusion that they are consistent? Or with the real or imagined implications of that conclusion?

    2. OK, science. They set up a hypothesis of sex difference that certainly qualifies as EP but that strikes me as passably plausible. They devise experiments that seem capable of falsifying the hypothesis. They collect and present actual data. The data, it seems, could have gone either way but actually show sex differences in the direction predicted by the hypothesis. They call for further investigation of these ideas. What’s the problem? The hypothesis, the data, or their consistency?
    Or is it a problem that the consistency of the evolutionary ideas and the data collected also seem consistent with traditional gender roles? Why? If the data had gone the other way would the problem remain?
    3. Singled out for special (if completely content-free and ambiguous) mockery. You said:

    my favorite is the article which asserts that resentment and poor treatment of step-children is a result of their parasitic theft of resources from the reproductive capital of the step-parent.

    Well, first that’s pure rhetorical spin on your part as the words ‘theft’ and ‘capital’ appear nowhere in the article linked, and ‘parasitic’ even gets scare-quotes the first time to indicate its special usage. (I get the feeling that you don’t understand the idea of ‘parental investment’ as used in the Trivers sense here.) They don’t even ‘assert’ anything; the closest thing I can find to a conclusion (as opposed, again, to hypotheses whether a priori or speculatively explanatory) is:

    An obvious hypothesis from a Darwinian view of parental motives is that stepparental feelings will indeed differ from those of genetic parents, at least quantitatively and perhaps qualitatively, too….By this argument, one should not necessarily expect to see ubiquitous abuse of stepchildren, but one would not expect to see stepparents sacrificing as much for them as genetic parents either. So, is there in fact a large difference between genetic parents and stepparents in willingness to incur major costs (e.g., lifethreatening risks) on the children’s behalf? We expect that there is, but we know of no relevant research. There is, however, plenty of evidence that stepparents and stepchildren alike view their relationships as less loving and as a less dependable source of material and emotional support than genetic parent-offspring relationships (citation string).

    then you added:

    Love that one.

    Because why? Do you have a problem with the literature reviewed to show that stepchildren (and their mothers) are treated relatively poorly? Do you have a problem with the evolutionary-based hypothesis of parental conflict? Or is your problem that the two happen–again–to coincide?
    4. tl;dr;ridiculous statistics; I got stuff to do too. But the same questions apply. Can you supply a better explanation for the data presented? Or do you and/or your mentors in Sociology just think that evolutionary explanations of human behavior are self-evidently silly?

    Well, that wasn’t much fun and I didn’t learn much. A few studies that (putatively, I guess) find consistency betwen valid evolutionary theory of reproductive behavior and empirical human behavior ‘prove’ nothing–not that EP is Right and not that EP is motivated by some desire to reinforce societal gender roles. The latter claim, of ideological bias, is from my perspective pretty clearly itself ideologically motivated. And I call that science denialism.
    I will close by snarkily suggesting that you add reading for comprehension to your arsenal of research tools.

  110. Paul says

    Backing up a little bit…

    lol. the “idiot” in KG’s comment was chas, who is a scientist.

    Bah. Normally I’m good at spotting needles. I blame KG not posting enough.

    If I don’t have (or don’t trust) such evidence, than I have to present speculative hypotheses as speculation.

    Would you agree that certain types of speculation in these types of studies could be interpreted as not helping? Even if they note them as not specifically supported by the evidence or provide alternative hypotheses as well, there can be harm in identifying them in the first place (and doing so does enshrine them in the public eye — how many people actually have access to read full papers in most journals, even if they had the time to keep current on literature?), and no good reason to do so aside from the fact that it goes along with people’s “just so” stories of how humans evolved to fit into the current societal structure.

    But then, that’s dangerously close to simply arguing from consequences, which is not something I’d want to see affecting the scientific literature (at least, not in the interpretation of a given dataset). I suppose my main problem is simply with the environment surrounding the media reporting of findings.

    Otherwise, I view this claim very skeptically–I think people have been taught it’s true and buy it because they like it.

    I’ll have to think more about this. I know I’ve caught myself doing similarly in the past.

  111. ChasCPeterson says

    jmst @#120:
    Yes, that’s the one. But I brought it up only because I mistakenly thought it was the one you were referring to. My bad.
    I didn’t cite it approvingly either, and I’m not inclined to defend it. I was careful to say “their claim was based on” instead of “they showed” or anything like that. I agree completely that the cross-cultural section was very weak. (I suspect it was added post-hoc to deal with reviewers’s criticism.) So I’m afraid your interesting critical review was kind of wasted on me.

    That’s not an empirical demonstration of a sex difference, that’s an empirical demonstration of gender differences within two cultures.

    OK. No argument. I was referring only to the data presented, face value.

    To be clear:
    I mentioned that paper only because I believed it to be the ultimate source of all of the EP-is-stupid-they-say-women-should-pick-berries crap I had previously heard. As I recall, the interesting thing about the paper, and the reason it was published, was not the particular gender differences in color preference found, but beyond that there was some sort of interesting correlation with the physiology or neurobiology or genetics of color perception. Or something. I don’t care.
    Point is: The evolutionary hypothesis was again a brief bit tacked onto the end of the Discussion as a heuristic explanatory hypothesis. Not the point of the study at all. The word ‘berries’ appears nowhere in the article. But it occupied a prominent position in the stupid press release. And now it’s an anti-EP urban legend, like that horrible thing some president of some college said to a group of woman engineering graduates!!!!

  112. ChasCPeterson says

    Would you agree that certain types of speculation in these types of studies could be interpreted as not helping?

    Would I agree? No. But I am coming at it as a scientist, because I can’t help it. If I were coming at it as a committed social activist (with maybe not much knowledge of science) instead, I’m certain I would agree.
    Here, I think, is the conflict.

    I suppose my main problem is simply with the environment surrounding the media reporting of findings.

    It’s a valid concern. People learn about science through several layers of filtering by other people, each replete with their own biases and preconceptions. It’s a big problem.

  113. Paul says

    Would I agree? No. But I am coming at it as a scientist, because I can’t help it. If I were coming at it as a committed social activist (with maybe not much knowledge of science) instead, I’m certain I would agree.

    I recognize this distinction, which is why I added “…could be interpreted as…”. As a scientist (or any sort of technical writer), it most definitely is part of your job to predict how what you write will be interpreted (and edit accordingly if you are not being clear enough on certain points, or write something that could be misleading…etc etc.). You may not (likely do not) feel that you should modulate the hypotheses you present based on this concern, but that wasn’t the question.

    In short, I interpret that as a yes, and I have no issue with you. As I sort of clumsily work towards in the subsequent paragraph, while I feel that that is an important thing to recognize, I am not sure there is adequate justification to try to modify hypothetical discussions in scientific papers to stay away just because of possible misuse in social discussions.

  114. KG says

    The evolutionary hypothesis was again a brief bit tacked onto the end of the Discussion as a heuristic explanatory hypothesis. Not the point of the study at all. – ChasCPeterson

    So why did it appear at all? Why do similar speculative hypotheses appear so often? Why are daft studies like the monkey toy preference one done at all?

  115. says

    And now it’s an anti-EP urban legend, like that horrible thing some president of some college said to a group of woman engineering graduates!!!!

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19181-2005Jan18.html

    Some women who attended the meeting said they felt that Summers was implicitly endorsing the notion that there are genetic differences that inhibit girls from excelling in math and science. They cited a story Summers told about giving his daughter two trucks as an effort at gender-neutral parenting. The girl soon began referring to one of the trucks as “daddy truck” and the other as “baby truck.”

    The point of the truck anecdote, said Hopkins, a Harvard graduate, seemed to be that girls have a genetic predisposition against math and engineering. “That’s the kind of insidious, destructive, un-thought-through attitude that causes a lot of harm,” she said. “It’s one thing for an ordinary person to shoot his mouth off like that, but quite another for a top educational leader.”

    …One of the women sharply critical of Summers at the meeting was Denice D. Denton, chancellor-designate of the University of California at Santa Cruz. She took issue with his suggestion that women are less likely to achieve top professional positions than men because they are encumbered by child-rearing and family commitments. “Four of the 10 campuses at the University of California are run by women, who are all highly respected in their field,” said Denton, an electrical engineer by training. “These are all clear examples of women reaching the top of their profession.”

  116. jmst says

    Point is: The evolutionary hypothesis was again a brief bit tacked onto the end of the Discussion as a heuristic explanatory hypothesis.

    That may be so. So what? That still makes it an explanatory hypothesis that appears fuelled by preconceptions rather than any empirical data, for a phenomenon the reality of which they failed to demonstrate in the first place.

    For perspective, let’s pretend we’re talking about astrophysics rather than psychology, and that the field is full of UFO believers like evolutionary psychology is apparently full of people who earnestly believe that every effect you can find among American psychology undergrads is indicative of human nature. Let’s pretend that in this alternative universe, the folks who discovered that much of Venus’ surface appears to be amazingly young (where “young” = 100s of millions of years, of course) tack a “brief bit” onto the end of the Discussion where they expand on how one plausible explanation for that state of affairs is that Venus back than hosted a civilisation that was defeated by another nearby civilisation in an interstellar war, and on how the Permian-Triassic extinction event on Earth could plausibly be interpreted as caused by the stray missiles we got as we found ourselves caught between the lines. Let’s further pretend that, despite the hedging language the original authors used, the media enthusiastically picked up and presented as proven scientific fact the hypothesis since it conforms so well with common wisdom, and even subsequent scholarly authors sometimes quote the hypothesis as if it were sufficiently well demonstrated to lend credence to their own related claims.

    Would you, in this alternative scenario, still defend the habit proposing unevidenced “explanatory hypotheses” that just so happen to confirm common wisdom? Or would you complain about how people let their preconceptions slip into their science, putting the whole field in a bad light?

    Because that’s what much of EP looks like to me and many others.

    (Incidentally, since you seem to be fond of picturing yourself as the one and only person in this discussion who’s “coming at it as a scientist”, could you please point out where I’ve criticised EP for anything other than doing science really sloppily?)

  117. Amphiox says

    Re 118;

    Isn’t it remarkable how ilk like chambers almost always have the secondary characteristic of being unable to recognize or follow the first rule of holes?

    It’s uncanny.

  118. says

    @ Logic Priest,

    Have you read any of Doreen Kimura’s research? There is in fact some evidence that the distributions of mental traits are somewhat different across gender.

    Also, in terms of US prisons it is a stretch to call them “awesome”, but increased incarceration has been hugely effective at reducing crime rates. Read Steven Levitt’s paper on 4 Reasons Crime Fell in the 90′s.

  119. jmst says

    “Also, in terms of US prisons it is a stretch to call them “awesome”, but increased incarceration has been hugely effective at reducing crime rates.”

    You should go out more. Whether or not crime fell in the 90s, it’s still disproportionally high. If we take intentional homicide as a well-defined category, the US rate of 4.2/100,000 inhabitants is only topped by one small EU country (Estonia, at 5.2), and the first Western European country closing up is Finland at 2.2 (ignoring Liechtenstein and Luxemburg which are to small to be statistically significant), and the Western European average is at 1.0. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

  120. ChasCPeterson says

    ffs.

    That still makes it an explanatory hypothesis that appears fuelled by preconceptions rather than any empirical data, for a phenomenon the reality of which they failed to demonstrate in the first place.

    appears that way to whom?
    A: to those whose own preconceptions fuel their hyperskepticism.
    The hypothesis is one possible explanation of the data presented. ‘Demonstrating the reality of a phenomenon’ involves the hard work of measurement. They measured some stuff and presented data–empirical data. As one possible and plausible explanation for their data they floated an evolutionary hypothesis. It’s not based on preconceptions, but on knowledge about the comparative physiology of vision in primates.

    KG: I bought that book last year on your recommendation but have yet to get around to reading it.

  121. says

    @118 That wasn’t an attempt at sarcasm, it was sarcasm and I concede nothing.

    @Amphiox It’s funny though, the deeper I dig the more windmills I see you tilting.

  122. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Amphiox It’s funny though, the deeper I dig the more windmills I see you tilting.

    The more you dig your hole of arrogance, the more you appear irrelevant.

  123. jmst says

    They presented empirical data about a statistically significant but (especially in the Chinese sample) slight gender effect of color preferences in 2 (two!) populations – and than published a paper under the title of “Biological components of sex differences in color preference”. Either that’s being tremendously uncritical of your own preconceptions, or it’s being dishonest, take your pick. Nobody would be bringing it up if they’d published it as “Evidence for an effect of sex on color preferences in two populations” – they did present empirical data supporting that, but interpreting what they found as “biological components of sex differences” is already highly speculative and unwarranted with only two data points that may not be fully independent. It could be that there is a) a slight biologically based trend for women to prefer reddish hues relative to men, or b) a huge effect that is almost cancelled out in the Chinese sample by a cross-gender cultural preference for red, or c) a preference for red but only in tetrachromatic women with the difference in the averages caused by lumping them together with their trichromatic peers who would, measured independently, score no different from males, or d) no biological component, or even e) a slight trend for women to disprefer reddish hues that happens to be overridden by a larger cultural effect in the two (or one and a half, really) populations studied. They just gloss over all of this and implicitly assume that it must be (a) or (b) without argument (they even seem to lean slightly towards (b) judging by how they forward Chinese color symbolism as an excuse for the slightness of the effect in the Chinese sample). And we are not even talking about the speculative (hypothetical is almost too good a word for the of empirical predictions their claim entails) “explanation” towards the end, that’s right their in the title and throughout the paper.

    I reserve a right to call bad science – bad science. Try it once in a while.

    Also, you didn’t reply to my analogy – would you call calling out planetologists for pretending that the young age of Venus’ surface could plausibly have been the site of an interstellar war preconception-fuelled hyperskepticism too? If not, what’s the difference?

  124. jmst says

    Note to self: Check grammar before pressing “submit”:

    hypothetical is almost too good a word for the of empirical predictions their claim entails -> hypothetical is almost too good a word for the lack of of empirical predictions their claim entails

    Or something.

  125. KG says

    The hypothesis is one possible explanation of the data presented. ‘Demonstrating the reality of a phenomenon’ involves the hard work of measurement. They measured some stuff and presented data–empirical data. As one possible and plausible explanation for their data they floated an evolutionary hypothesis. -ChasCPeterson

    That’s plain dishonest: they didn’t “float” the hypothesis: by their choice of title for the paper they made an explicit claim that their data is evidence for that hypothesis. It isn’t.

  126. jmst says

    It’s not based on preconceptions, but on knowledge about the comparative physiology of vision in primates.

    That’s nonsense. Our knowledge about the comparative physiology of vision in primates and mammals generally tells us that the emergence of the neural substrate for processing visual information is to a very high degree input-driven, and remains to some degree plastic even into adulthood. This is evidenced by the emergence of trichromatic vision in color-blind primates by the mere addition of a third opsin, by how the visual cortex can become reassigned to process the input from other sensory channels in blind individuals – and how this can be reversed if eyesight is restored, by the existence of (some) tetrachromats in humans, where again the only difference is an additional opsin, no adaptation to process the novel input required, by experiments in mice even that suggests that knocking in a human opsin can produce trichromacy in a species that is naturally a dichromat, etc. etc.

    In line with our knowledge about the high degree of phenotypic plasticity in this arena, it seems very plausible that relatively minor differences in the environment during ontogeny can produce measurable differences in adult neural structure, discriminatory abilities, preferences, etc. – and provisioning male and female children with different toys and clothes, or drawing their attention to different aspects of the environment, partly define a child’s environment. So, our very knowledge about the physiology of primate vision suggests if anything that cultural effects could potentially be quite strong, and their actual data don’t support what they put in the title,

    In line with our knowledge about how opsins are inherited, some sex difference in color discrimination abilities between the sexes is plausible (if only from lumping together tetrachromat with trichromat females), which may or may not feed forward into preferences when you don’t control for underlying genetic variability. Suggesting, though, that such is the product of a specific adaptation to an environmental constraints females but not males have been subjected to is blatantly unparsimonious when that’s just what you get from coding your receptors on the X chromosome. Even if we find signatures of overdominance as a force for maintaining polymorphisms in human opsins, that doesn’t constitute evidence for a selection pressure only females were subjected to – while it’s true that only females will be tetrachromats, that again follows from X-linked inheritance even if the environmental conditions that favoured tetrachromacy were the same for both sexes.

    On macaques:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v461/n7265/abs/nature08401.html
    On mice:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/315/5819/1723.short
    http://www.pnas.org/content/100/20/11706.full
    On human tetrachromacy:
    http://w.journalofvision.org/content/10/8/12.full

  127. says

    Chas: Actually, I am extremely busy. I have two jobs (one research for an on-campus compliance institute and one teaching a junior level sociology course, in addition to carrying four classes, three of which are math: Calc II, Grad Stats II and Discrete Math. Between Calc and Discrete, I have six homework assignments a week. The other class is theory, for which I read six articles a week, typically Marx and other social/economic theories.)

    So yes, I am typically too busy to do much more than scan and wish I had time to comment. I said something the other night so you would know that I wasn’t going to be able to comment extensively in a prompt manner.

    And now, to the disagreement about those articles:

    Study 1, Malamuth: I have issues with taking something as complex as preferences in explicitly sexual media and making blanket statements like the author’s reduction of preferred mating strategies to a ‘women like fidelity because babies.’ Not only is his chain of reasoning in the wrong order (evolution/variation, therefore the long-standing idea that women are more modest/less slutty/interested in long-term mating strategies.) Not only is he oversimplifying even the little I know about the societal expression of relationships across history (hint: not all societies were always or are now societies in which male sexuality is expressed as a drive for promiscuity, in contrast to women’s sexuality, which is expressed as modesty, but he also obscures things like a societal preference for big tits (hint: western societies, aesthetics are not, repeat NOT generalizable, and he sweeps that under the rug with ‘most men in most societies’), but he uses a study from 1980 on women’s porn preferences to state that women prefer more ‘loving porn.’

    Because obviously the social expression of sexuality hasn’t changed since the 1980s. Porn consumption, it has been a changin’. My personal collection, for instance, does not feature anything resembling what he’s talking about. I like the hard-core lesbian/kinky porn. And yes, actually, I am female.

    He asserts right after that women are not as aroused by visual stimuli, study from 1979.

    I have to get to work, but I’d like to point out that these are all conclusion drawn on surveys which asked social questions in a social context, but the author ignores the contextuality of the surveys and applies them willy-nilly to the idea of evolution.

    He tries for social methodology and fails, then tries for biological rigor and has already failed in his formulation, and so continues to fail.

    Because we do have reproductive control (speaking broadly)

  128. jmst says

    ChasCPeterson: In case you still believe that my criticisms of EP are based on anything other than scientific arguments, here’s a view from the perspective of a cognitive biologist, i.e. someone who has to deal with other cognitive scientists and their sometimes hair-raising distortions of the state of biological science on a professional basis (W. Tecumseh Fitch, 2012: ‘Evolutionary Developmental Biology and Human Language Evolution: Constraints on Adaptation’. Evolutionary Biology, online first March 7 2012. DOI: 10.1007/s11692-012-9162-y)

    On how the one one-dimensional, adaptation-to-EEA-only picture of evolution prevalent in EP and the cognitive sciences more broadly doesn’t reflect the state of things in biology (all bolding mine):

    In this paper, perhaps controversially, I will suggest that any component of language, even the most novel and apparently adaptive, needs to be characterized within a context of historical constraints, deriving from developmental and phylogenetic constraints on form and physiology. Since Darwin, the importance of such constraints has been widely recognized by biologists, and to morphologists and developmental biologists in particular. Thus, to scientists trained in evolutionary biology, much of what I say below may seem obvious. It is nonetheless important to make these points explicitly, when discussing the evolution of cognition, because scientists studying cognition come from diverse disciplinary backgrounds (e.g. psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, anthropology…) and thus may be unaware of the value of a broad and pluralistic approach to evolutionary explanation in which constraints play a central role. This danger is exacerbated by the widespread focus of contemporary evolutionary psychology on adaptive optimization to hypothetical “problems faced by our Pleistocene ancestors” (Tooby and Cosmides 1990; Symons 1992; Pinker 1997; Buss et al. 1998) and a relative reluctance to incorporate historical and developmental constraints into evolutionary theorizing.

    On how it often isn’t trivial to neatly delineate “traits” (even in the anatomical domain), which is nonetheless a prerequisite before it even makes sense to ask whether, and to what, it is an adaptation:

    It is imprecise to say that the neck of a giraffe is an adaptation to browsing high leaves—we should rather say that giraffe neck length is such an adaptation. Other aspects of neck anatomy, such as the number of vertebrae, or the tortuous course of the laryngeal nerve, result from developmental constraints and have not themselves been optimized by natural selection during the evolution of a long neck.

    On how things get worse in the cognitive domain, with the known strong degree of phenotypic plasticity exhibited by the vertebrate brain:

    The processes of neural development, skill acquisition and learning (in some suitably broad sense) all clearly enable our brains to fine-tune their structure and computational behaviour to the tasks we face. As a result, the fact that some particular mechanism is well-suited to the performance of a particular task, in the adult brain, is not itself evidence of adaptation. These facts greatly complicate any reverse engineering approach to cognitive capabilities, for the details of the mechanism, however “functional”, do not provide unambiguous indications of past adaptive history. [...] [T]he function of any given circuit will represent multiple layers of adaptations and constraints, from many different evolutionary epochs, including adaptations, “ghosts of adaptations past”, and current ontogenetic history.

    On how the quest for adaptations is rarely a productive starting point in questions of cognitive evolution since it doesn’t tend to generate testable hypotheses:

    The question “is mechanism x an adaptation?” is absent from this list [of crucial question in language evolution], because the over-simplistic sense of “adaptation” often deployed in discussions of cognitive evolution (where traits either are, or are not, adaptations) is of very limited use in discussing [it].[...] If it is difficult to tease out and understand the target of selection in the case of morphological adaptations like bipedalism or our vocal tract, where the physics and physiology are well-understood, how much more challenging will that same question be for cognitive traits, where neither the basic computational issues nor the adaptive problem space are well understood.

    I further recommend two recent(ish) Phil Trans theme issues: Bertossa C. Rinaldo (ed.), 2011: ‘Evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) and behaviour’ (Theme Issue). Phil Trans R Soc B 366 (1574)., in particular the paper by Finlay et al. (pp. 2111-2123)
    and (if you have access): Heyes, Cecilia and Uta Frith (eds.), 2012: ‘New Thinking: The evolution of human cognition’. Phil Trans R Soc B 367 (1599), August 5, 2012, and herein in particular the papers by Lewis and Laland (pp. 2171-2180) and Heyes (2181-2191).

  129. says

    Lunch break: Sorry about the awful typos in the previous thing I wrote.

    The reason I posted those studies is because they are all examples of cherry-picking only the gloss of research methodology from qualitative and quantitative methods and slapping it together with what would be an improperly drawn conclusion for either methodology– research requires you to be conservative in the conclusions you draw, and to be most careful that the conclusions you draw are only the conclusions which most closely fit the data.

    With qualitative methodology, in particular, you CAN’T draw universal conclusions. That’s research 101 for qualitative methods: when considering societies and social behavior, you are always and ever bounded by the time, technology, society and your own biases.

    And, fer fuck’s sake, drawing a universal conclusion in quantitative methodology is also very difficult. You can’t do so because you think it might be true. You have to provide a clear trail of evidence (and not a mix of speculation on past cultures served up as justification for the conditions in current culture.)

    I’ll do more with the other studies later.

  130. ChasCPeterson says

    gah haven’t checked here in a while and everybody is talking to me. I don’t want to appear rude by ignoring people but I probably won’t continue this discussion. (It seems that many of us are busy, even if we’re not interested in sharing all the details.)

    First of all, it seems I have to repeat yet again that I am not and have never been interested in defending the Hurlbert and Ling color-preference article. I do not give even a single fuck whether it’s good or bad science or why. I have not even cared about it enough to ever read it closely even once. Therefore I have not opined in any way about the quality of the science represented, and will not do so now. OK?
    I have already been explicit about this. I brought up the article for one reason: it was flagrantly misrepresented and has become a sort of urban legend boilerplate which in no way reflects its actual content.

    Paul:

    while I feel that that is an important thing to recognize, I am not sure there is adequate justification to try to modify hypothetical discussions in scientific papers to stay away just because of possible misuse in social discussions.

    Well, I agree it should be thought about and even avoided if possible.

    KG:

    So why did [the evolutionary hypothesis] appear at all? Why do similar speculative hypotheses appear so often?

    First question: Because authors purporting to have demonstated some sort of biological phenomenon are obliged to offer and evaluate explanations for their data. Full explanations, of behavior in particular, have both proximate and ultimate components (cf. Tinbergen’s four questions). Both because of the huge wealth of knowledge we have about the behavior of other animals and because of robust theory*, current and/or former adaptation is a plausible ultimate explanation for behavior that is purported to be in part of biological origin. That’s why speculative evolutionary hypothese appear in all kinds of biological literature, not just the specialized and socially fraught subset of EP that attempts to deal with sex differences. Some of them are straightforward and some are stretches and some are gratuitous and some are just-so stories and some are almost certainly true but untested. But they’re still there for a non-nefarious reason. Are people liable to be influenced by cultural preconceptions about traditional gender roles when spinning such speculative hypotheses? Maybe. Probably. I asked for examples.
    I also think that, as Marjonovi’c likes to say: to a biologist, “the closer you get to humans, the worse the science gets.”

    Second question: that depends entirely on what you mean by “similar”. If, as I suspect, you mean ‘appearing to at least some observers to be possibly motivated by preconceived social biases about traditional gender roles’, then you are assuming the ubiquity of the very thing the ubiquity of which I am questioning.

    Why are daft studies like the monkey toy preference one done at all?

    I’ve said everything I had to say about that paper multiple times before, including several attempts at clearly explaining my answer to your question. You were there, KG, evidently not listening, and I’m not repeating myself.

    Ms. Cutter:

    Some women who attended the meeting said they felt that Summers was implicitly endorsing the notion that…

    some…said…felt…implicit…notion
    I’m not trying to invalidate anybody’s feelings.
    Yet afuckingain: The only thing I have ever argued about wrt Summers was about what he said. OK? What he said. I have never and will not now defend what he said and certainly not what a lot of people think he said. Again, I use the story only as an example of telephone-game-like evolution of favorite anti-EP boilerplate.

    jmst:

    I reserve a right to call bad science – bad science. Try it once in a while.

    Why don’t you try biting me, asshole? I have not called it good science nor bad science. I haven’t even read it closely. See above.

    you didn’t reply to my analogy

    I couldn’t be bothered to try to folow it in the frankly stoned state in which I first read it. But, OK, here:

    It’s stupid and multiply irrelevant.

    Incidentally, since you seem to be fond of picturing yourself as the one and only person in this discussion who’s “coming at it as a scientist”

    Fuck you, asshole. You know damn well I said that specifically about a different “this” of Paul’s and now you’re trolling me for some reason. So fuck you.

    could you please point out where I’ve criticised EP for anything other than doing science really sloppily?

    I could not. Could you point out where I claimed anything like that about you? You could not.

    Unless you mean this?
    appears that way to whom? A: to those whose own preconceptions fuel their hyperskepticism
    I didn’t actually mean to aim that at you specifically; sory to have perhaps implied otherwise.
    I should have said ‘One possible A:’ (because it appears to me that that’s often but OK not always the case).

    That’s plain dishonest: they didn’t “float” the hypothesis: by their choice of title for the paper they made an explicit claim that their data is evidence for that hypothesis.

    Fuck you, KG. I might be wrong but I’m not dishonest. I assume you’re referring to the term ‘Biological Components’ in their title. You’re wrong about it. It does not refer to the tacked-on adapive evolutionary explanation you seem to think it does. They make a case–and I don’t give a fuck whether it’s a good or a bad case–that their preference data are explained by some stuff about “weights on the two fundamental neural dimensions that underlie color coding in the human visual system”. That‘s what the title refers to, OK? What that actually means doesn’t matter to me but I do not appreciate being called dihonest because you didn’t read or comprehend the fucking paper.

    jmst:

    That’s nonsense.

    I don’t care! The article in no way purported to test the arguably stupid evolutionary hypothesis for which it became notorious! That is my one and only point! I am ignoring the rest of your long and interesting-looking but irrelevant post because I won’t be following your links right away.

    mouthyb@#142::
    I do not care about your porn collection. Honetly, I also do not care about your jobs and classes. I care very little more about your opinions about what some dabbling communications professor wrote in 1996. It’s never been in question that if you poke around for 5 minutes you can find utter crap of all kinds published in symposium volumes. Did you suppose that I would jump to defend some particularly egregious example just because you have it filed under EP? nope.

    @#145: you’ll have to be more specific. What conclusions are expressed too universally for you?
    If you do get back to the other things you cited, what I really want to know is why you think (or, I guess, if you think) the hypotheses tested, conclusions drawn, and/or explanations offered are motivated by defense of traditional gender roles rather than by actual evolutionary theory or knowledge. That’s the only claim with which I am arguing.

    slothrop@#143: thanks for those links.

    jmst@#144: Who the fuck are you even arguing with, man? Me? I’ve bookmarked the Fitch link (and the other 2) but a) he’s really not much of a “biologist”, b) I can’t imagine why you think I’d argue with any of those quotes, bolded or not, and c) I assure you that you need not tutor me in evolutionary biology.

    *It’s true, you know. I’ll defend or disagree with specific claims as I see them, but the fundamental core theory at the root of reasonable EP hypotheses is quite well established and empirically supported in the vast literature of non-anthropological behavioral ecology.

  131. says

    Chas: For a guy who ‘doesn’t care’, you sure like to flame. You should tuck that Freudian slip in.

    So here’s the deal, sparky: those studies, as I said, are case studies for why people have problems with EP. I notice you’ve not bothered to look at them and reply comprehensively, which I’d assume such a stalwart defender of EP would do, or even honestly, since I talked about the problem with methodology in a discipline which has way the fuck too many people who want just enough qualitative and quantitative methodology to look scientific.

    Also, the porn was an example, albeit a personal one, intended to prove a chuckle from some of the audience here. I’m pretty damn sure that there are more porn watching women floating around. You were not the intended recipient of that humor, mostly because you wouldn’t know contextual humor on pseudo-science if it bit you on the ass.

    I’ve had several run-ins with you on feminism, and I continue to refer you to the over 100 studies, articles and reviews which I posted to the wiki. Because you never say anything about it, I assume you never read them.

    I find this amusing because it signals the willingness to stay ignorant on the subject, and to defend what sure as shit looks like a version of science which can’t decide if it’s qualitative or quantitative, though you seem to love to mock anything which uses qualitative measures. If you’d bothered to read the studies I posted on this thread all the way through to the conclusions (and, FYI, these weren’t published in basket-weaving 101, the journal), and had read some of the feminism links I’d posted, you’d know exactly why I’m critiquing this kind of thing.

    Also, buddy, if you want to go personal, you’d better strap on your asbestos underpants, because I’m feeling feisty (and procrastinating homework.) Or, you could try being slightly polite and having a conversation with me about the portions of EP which use ridiculously bad science.

    But I’m really fucking tired of having these encounters with you. You aren’t arguing in good faith (good god, man, you love to avoid the point when you’re talking to me, to latch on to weird personal shit), and you’re too smart not to argue in good faith.

    I’m guessing you know nothing about them.

  132. ChasCPeterson says

    For a guy who ‘doesn’t care’, you sure like to flame.

    I’ve been specific and explicit about what I don’t care about. On the other hand, if I write a paragraph about it, you can assume I care somewhat.

    So here’s the deal, sparky

    *flips a bird*

    those studies, as I said, are case studies for why people have problems with EP

    yeah…”people” you say…

    I notice you’ve not bothered to look at them and reply comprehensively

    I did in fact look at them. I did not reply “comprehensively”, it’s true. It’s that ‘busy’ thing and plus the ‘don’t care much’ thing. I did reply, though, to each one. Separately. It’s obvious that I looked!

    which I’d assume such a stalwart defender of EP would do

    lol.
    I am no such thing.
    I am a critic of (what I perceive as) facile reasoning and the ideological denial of science. I claim no expertise in EP; I am barely conversant on the literature (and you should admit the same thing).

    the problem with methodology in a discipline which has way the fuck too many people who want just enough qualitative and quantitative methodology to look scientific.

    Whatever. I am not, as you seem to be implying, a big fan of EP writ large.
    I do not admire psychologists as a group. (I also do not admire sociologists as a group.) We could talk about specific claims and specific methodological issues of specific papers. (We could, but I’m not interested.) Do you understand? I am not supporting a blanket thumbs-up to ‘EP’. I am, instead, criticizing your blanket thumbs-down.

    you wouldn’t know contextual humor on pseudo-science if it bit you on the ass

    uh, ok.
    Have a nice day.

    I’ve had several run-ins with you on feminism

    Nope. You have not. Never even once. Whatever run-ins we have had have been about something much more specific than ‘feminism’. I have never, ever, even once in my life posted a comment critical of ‘feminism’.
    I started self-identifying as a feminist in 1978 and only stopped after reading Chris Clarke on the subject.
    fwiw.

    I find this amusing because it signals the willingness to stay ignorant on the subject

    You know nothing of my knowledge or ignorance. So you can shove your amusement.

    and to defend what sure as shit looks like a version of science which can’t decide if it’s qualitative or quantitative, though you seem to love to mock anything which uses qualitative measures

    blah.
    blah.
    blah.

    If you’d bothered to read the studies I posted on this thread all the way through to the conclusions (and, FYI, these weren’t published in basket-weaving 101, the journal), and had read some of the feminism links I’d posted, you’d know exactly why I’m critiquing this kind of thing.

    I saw where they were published. Your problem is apparently with the editors and reviewers (if any) of those journals and symposia.
    Not with me.
    I think I know precisely why you’re critiquing “this sort of thing” whatever that’s supposed to mean. Frankly, I wonder if you do.

    Also, buddy

    yes, pal?

    if you want to go personal

    no, thank you

    you’d better strap on your asbestos underpants

    no, thank you.
    (wait, why, because you’re going to, what, shoot a flamethrower at my genitalia? no, thank you!)

    you could try being slightly polite and having a conversation with me

    these are not mutually exclusive. I try to take people as they come to me. Pal.

    about the portions of EP which use ridiculously bad science.

    Ah. But you see, these are precisely the portions about which I do not give a fuck.

    I’m really fucking tired of having these encounters with you.

    *shrug*
    Don’t.
    Nobody’s twisting yer arm.

    You aren’t arguing in good faith

    You’re wrong about that. I might be an asshole, but when not sarcastic I am sincere.

    (good god, man, you love to avoid the point when you’re talking to me, to latch on to weird personal shit)

    I deny that too. There’s no personal shit, weird or otherwise. What’s the point(s) I have allegedly avoided?

    I’m guessing you know nothing about the studies in the feminism wiki.

    You’re going to have to be more specific. And then you’re going to have to admit that you know nothing about a freaking fuckton of shit that I do.

    So what?

  133. ChasCPeterson says

    But. Again. The point:
    I am not claiming that all, most, or any “EP” is good science or bad science.
    I am denying that it has anything to do with feminism either way.

  134. jmst says

    It’s stupid and multiply irrelevant.

    How so? Anyway, that’s not an answer to my question – would you, or would you not, criticise such a practice of letting your preconceptions slip into your science, if only in the form of tentative “bits tacked onto the end”? Would you, or would you not, think that it throws a bad light on the field as a whole if such goes basically unchallenged? If the answer to either of these is “yes”, how’s this different from what we’re seeing in EP?

    Why don’t you try biting me, asshole? I have not called it good science nor bad science. I haven’t even read it closely.

    And yet you’re treating any and all criticism as “facile reasoning and the ideological denial of science”.

    They make a case–and I don’t give a fuck whether it’s a good or a bad case–that their preference data are explained by some stuff about “weights on the two fundamental neural dimensions that underlie color coding in the human visual system”. That‘s what the title refers to, OK?

    What if? That still doesn’t warrant postulating a “biological component of sex difference”. The stuff about the two different dimensions seems legit, but the fact that individual preferences build on it doesn’t show they’re innate, if anything it’s evidence of channelled learning, and it certainly doesn’t show that the statistically significant sex effect in individuals’ preferences in the two populations studied is anything other then the product of different environments during acquisition.

    Because authors purporting to have demonstated some sort of biological phenomenon are obliged to offer and evaluate explanations for their data.

    That’s frequently not what happens in EP, though. In my field, when we have demonstrated a phenomenon, we try to outline as nearly as we can all plausible explanations that are consistent with currently available data and make explicit which kind of future research could ultimately help distinguish between them. What we see instead in EP is that non-adaptive explanations (e.g. making reference to constraints on development, or phenotypic plasticity) are dismissed without argument or, worse, not even considered, and rarely are empirical predictions of the adaptationist hypotheses that end up being presented as if they were the only plausible explanations spelt out.

  135. jmst says

    a) he’s really not much of a “biologist”

    lol. Tell me more about it, please do. You think that a guy the main focus of whose empirical research throughout his career has been on the physiological mechanisms and ecological significance of animal vocalisations somehow magically becomes “not much of a scare-quotes-biologist” by virtue of also also publishing his considerations on the problem of language evolution from a comparative biological perspective? LOL again.

    b) I can’t imagine why you think I’d argue with any of those quotes, bolded or not

    Nothing, really – other than your persistent refusal to acknowledge that people’s criticism of EP might by motivated by anything other than ideologically based denial of science, or your defense of the either-you’re-with-us-or-you’re-against-us mentality that emenates from so much work in EP, including, unfortunately, Steven Pinker’s (we’re writing underneath a comment on stuff he said in one of his books, after all). So which one is it: Do you have problems understanding that people see the habit of relating their findings, valid as they may be, to a caricature version of evolutionary theory that no biologist would want to defend these days (if indeed they ever did) as potentially jeopardising progress in cognitive science and hampering productive inquiry, yes or no? If yes, you should be arguing with all of those quotes (although maybe I should have included the paragraph where he applies the Panglossian label for good measure). If no, you must be trolling.

    c) I assure you that you need not tutor me in evolutionary biology

    Good fer ya. And yet you’re fantasising about “denial of science” when people point out that given what we know – among other things – from evolutionary biology, EP is doing a very poor job at motivating their assumptions and considering alternative explanations.

  136. ChasCPeterson says

    that’s not an answer to my question

    Learn to live with disappointment.

    I am not, as you seem to imagine, arguing that conclusions based on cultural preconceptions are OK in science.

    I am also not arguing that some EP studies (such as those cited by mouthyb) do not and have not reached conclusions and/or tested hypothese and/or tendered speculative hypotheses that are consistent with cultural preconceptions of traditional gender roles (or can be seen that way).

    This is all stipulated, so please do not try to argue with me about it any more.

    I am questioning the leap in logic behind the common assertion that hypotheses in EP are motivated by the defense of cultural preconceptions of traditional gender roles rather than by ‘good science’ or by valid evolutionary theory and empirical knowledge of animal behavior. I am deeply skeptical of this specific claim, which is used by many people to simply dismiss anything, be it hypothesis, conclusion, or even data, if they can label it ‘EP’. I believe this dismissal to be ideologicallay motivated for the most part, and the quibbles about ‘good science’ to follow as rationalizations for adhering to their own preconceptions. And I think that’s stupid.
    Present company excepted, of course.

    how’s this different from what we’re seeing in EP?

    It’s different because it’s not clear to me that preconceptions are slipping into the science. You seem to take this for granted. That’s what I’m arguing about.

    you’re treating any and all criticism as “facile reasoning and the ideological denial of science”

    Any and all criticism? Dude, I’ve cheerfully stipulated most of your actual criticisms. See above for what I’m actually arguing–not even, asking about.

    What if?

    As pointed out now several times already, your problem is with the authors, reviewers, and editors of the article in question. not with me.

    What we see instead in EP is that non-adaptive explanations (e.g. making reference to constraints on development, or phenotypic plasticity) are dismissed without argument or, worse, not even considered, and rarely are empirical predictions of the adaptationist hypotheses that end up being presented as if they were the only plausible explanations spelt out.

    Who’s “we” Kemosabe?
    I certainly agree that plausible alternatives should not in general be ignored or dismissed without reason. You won’t see me defending anything like that.
    Can you document these sweeping assertions about an entire literature?
    (also I’m not sure what you mean by ‘empirical predictions’)

    You think that a guy the main focus of whose empirical research throughout his career has been on the physiological mechanisms and ecological significance of animal vocalisations somehow magically becomes “not much of a scare-quotes-biologist” by virtue of also also publishing his considerations on the problem of language evolution from a comparative biological perspective?

    No, I don’t think that. I went off half-cocked there. I knew only about Fitch’s work with Hauser and/or Chomsky and I knew his degree was in linguistics, not biology. I see now that he also seems to have measured lots of vocal-tract lengths and thought about evolution of non-neural structures much more than I thought. So my bad.

    your persistent refusal to acknowledge that people’s criticism of EP might by motivated by anything other than ideologically based denial of science

    Here, I’ll spell it out: I believe that people’s motivation for policing the bad science in EP is for the most part motivated by their social ideology. Nobody is in the blogosphere arguing vehemently against the entire field of Materials Science or Malacology or Polymer Chemistry.
    Take mouthyb above: she interprets any defense of anything labelled ‘EP’ as an attack on feminism.

    But I save the term ‘science denial’ for rejection of empirical findings and data, not for all critics of all examples of ‘EP’. I have seen people, present company excepted, take it to that stage and beyond many times. I am not “fantasising” about that. But I do not claim it’s universal.

    If you are in fact a pure opponent of Bad Science wherever it may arise, then you’re an exception to the rule. Or perhaps you are a crusading anti-adaptationist or something. I strongly suspect, though, that however valid your analysis of EP as a field, the reason you feel so strongly about it is because of its perceived social implications or effects. If I’m wrong, I’m sorry.

    your defense of the either-you’re-with-us-or-you’re-against-us mentality that emenates from so much work in EP, including, unfortunately, Steven Pinker’s

    I have mounted no such defense.

    So which one is it: Do you have problems understanding that people see the habit of relating their findings, valid as they may be, to a caricature version of evolutionary theory that no biologist would want to defend these days (if indeed they ever did) as potentially jeopardising progress in cognitive science and hampering productive inquiry, yes or no?

    uh…Do I have problems understanding that people see EP that way? No, I know that people see it that way.
    My questions and whatever arguments I have actually made have been about why people see it that way and whether or not those perceptions are really accurate. The cartooning seems to usually go the other way, afaict. The implicit framing becomes feminists vs. racists.

    I do not have problems with the basic endeavor of asking valid questions about the relative importance of nature and nurture in effecting human behavior. Human brains did, in fact, evolve. There is a huge and burgeoning literature documenting the evolutionary biology of behavior in all kinds of other animals, and adaptation is always at the very least a plausible hypothesis. So the blacklisting of an entire field of inquiry for what I perceive as fundamentally ideological reasons bothers me. That’s where I’m coming from.

    people point out that given what we know – among other things – from evolutionary biology, EP is doing a very poor job at motivating their assumptions and considering alternative explanations.

    No offense, but people point things to me all the time that turn out to be bullshit. I think I’ve been pretty consistent about not rejecting people’s assertions about EP, but instead requesting them to document them beyond I-heard-EP-sez-women-evolved-to-pick-berries.

    I looked at mouthyb’s citations of presumably bcherry-picked bad examples and a desperate reactionary defense of mangling science in order to hang onto socially constructed rigid gender roles did not jump out at me.

  137. jmst says

    I am not, as you seem to imagine, arguing that conclusions based on cultural preconceptions are OK in science.

    I’m implying that you don’t think conclusions based on cultural preconceptions are generally OK in science. That’s why I gave you the analogy – to show that you’re applying special pleading in the case of (much of) EP.

    I am questioning the leap in logic behind the common assertion that hypotheses in EP are motivated by the defense of cultural preconceptions of traditional gender roles

    I’m not arguing that they’re motivated by such, just that the low level of scientific rigour in the field (and individual studies, especially if they have been published in high profile peer-reviewed journals, do demonstrate such to some degree because they have been given a pass by, you know, peers) leads to the inclusion of poorly motivated hypotheses because we’re all humans partly shaped by culture. But intent isn’t magic.

    As pointed out now several times already, your problem is with the authors, reviewers, and editors of the article in question. not with me.

    How does that boster your case? If the reviewers didn’t spot that the specific papers we have been discussing were lacking a discussion of plausible alternative explanations and/or jumping to conclusions, that only serves to show that the blind spots that are being criticised are widespread in the field.

    which is used by many people to simply dismiss anything, be it hypothesis, conclusion, or even data, if they can label it ‘EP’.

    I’ve not seen any of that in this thread. I’ve seen people question particular poorly motivated claims or hypotheses, ones that you explicitly refuse to defend.

    I went off half-cocked there. I knew only about Fitch’s work with Hauser and/or Chomsky

    Fair enough. That probably is his most well-known strand of work, but it doesn’t exhaustively define him. Glad we cleared that up.

    Here, I’ll spell it out: I believe that people’s motivation for policing the bad science in EP is for the most part motivated by their social ideology.

    What if? In my view, policing bad science (if that’s what it is, and as long as you’re unwilling to defend the specific claims people have been criticising, you won’t make me believe otherwhise) is a good thing, whatever the motivation.

    Nobody is in the blogosphere arguing vehemently against the entire field of Materials Science or Malacology or Polymer Chemistry.

    True, but that can mean a lot of things. It could mean that the amount of bad science in these fields is nowhere close to EP, it could mean that people prioritise their scrutiny to fields where bad science rather directly translates to bad policies, or it could be that those fields are just to specialised for anybody who isn’t an insider to meaningfully criticise it – unlike EP which explicity poaches on the territory of many fields, making it easier for outsiders to spot errors.

    Take mouthyb above: she interprets any defense of anything labelled ‘EP’ as an attack on feminism.

    [citation needed]

    I strongly suspect, though, that however valid your analysis of EP as a field, the reason you feel so strongly about it is because of its perceived social implications or effects.

    Again, what if? If the criticism is valid, my motivations should be irrelevant, don’t you think so?

    I do not have problems with the basic endeavor of asking valid questions about the relative importance of nature and nurture in effecting human behavior.

    Neither do I.

    Human brains did, in fact, evolve.

    Tell me who’s claimed or implied otherwise. In fact, every single reference I’ve provided in this discussion assumes that, and quite a few of them point out specifics of how it seems to have evolved, facts that often don’t fit the standard EP story very well.

  138. ChasCPeterson says

    you’re applying special pleading in the case of (much of) EP.

    But I’m not. I haven’t made a claim I need to defend. Scroll back up and read it all again if you must, but I have consistently been challenging others to back their claim that “conclusions based on cultural preconceptions” are typical of “much of EP”. It just keeps getting asserted.

    the low level of scientific rigour in the field

    see, there’s another positive fact-claim that I could easily question. (I’m not going to because I don’t intend to return to this thread.) People (you are but one example, so don’t take this personally) just keep on asserting stuff like this as if everybody already knows it. Many people (present company excepted) do so seemingly having never read so much as an abstract of a primary source in their lives.

    How does that boster your case?

    Repeat: I have no case to bolster.

    If the reviewers didn’t spot that the specific papers we have been discussing were lacking a discussion of plausible alternative explanations and/or jumping to conclusions, that only serves to show that the blind spots that are being criticised are widespread in the field.

    You’re a nut. It does no such thing. It only serves to show that your problem is, like I said, with the authors, reviewers, and editors of that paper. Not with me. All I want to know (still, but not with much remaining interest) is why you think whatever flaws you find in that article a) are caused by cultural preconceptions and b) ought to be considered typical of ‘EP’.

    I’ve not seen any of that in this thread.

    No, but I was summarizing several years of on-line experiences, not this thread.

    Tell me who’s claimed or implied otherwise.

    Nobody, man. You have a bad habit of taking my words out of context so you can take it personally or play gotcha or something. It’s been tiresome.

  139. KG says

    Point is: The evolutionary hypothesis was again a brief bit tacked onto the end of the Discussion as a heuristic explanatory hypothesis. – ChasCPeterson

    I was wrong about the title, I admit. But the evolutionary hypothesis is mentioned in the abstract, it’s mentioned in the first paragraph, and it takes up around 1/5 of the text. So I still say you’re still being dishonest. As for the monkey toy study, yes I was paying attention, and I’ve seldom seen anyone not a creobot or an outright MRA come out with such a load of hooey on this blog as you did in defending that piece of nonsense. Here is the paper in question for anyone who wants to see what we were arguing about: evolved sex differences in preferences for pots vs police cars going back tens of millions of years.

  140. ChasCPeterson says

    evolved sex differences in preferences for pots vs police cars going back tens of millions of years.

    lol.
    And you have the gall to call me dishonest?

    I repeat; Fuck you, KG.

  141. ChasCPeterson says

    the evolutionary hypothesis is mentioned in the abstract, it’s mentioned in the first paragraph, and it takes up around 1/5 of the text.

    It escaped your notice that the Summary and first paragraph are identical; that’s just Current Biology format, as it is in Nature. There is no Abstract. The reason it appears there is because it’s suppose to function like an Abstract, summarizing the whole paper. So there really is only one mention of the evolutionary hypothesis and it does indeed appear only in the portion of the article corresponding to the Discussion, and it is couched in appropriately tentative and speculative language. It is neither a conclusion nor is it a truth claim.

    But this is what I said in my very first comment on theis thread.
    Critics of EP very commonly, in my experience, either ignorantly or rhetorically elide the differences between statements like “we show” and “we suggest”. They mean diferent things.

    I am not defending the article, btw, I am criticizing your misreading of it. Yet again: my sole interest in that paper is the urban myth to which it has given rise.

    And I really don’t appreciate your continuing accusations of dishonesty.

  142. jmst says

    I have consistently been challenging others to back their claim that “conclusions based on cultural preconceptions” are typical of “much of EP”. It just keeps getting asserted.

    (emphasis added)

    Really? What about the specific papers we’ve been discussing? People, including myself, have explicitly stated exactly where the authors jumped to unwarranted conclusions while ignoring plausible alternative interpretations of the data. You may not want to call it “conclusions based on cultural preconceptions”, but in the very least those are conclusions based on the unchallenged assumption that whatever we can observe is to be treated as (a) innate (whatever that even means), and (b) adaptive absent evidence to the contrary, with a common sense jumping in to pick among the virtual infinity of potential interpretation even that leaves us with.

    You’re a nut. It does no such thing. It only serves to show that your problem is, like I said, with the authors, reviewers, and editors of that paper. Not with me. All I want to know (still, but not with much remaining interest) is why you think whatever flaws you find in that article a) are caused by cultural preconceptions and b) ought to be considered typical of ‘EP’.

    a) depends what you mean with “caused by cultural preconceptions”. Sloppy methodology leaves the door wide open to “common sense” a.k.a. prejudices which all of us have. The only way to avoid that is to be strident in your methodology and conservative in your conclusions. I’m not saying that EP practicioners are worse in their prejudices than the rest of us, only that the structure and practice of the paradigm makes their prejudices have more of an impact than elsewhere; b) what more do you expect than particular papers that (i) have been given a pass by reviewers, presumably established researchers in the field themselves – that’s who you send a draft to, even more so when you’re an editor of a journal with a scope as broad as Current Biology and thus intrinsically unable to judge the merit of individual submissions in all subfields covered personally – , and (ii) have been cited approvingly in other publications?

    I also notice that you haven’t backed up any of your allegations about other people’s behaviour – in a couple of cases, you claimed you weren’t talking about this thread, but what about that specific claim about a specific participant in this thread and what they allegedly said right here? I asked you to back that up too. Here it is, give it a go: “Take mouthyb above: she interprets any defense of anything labelled ‘EP’ as an attack on feminism. ” citation needed.