You may have already heard that Ed Clint, a guy who has been dedicated to bashing Skepchick and Freethoughtblogs for over a year, has cloaked his biases in a pretense of objectivity and written a long critique of one of Rebecca Watson’s talks, accusing her of being a science denialist and anti-science because she so thoroughly ridiculed pop evo psych. The excesses and devious misrepresentations in that post were painful to read, as was the revelation that Clint is throwing away his career by jumping on the evo psych bandwagon in graduate school (I frequently advise students on good disciplines to pursue in grad school; bioinformatics and genomics have a great future ahead of them, as does molecular genetics and development, but evolutionary psychology is one I would steer them well clear of, as a field that has not and will not ever contribute much of substance. The good papers in evo psych are the ones that use the tools of population genetics well and avoid the paleolithic mumbo-jumbo altogether).
Fortunately, Stephanie Zvan has already torn into his ‘analysis’, showing that it’s mostly misplaced and misleading. I’m relieved, because I’m going to be tied up for a while, and I found Clint’s response to be extremely irritating.
One think that particularly rankled is that Clint puts up a pretense of being objective and that his criticisms are nothing personal; bizarrely, he even puts up a photo of himself taken with Rebecca Watson as if that were evidence that he’s not biased against her. What he doesn’t mention is that he’s been sharpening an axe since the “elevatorgate” episode; together with a disgruntled ex-FtB blogger who left in a bizarre huff over not getting enough respect, he founded a competing network (which is fine, of course) which they proceeded to stock almost entirely with writers with an an anti-FtB and strongly anti-Skepchick slant — I’ve had to laugh at the lineup which looks largely drawn from the ranks of the Slymepit, a notorious anti-feminist/anti-Rebecca Watson hate site, and my list of banned commenters. And looking at the people who comment there, again, they seem to be largely driven by hatred of Watson and feminism in general.
Again, that’s fine — we have biases here at FtB, too, in that we tend to be pro-feminist and when we founded it, I specifically told Ed Brayton that we needed to be sure to include more than just old white guys like us — but what isn’t fine is to lie about your motives. Any day, I’ll prefer open antagonism from an avowed enemy than fair and dissembling words from an Iago.
For example, after telling people to avoid insults in the comments, this is what Clint has to say:
Although PZ’s behavior is unfortunate, I would urge a modicum of compassion. I believe he lashes out because he feels so small and vulnerable, and because he is. I can think of few other reasons for such unprovoked barking. He is making a mistake in coming after me. He will be wounded by it. I wish it didn’t have to be this way, and that we could just have a calm chat about it.
Condescending and smarmy, isn’t he? Ick. He won’t call me names, he’ll just call me “small and vulnerable.” Man, I despise that kind of sliminess.
I’ll follow up on Stephanie’s post later this week, when my schedule calms down, and what I intend to do is dig into the substantive flaws in both Clint’s hatchet job and in that awful discipline of evolutionary psychology. Seriously, in the reviews Clint recommended to give the background on what evo psych is, I was appalled — do these people have any understanding of modern evolutionary theory at all? I think the answer is clearly “no.”