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Convergence Day 1 #cvg2013

This was my first day at Convergence 2013.

We started with travel and manual labor: we drove from Morris to Bloomington in two cars loaded to the gills with people and material, and then parked way way out in the crowded lot and hauled stuff armload by armload to our party room. We also got registered, an arduous task that was taking some people 3-5 hours (hey, Convergence admins: make fixing that your top priority for next year. I met people in the parking lot who were discouraged by the lines and left.)

First panel: Evolutionary Psychology, with Stephanie Zvan moderating, and Greg Laden (a biological anthropologist), me (neuroscience by training, evo devo by occupation), and Indre Viskontas (neuroscience) (and who I met for the first time, and who was on a panel at an SF con for the first time…she’s good). My main point: Developmental plasticity is all. The fundamental premises of evo psych are false.

Second panel: Worldbusters, in which we confronted bad science in SF stories. It was moderated by Jason Thibeault, and in attendance were me, Laura Okagaki, and Siouxsie Wiles…all biologists! My take home here was that everything biological is going to obey the laws of thermodynamics, and bioenergetics is important: most SF aliens do things that require absurd energy consumption. Don’t do that.

I attended the War on Science panel. They didn’t know anything about the ongoing conflict with creationism, were largely accommodationist, and the end devolved into a defense of…religion. Bleh.

Third panel, Prometheus Debunked. Rebecca Watson compiled clips of the very worst moments in that awful movie, while Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett provided the running gags, while I played the curmudgeonly scientist who grumbled bitterly in the corner. And spilled Kevin Murphy’s beer. It was hilarious. Rebecca and I agreed on the best scene in the movie, because it was pro-abortion and had an alien squid baby.

The Party Room! I missed most of it, because all my panels were scheduled for the evening. We had a good crowd, though, a lovely room and lots of fresh fruit, healthy snack chips, and water…and, oh yeah, a bar serving a concoction we called an Amygdala Reanimator. Murphy and Corbett joined us late in the evening, and Amanda Marcotte was the DJ. Unfortunately, Dan Fincke had to hector me about my ill-mannered nature. I just have to say that I think passion is a god-damned superpower, and sometimes rage is the message. I don’t think he gets it.

Today: the party continues, room 228, 7 or 8 pm on, stop by! I’ve got three evening panels again. I’ll probably get harangued at again, since that is my fate. One of the loons on Twitter who is not here is calling for a walkout of all of my panels; he’s calling it #TheRising. No one walked out yesterday, and I had mostly full rooms every time (Worldbusters was a bit underattended because it was scheduled in parallel with a lot of other very popular panels, including Watson’s Skepticism 101, right next door.) I expect they’ll all be a testimony to his irrelevance and failure, again.

Also, my wife and I are being sensible and making a light schedule of it all. It’s only the beginning of day 2, we’ve got days 3 and 4 to go. We’re pacing ourselves.

Comments

  1. Louis says

    Passion is a superpower? Agreed, but sadly it is not often recognised as such.

    Louis

  2. Rey Fox says

    Rebecca Watson compiled clips of the very worst moments in that awful movie, while Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett provided the running gags, while I played the curmudgeonly scientist who grumbled bitterly in the corner.

    Awesome.

    Too bad the room must have been too lefty for Mike Nelson.

  3. says

    most SF aliens do things that require absurd energy consumption. Don’t do that.

    Screw you, old man. If I want tentacle monsters, I’m having them. But I’ll fully admit that most sci fi is impossible, which I imagine is more tolerable than the inverse.

    One of the loons on Twitter who is not here is calling for a walkout of all of my panels; he’s calling it #TheRising

    …Well at least he’s not there.

  4. ChasCPeterson says

    My main point: Developmental plasticity is all. The fundamental premises of evo psych are false.

    wow. That’s a remarkable pair of assertions.
    My remark about them is: arrogant question-begging.

  5. anteprepro says

    They didn’t know anything about the ongoing conflict with creationist…and the end devolved into a defense of…religion.

    That’s an interesting combination. I’m betting the former contributes to the latter. Or perhaps the accomodationism makes them ignore the former so that they can better defend religion.

    Dan Fincke had to hector me about my ill-mannered nature

    You know, just recently I was wondering if Dan Fincke was still up to his old handwringing over Civility. I guess that answers that.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Developmental plasticity is all.

    Do humans differ qualitatively from all other animals in this regard?

  7. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Developmental plasticity is all.

    Nonsense.

    Even if you’re just talking about human psychology as phenotype.

  8. says

    I went into greater detail.

    Fundamental assumptions of evo psych: That you can infer an adaptive history from the distribution of current traits — that they are adaptations at all is an assumption usually not founded in evidence (this is not to deny that that there are features that are clearly the product of selection, but that you can’t pick an arbitrary attribute and draw elaborate scenarios for its origins). That behavioral features that have been selected for in our history are represented by modular components in the brain — again with rare exceptions, you can’t simply assign a behavioral role to a specific spot in the brain, just as you can’t assign a behavior to a gene. That the human brain is adapted to a particular environment, specifically the African savannah, and that we can ignore as negligible any evolutionary events in the last 10,000 years, that we can ignore the complexity of an environment most of the evo psych people have never seriously studied, and that that environment can dictate one narrow range of outcomes rather than permit millions of different possibilities.

    I’d also add that most evo psych studies assume a one-to-one mapping of hypothetical genes to behaviors, and never actually look at genes…and for that matter, ignore most human diversity to focus on a naive typological simplicity that allows them to use undergraduate psych majors at Western universities as proxies for all of humanity.

  9. says

    Developmental plasticity vitiates most of the claims of evo psych. Without denying that some behaviors certainly have a strong biological basis, the differences in human behaviors are more likely to be a product of plasticity than of genetic differences.

    I think good evo psych would focus on human universals (much more likely to be driven by genetic properties!) than all this stuff seeking justifications for cultural differences between the sexes or the races or arbitrary subgroups.

  10. anteprepro says

    One of the loons on Twitter who is not here is calling for a walkout of all of my panels; he’s calling it #TheRising

    What the fuck is with these assholes? They are wringing their hands about FTBullies and bravesirheroes over discussions of science and science fiction ? Teh Menz Brigade is just fucking pathetic. Unfathomably so.

  11. David Wilford says

    I’m reminded of Dan Dennett’s phrase “greedy reductionism” when it comes to the sort of claims evo psych practitioners generally make. Offhand, about the only animal behaviors I can think of that are biologically based are the four F’s, and even those are pretty plastic in humans.

  12. anteprepro says

    Umm, not quite sure what is going on, but people who don’t normally don’t have links in their name now have links to the blog post that they are commenting on. Is this a new feature that I just can’t comprehend the benefits of, or is it some sort of mistake?

  13. Draken says

    Of course the science in science fiction isn’t accurate, you silly. Why do scientists even expect that? Have you ever heard magicians complain about the inaccuracy of the Patronus Charm in Harry Potter? I think not.

  14. swampfoot says

    When I saw Prometheus in the theater and the squid abortion came on, I actually leaned over to my wife and said “PZ is gonna LOVE this part!”

  15. whheydt says

    Two points…

    The way to get the party supplies to the room is to pull into the hotel unloading/registration area and borrow a bell cart. Tip well when you return it. If you’re concerned about the hotel getting their noses out of joint because of just *what* you’re bringing in (they make money on food and drink, after all), cover each load with a lightweight nylon tarp. In the future, just get the ConCom to work with the hotel on that issue.

    It’s just a bit unclear from the text whether the registration issue is con or hotel, but since hotels get a lot of practice handling large numbers of people, it’s probably a con issue.

    Roughly speaking, what it the con attendance? I run conreg for a medium sized, regional tabletop gaming convention (DunDraCon) and we had a bit over 1700 people this year. My goal is to *never* have a line at conreg. That is, of course, impossible in practice, but it does mean that our lines are short and very few people ever have to wait more than 5 to 10 minutes.

    I’d be interested to hear what the CONvergence conreg people are doing (or not doing) that is causing the delays. It’s possible that I have developed solutions to whatever is causing their problems.

  16. says

    I heard somewhere that attendance was roughly 7,000. One cause of the registration problems is that the first day of the con fell on the Fourth of July, and apparently there was a shortage of volunteers for this one day.

    Also, we were limited by the availability of printers, which made no sense: they had to print out name tags for each con goer, including those of us who preregistered months ago. Isn’t that the kind of thing you should do ahead of time, having packets pre-prepared for each registered attendee, so you only have to do on the spot printing for registrations at the door? That’s what bugged me. I got the privilege of expedited registration, there were only about 8 people in line ahead of me, and it still took half an hour because they had to take ID information, type in names, print out the registration badges, for attending pros.

    Like I said, it made no sense at all.

  17. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    I’d also add that most evo psych studies assume a one-to-one mapping of hypothetical genes to behaviors, and never actually look at genes…

    I don’t know about the assumption of 1:1 gene:variation mapping (I probably haven’t read that much evo-psych as you have), but clearly what I’ve read indicates that the presumption that genetic variation is all is rife in that literature. Further, at least most of the very strident claims from evo-psych that I’ve encountered, present zero evidence for that presumption.

    I think good evo psych would focus on human universals (much more likely to be driven by genetic properties!) than all this stuff seeking justifications for cultural differences between the sexes or the races or arbitrary subgroups.

    Further, if one were actually interested in making strident claims about heritable components of variation, one would actually have to quantify those components. This doesn’t require a 1:1 mapping assumption, as much as an analysis of contribution to behavioral variation (as in QTL studies). Most of how we do this in other organisms difficult to apply to humans, in that such methods (selective breeding; induction of environmental uniformity) are kind of unethical.
     

    So maybe I misunderstood what you meant by “developmental plasticity is all”…which would seem to indicate certain knowledge that heritable variation contributes no variation to human behavior.

    _________________________________________________________
    My two cents on the enjoyment of sci-fi: It requires (as does all other fiction) a certain suspenion of disbelief. My daughter was complaining this morning that a spider-character on “Cat in the Hat” (a cartoon) was anatomically incorrect. She was apparently unbothered by the fact that the spider could talk. I personally find any focus on future technology (especially in justifying that technology from a scientific point of view) to be jarring, and this mitigates my enjoyment of sci-fi.
     
    I’ve been reading “Stranger in a Strange Land” which is the first of Heinlein’s novels that I’ve read*. I’m only about fifty pages in, but I find that what details are offered about technology in a post-terran future (bugging device, meal preparation technology, and public transportation) are distracting, and I’d be just as happy if they weren’t there.
     
    *I’m reading it to fill in sort of a cultural lacuna that I have. At some point, I must read the Harry Potter series as well, but I have a lot ofother things on my list. It may be a while.

  18. David Wilford says

    DIY can only be scaled up so far, and someone on the concom needs to realize that getting badges done ahead of time by a professional service is a Good Idea.

  19. Rey Fox says

    They are wringing their hands about FTBullies and bravesirheroes over discussions of science and science fiction ?

    As I’m fond of saying these days, they’re going to miss everything cool and die angry.

    Meanwhile, Dan Fincke is going to miss everything cool and…just keep talking, I guess.

  20. latsot says

    One of the loons on Twitter who is not here is calling for a walkout of all of my panels

    Don’t worry, he’s claiming it worked anyway, even though nobody walked out. Apparently, anyone actually walking out is not a requirement for a walkout.

    He is also claiming that PZ is racist because most of the people in the audience of one panel appear to be white.

    This is a man who claims inventing the #FTBullies hashtag as his greatest achievement, so I don’t think PZ has too much to worry about.

  21. says

    Yeah, I’m with PZ’s more nuanced explanation of plasticity versus bad evo-psych. I’m pretty confident there are still genetically-based instincts, behaviors, and tendencies that are at work, but they’re buried under countless culturally-based learned behaviors and attitudes. If anyone wants to make a convincing argument for an evo-psych hypothesis, they’ll have to work really hard at sorting those genetic behaviors from cultural ones. Simply identifying which adaptations are universal in our genome and which are universal features of surviving human cultures (by way of memetic natural selection) would be a major challenge. You can’t just interview a bunch of local college students and jump to conclusions from there.

  22. Rob Grigjanis says

    My take home here was that everything biological is going to obey the laws of thermodynamics, and bioenergetics is important: most SF aliens do things that require absurd energy consumption.

    You seem to be making assumptions about alien biology. Last I heard, we didn’t know much about it. Any examples where the laws of physics are unquestionably broken? To rewrite Clarke’s third law slightly: Any sufficiently different biology might be indistinguishable from magic.

  23. says

    Antiochus Epiphanes, science fiction does tend to date horribly, especially if it’s set in a future time that has become a past time. The thing to do is to take the anachronistic tech as markers of a kind of fantasy (which SF is, of course), like European medieval trappings in fantasy-fantasy stories.

  24. says

    Will any session videos be available online? I’m being a bit lazy, but search results are overwhelmed with Microsoft Convergence results.

  25. Randomfactor says

    Yeah, yeah, evo-psych. Sure, exobiology. I’m waiting for the IMPORTANT data to come out.

    Amygdala Reanimator recipe?

  26. says

    #23: yes. Aliens that hatch out & immediately (within hours) grow to threatening size with no available energy source. Shapeshifting aliens that completely rearrange their anatomy in minutes or seconds.

  27. says

    26: it’s an amaretto sour with a gummi brain floating in it. Also, add a drop or two of vitamin B so it fluoresces under a black light.

  28. David Marjanović says

    Unfortunately, Dan Fincke had to hector me about my ill-mannered nature. I just have to say that I think passion is a god-damned superpower, and sometimes rage is the message. I don’t think he gets it.

    If you’re not outraged, you haven’t been paying attention!

    they had to print out name tags for each con goer

    What in the fuck.

    That’s the dumbest thing I’ve read all day. I’d have smashed a few hulks.

    search results are overwhelmed with Microsoft Convergence results

    …um.

    Google for convergence -microsoft, and Microsoft will overwhelm you no more!

  29. Rob Grigjanis says

    @27: Dramatic growth and transformations that take seconds don’t necessarily violate physical laws, unless perhaps if there’s an unaccountable change in mass. Maybe the buggers munch on Dark Matter. You seem to be assuming that principles of terrestrial biology must apply to alien species. Or are there established Universal Laws of Biology? Funny that no-one seems to blink when it comes to FTL travel.

    Actually, this is what bugs me about a lot of SF assumptions: That aliens must be like us in some remarkable ways*. If not (as is so often the case) humanoid, at least recognizable as possible terrestrial species, and apparently a lot easier to communicate with than, say, dolphins, or Republicans.

    *I’m not talking about Common Origin SF, like Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle (which has its own domesticated elephants).

  30. Matthew Hermes says

    I really wanted to attend your EvoPsych panel, but unfortunately I arrived about 2:00 PM which was apparently about 3 hours too late for that.

  31. whheydt says

    Re; PZ Myers @ 17:

    Yup. Pre-reg are put in our system as they come in. Their badges are printed, in bulk and in alpha order about a week before the con (after close of pre-reg).

    At the size of my operation, I only use one printer, though I am set up to use up to 6 data entry stations (in addition to up to a 4-way split of pre-reg badges). All data entry stations feed the same printer (the real work is done by the server, which “owns” the printer), but the code is written to support two printers and there is no reason why I couldn’t add more.

    For 7K people, assuming that 1/3 to 1/2 pre-reg, I’d probably set up 10 to 12 input stations and 3 printers. Pre-reg should probably have about a 6-way or 8-way split. Granted, that would require about 20 volunteers–plus, perhaps, a few more to help with any lines that develop–at peak times, but once the peak is passed, it would drop off fairly rapidly.

    Of course, it’s easy for me to kibbitz from 2K miles away…but if you want to give the con-reg people my e-mail address, feel free to do, or they can drop a line to registration AT dundracon.com.

  32. whheydt says

    Re: David Wilford @ 19:

    Amateurs have successfully run WorldCons with 10K members. At what point is the crossover that requires hiring “professional” convention services and do such people do any better than fen with not only years of experience running cons, but networks of friends to draw on to do it?

  33. David Wilford says

    whheydt @36:

    Worldcons are indeed amateur run and are generally run well (with notably rare exceptions like NOLAcon II in 1988) in no small part because there’s a back office of sorts of long-time fans who have Been There, Done That who can help when needed. The crossover comes when something like printing a few hundred badges grows to a several thousand, which makes it difficult for one or two people to do on their own in their spare time. That’s when you send your registration data to a professional printer to have them done after pre-registration is closed a month before the convention and you have to get them done in time to get them all back so you can assemble the pre-reg packets to include them.

  34. smhll says

    I almost want to make a joke as to whether the Con has an anti-hectoring policy.

    While I am not always civil (because I’ve seen some mightly nasty fake civility in our online community of combatants), I still have some lingering willingness to bake cookies (yes, I went there) for Dan F, because I thought his analysis of what was wrong with Ron Lindsay’s opening remarks at CFI was quite clear and accurate.

  35. Pierce R. Butler says

    PZ, go party &/or sleep. This nitpickery is for non-con readers:

    PZ Myers @ # : … evo psych: … That the human brain is adapted to a particular environment, specifically the African savannah…

    The savannah turned out to be a transition phase (in which plasticity made all the difference). I have more hope for evo-psych based mostly on chimp/bonobo studies & comparisons.

    For instance, to crib from a comment last year,

    I read Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World by Malcolm Potts & Thomas Hayden, which might be categorized as a feminist take on evo-psych.

    Potts is a doctor who’s spent most of his career treating women in war (& aftermath) zones, and pondering why such things happen. So he’s out of his field when dealing with evolution and psychology, but he doesn’t try to take his argument too far, focusing primarily on intra-species aggression.

    We see a common pattern of lethal attacks for territory and resources, conducted mostly by young-adult males against out-group individuals or smaller groups, in chimpanzees and humans. It’s not hard to see how this behavior benefits a family of chimps in the Congo rain forest, nor how this persistent pattern sometimes advances individuals but harms society among their hairless cousins.

    Perhaps those more knowledgeable will shoot this down, but I’d like to tentatively offer it as an example of evolutionary psychology (a phrase used only once, iirc) with useful conclusions.

    Other examples coming to mind tonight: Sarah Blaffer Hrdy & Frans de Waal.

    /nitpickery

  36. sbuh says

    I’ve always wondered why the Alien series aliens bother to break through the hard chest cavity rather than our soft belly meats, and the Prometheus squidbortion scene did pretty much confirm that they gestate in the gut region.

    My only conclusion is that the proclivity to migrate upward in the torso to burst through the chest is an evolutionary adaptation intended to make them more likely to survive in the world of Hollywood motion pictures.

  37. Nick Gotts says

    Pierce R. Butler@41,

    Obvious question: does this happen among bonobos, with their peaceable reputation? I suspect there haven’t been enough long-term studies of wild bonobos to be confident the answer is “no”, but if it is, maybe we should identify the responsible genes and borrow or copy them from bonobos for our children? :-p

    Or we could say: whether or not this sort of intra-species aggression has a biological basis, we know its prevalence varies enormously across human societies, so there’s no reason to think we can’t eliminate it entirely through social measures.

  38. David Marjanović says

    Violence in general is known from bonobos, though it’s less common.

  39. Pierce R. Butler says

    Nick Gotts @ # 43: … does this happen among bonobos…?

    According to Potts & Hayden, bonobos live to the south of the Congo River, while chimps & gorillas live on the north. The gorillas are leaf-eaters, and apparently have monopolized that food source, leaving the chimps to subsist on fruits; bonobos, having no such competition, eat both. The chimps are thus forced into a more aggressive lifestyle, each clan in friction with all its neighbors for territory, so violence comes more easily (and with individuals needing to forage solo, with more opportunity to attack lone victims).

    I oversimplify, as do Potts & Hayden (neither of whom is a primatologist) – but they do address our species’s prime pathology in what seems a productive way. Looking also at male violence against females, they have a lot to say about “social measures” – which I think many of us here would support.

    As for gene transfers, we might have better luck adding the ability to digest leaves to our genome. Just a few enzymes, to restore what those mean old gorillas took from our north-of-the-Congo ancestors…

  40. clastum3 says

    David Marjanović #44
    It’s not clear whether you mean intra-specific violence, which is more interesting.
    My little bit of research (i.e googling) indicates that there is some non-lethal intra-specific violence, but I’ve got to cut it short right now – will continue tomorrow.
    More striking seems to be that bonobo populations are already so small that there may be little more to be gleaned on this and other fascinating questions.

  41. ChasCPeterson says

    Seems that Jerry Coyne reacted the same way I did to PZ’s bullshit about evolutionary psychology above. He solicited a response from Steven Pinker; see here.

  42. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Oh, Chas, you mean somebody has figured out how to separate cultural adaptations from genetic adaptations? That is the problem a lot of us have with EP.

  43. gillt says

    I have some issues with evo-psych but I have a bigger issue with the idea that if you’re going to criticize any established scientific field, sub-field, whatever, at a pro-science conference the obvious thing to do would be to invite experts from that field. I mean no one is comparing EP to UFOlogy, right? Seems like an oversight.

  44. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I have some issues with evo-psych but I have a bigger issue with the idea that if you’re going to criticize any established scientific field, sub-field, whatever, at a pro-science conference the obvious thing to do would be to invite experts from that field. I mean no one is comparing EP to UFOlogy, right? Seems like an oversight.

    Many real working scientists like myself have a problem with EP being considered a science, and not just-so stories. The connection between genes and behavior, versus culture and behavior, is the screaming problem with EP. Frankly, I don’t care what supporters say until they can separate genetic behavior from cultural behavior. The former is unlikely to be changed in the near future, needing mutations and natural selection, whereas the latter is plastic and can be changed in a short time frame with changes in culture.

  45. ChasCPeterson says

    Seems like an oversight.

    You think? Seems to me more like intentional misrepresentation. (srsly, Amanda Marcotte?)
    Should have been billed as a fun game, not a discussion of science.

  46. ChasCPeterson says

    Thanks, Nerd; what was lacking here was a chemist’s opinion about psychology. Too bad you weren’t on the panel.

  47. gillt says

    The connection between genes and behavior, versus culture and behavior, is the screaming problem with EP. Frankly, I don’t care what supporters say until they can separate genetic behavior from cultural behavior. The former is unlikely to be changed in the near future, needing mutations and natural selection, whereas the latter is plastic and can be changed in a short time frame with changes in culture.

    Your problem with EP is practical then, not theoretical, wouldn’t you say? Like saying that since we haven’t found a gene for X disorder then there are no genes for X disorder, or that you’re not interesting in discussing X disorder, even questioning its existence, until we find those genes? If so then dismiss the field. And it just so happens that this is the view some take in regards to dyslexia. Maybe what EP needs are more creatively designed studies to get around the obvious problems of setting up human crosses.

  48. David Marjanović says

    David Marjanović #44
    It’s not clear whether you mean intra-specific violence

    I do! Sorry for not being clearer.

    More striking seems to be that bonobo populations are already so small that there may be little more to be gleaned on this and other fascinating questions.

    Sad, and probably true.

    And it just so happens that this is the view some take in regards to dyslexia.

    …uh. Dyslexia becomes much more common the more the spelling system works by Insane Troll Logic: Finnish < German < English.

  49. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If so then dismiss the field.

    No, what I’m saying is that there is a difference between genetic predispositions and cultural predispositions. And until that separation is figured out, trying to pretend everything is genetic is bullshit. Right Chas? Isn’t that being scientific?

  50. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I don’t think it is dismissing the field to say it is incomplete. But it does need to get its act together, and doesn’t appear to be doing so. Basically, it needs to survey instead of one college class with a hundred people, a hundred cultures world-wide. Again, again, and again, in order to begin to separate cultural and genetic predisposition. Which is what I think PZ has also been saying for years….

  51. gillt says

    I thought EP’s biggest sin was seeing everything as a Kanazawa-esque savannah theory adaptation, to which the common response is decade’s old Gould and Lewontin.

    But the natura v. nurture questions have been anticipated in a different field, behavioral genetics, and for a long time (e.g., twin studies). That work surely influences EP thinking and is based in evolutionary theory. I think your general criticism goes well beyond EP and into other fields fo evolutionary biology.

  52. gillt says

    Basically, it needs to survey instead of one college class with a hundred people, a hundred cultures world-wide.

    That’s two things: sample size and distribution. But the problem with adequately sampling enough populations is not an EP problem per se but extends to all of psychology. In my experience arguing over distributions and ranges and sample numbers comes up all the time in phylogenetics and that’s in the business of speciation! But you work with what you have I guess.

    Deevy Bishop says as much

    When you have the kind of sample size that experimental or clinical psychologists often work with, with 25 participants per group, a p of .001 is indicative of a big effect, with a mean difference between groups of almost one SD. However, you may be surprised at how small the effect size is when you have a large sample. If you have a sample of 3000 or so, then a difference of just 1-2 points (or .08 SD) will give you p < .001. Most molecular genetic studies have large sample sizes. Geneticists in this area have learned that they have to have large samples, because they are looking for small effects!

  53. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    But the natura v. nurture questions have been anticipated in a different field, behavioral genetics, and for a long time (e.g., twin studies). That work surely influences EP thinking and is based in evolutionary theory. I think your general criticism goes well beyond EP and into other fields fo evolutionary biology.

    When you are talking human population as whole, you need to sample the whole population. DUH. Not just nature/nurture, which is often Canada versus US, not US versus New Guinea rain forest.

  54. gillt says

    When you are talking human population as whole, you need to sample the whole population

    Ideally, we would annotate the whole genome of every organism across all populations in any evolutionary study before building a single species tree and drawing conclusions (and yet papers are still published using mitochondrial DNA alone). But that is no more feasible than for any one EP study to sample every culture across the globe. Instead of that, maybe the interpretation of the available data needs to be better couched.

  55. Nick Gotts says

    But the natura v. nurture questions have been anticipated in a different field, behavioral genetics, and for a long time (e.g., twin studies). That work surely influences EP thinking and is based in evolutionary theory – gillt

    No, I don’t think there’s any very close connection. Twin studies are aimed largely at the explication of individual differences, and how far they are due to heredity. EP purports to discover and account for human psychological universals: behavioural differences between the sexes are one of its central concerns, but differences between individuals are not.

  56. gillt says

    You may be right Nick Gotts, but even individual psychological variation, at least that which his hereditary, requires an evolutionary framework and can make use of classic twin studies. An easy example would be altruism, a trait which corresponds to genetic relatedness. Wouldn’t MZ twins show greater altruism toward one another than DZ twins? Whether this is something being pursued in EP I’m not sure.