This is a repost of an article I wrote in 2012. This is one of the things I had in mind when I recently wrote “So you want to discredit an academic field“. It’s super old, so I felt it needed some light editing for clarity, and to remove references to old drama nobody cares about.
Both critics and defenders of evolutionary psychology (henceforth EP) agree that popular EP is terrible. The question is, how deep does it go? There are four possibilities:
- Journalists are misinterpreting and exaggerating studies.
- Journalists understand correctly, but pick out terrible studies from a generally reputable field.
- There are large sections of EP which are just bad, but attract more media attention.
- EP is rotten all the way through.
Case study: Argumentative Theory
The trouble is that you can hardly talk about EP without talking about specific examples of EP. And if you only have a few examples, people can accuse you of not having a large enough survey. But it’s hard to investigate more than a few examples, because we’re lazy and/or have jobs.