This is why I can’t stand evolutionary psychology: the field reduces evolution to a meaningless modifier that isn’t tested or used to inform the results at all. This article on The Science Behind Why So Many Women Want to Befriend Gay Men is not only free of any testing of evolutionary hypotheses, but doesn’t even question the assertion in the title.
It starts with a claim.
During the course of my research, I’ve discovered that the most interesting, compelling—and, arguably, most theoretically coherent—explanation is through the lens of evolution.
Specifically, I believe evolutionary psychology and human mating can help explain why relationships between straight women and gay men tend to flourish.
Do relationships between straight women and gay men flourish more than those between straight women and straight men? Gay men and gay women? Straight women and straight women? Etc. There’s certainly a stereotype at play here…how well tested is it? How meaningful is it? If you’re going to claim to be testing an evolutionary explanation, is this property heritable and variable in the population, does it or has it affected reproductive success or survival in some way?
You will not be surprised to learn that those questions aren’t answered. They aren’t even asked. Here’s how the experiments were done.
In these experiments, straight female participants were shown fictitious Facebook profiles depicting either a straight woman, straight man or gay man. The female participants were then asked how likely they would be to trust the individual’s dating advice.
I also recruited gay male participants, and had them complete the same task (with the gay men viewing Facebook profiles depicting a straight female, gay male or lesbian female).
Here’s how I react to that.
No. There is nothing in those experiments that tests any evolutionary hypothesis. You could make an argument that they’re looking at the psychology of college students in Texas, and that’s about it. Even at that, it’s limited in how it can be interpreted — it’s about how college students in Texas report they would feel about someone they know only from a facebook profile.
The lens of evolution, my ass.