Heather Heying & Bret Weinstein have no credibility left


Not at all recommended: Heying and Weinstein’s evolutionary pseudoscience book, A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life.

Highly recommended: Zuk’s Paleofantasy.

I shall explain why.

Comments

  1. anon1152 says

    Their “omega principle seems to be defined here: https://www.nickjikomes.com/post/ep-36-transcript-heather-heying-bret-weinstein-culture-food-medicine-dating-evolution

    From the transcript:
    Nick Jikomes…
    In this first chapter, you also introduce something that you that you come back to a lot called the Omega principle, and we’ve alluded to it already. But let’s just state explicitly what that is.

    Heather Heying 19:11

    Sure. The omega principle is a specification for the relationship between epigenetic phenomenon, especially culture and the genome. And this is a place where evolutionary biology has had arguments and effectively has ended up in a kind of permanent agnostic state about what is the relationship between the evolution of memes and genes. And what we argue is that this relationship is actually it’s a two part relationship. It is something we can specify with precision, and it is obligate. So we have called it the Omega principle, because omega is a Greek letter, we hope to call to mind pi, because the fact is, the relationship between the diameter of a circle and it’s certainly France is obligated, in the same way to the relationship itself in the case of omega, is that epigenetic phenomena are inherently superior to genes in the sense that they are more flexible, more rapidly adapting, but they are inferior in the sense that they are subordinate to the objectives of the genome, the genome is in a position to shut down epigenetic phenomena. And to the extent that it does not shut them down. That is because they are serving the genomes interests.

    Nick Jikomes 20:31

    And so how did you come to that conclusion? I can recall sort of my especially my college education, where and many courses, it was this type of thing was described, you know, you’d often hear this in the nature nurture dichotomy that is often used to, you know, contextualize whatever you’re learning about in the classroom, you would often hear people say, Well, is it cultural? Or is it genetic? And what you’re saying is, that’s not an appropriate way of thinking about things

  2. hemidactylus says

    Per “epigenetic regulators” I dunno not having read their actual book to find out (low priority in my life below root canal without novocaine), but maybe they are channeling Lumsden and Wilson’s “epigenetic rules”?

    “[Wilson in Consilience] defined human nature as a collection of epigenetic rules, the genetic patterns of mental development. He argued that culture and rituals are products, not parts, of human nature. He said art is not part of human nature, but our appreciation of art is. He suggested that concepts such as art appreciation, fear of snakes, or the incest taboo (Westermarck effect) could be studied by scientific methods of the natural sciences and be part of interdisciplinary research.”

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._O._Wilson

    Wilson’s take is akin to gene-meme co-evolutionary speculation. I recall the Westermark thingy being researched per kids growing up away from parental units amongst close cohorts in Israeli kibbutzim and that non-related boys-girls reared together might be averse to marrying or some such later in life. Maybe not so, but would EO Wilson go from that to suggesting we only eat our native cuisine? He I think focused on culture being more constrained or leashed than memeticists assumed or especially the cultural anthropologists and other social constructionist open slaters.

    Also standard fare evolutionary psych had seemed to focus on mismatching between ancestral mind modules adapted for EEA and modern environments and not that stuff much more recent would have much effect (behavioral genetics, ecology, or another field?). Maybe more paleo diet for EP.

    Lactase persistence shows that diet can have an effect on genetic predisposition more recent than the fabled savannah of EEA. I do like Swedish meatballs but kimchi too. Not going near the surströmming ever. Sweden has no epigenetic claims on my palate or nose.

  3. leerudolph says

    Is the relationship between the diameter of a circle and “it’s certainly France” similar to the relationship Tuesday and “this must be Belgium”?

  4. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’m still waiting for the evo-psychotics to show with physical evidence how either cultural training changes the the DNA in the germ lines, or admit it doesn’t happen. I’ll be long dead before either happens.

  5. hemidactylus says

    @6-Nerd of Redhead

    Are Weinstein and Heying fairly representative of ev psych? They are newsworthy because the ivermectin stuff. On WEIT even Coyne has thrown shade at them [“Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying go unvaccinated for Covid, take and promote Ivermectin instead”- 9-16-21 my bit of WEIT hate-reading 🤣].

    The ivermectin stuff made an awkward rambling appearance in one of the lowlights of a recent podcast featuring Boghossian, who confused the hell out of me with the bizarre WTF aside (comes in around after 48:41 from my notes):

    https://youtu.be/B6KvOGL3RII

    Another priceless part is PB’s odd take on creationism at 54:37 onward.

    But I digress. Beyond the current newsworthy aspect, and their book I probably won’t ever read, are they representative of ev psych? I have my own misgivings about that field based mostly on the go-to Gould shortcircuit of nonaptive spandrels, but Peez seems to really enjoy eviscerating the worst case scenarios and they fit the bill as portrayed.

  6. birgerjohansson says

    That book sounds like something that could have been written 15-20 years ago. Is there really a market for it today, beyond the Goop customers?

  7. chrislawson says

    anon1152–

    Thanks for posting that so I didn’t have to read the whole thing myself. Judging by that transcript, the ‘Omega Principle’ is claptrap designed to sell books to the sort of readers impressed by Deepak Chopra…

    Epigenetics is subservient ‘to the genome’s interest’? The genome has ‘an interest’? Is this interest the genome as a whole? Or do the interests of individual genes and control regions count? Does the genome’s interest act on the chromosomal scale? Or is it at the linkage level? If you have heterozygous sickle cell anaemia that is protective against malaria, is this serving the genome’s interest? What if you die young from homozygous sickle cell anaemia? Where exactly is the ‘precision’ Heying promises for the Omega Principle? How does one measure it or infer its value? What units does it have? If not conventionally measurable, what are its testable hypotheses? Did they call it the Omega Principle to piggy-back on the name of an already well-known book on an unrelated subject or were they just careless? Is France a circle?

    From the farrago in that transcript, the Omega Principle is just specified complexity for the dumber end of evopsych crowd.

  8. PaulBC says

    I started to watch, but I don’t feel any need to know more. “Professors in Exile. Please stay there!” pretty much sums it up.

    WTF is it with antivax pro-ivermectin people? Is it like the tide pod challenge for adults? Dare to be stupid? I mean, there are things about the alt-right that I think I understand and despise. But this one just boggles my mind. I give up.

  9. woozy says

    Sure. The omega principle is a specification for the relationship between epigenetic phenomenon, especially culture and the genome. And this is a place where evolutionary biology has had arguments and effectively has ended up in a kind of permanent agnostic state about what is the relationship between the evolution of memes and genes.

    Phew! For a moment there I was afraid it’d be something vague.

  10. Tethys says

    This line of reasoning is nonsensical.

    So we have called it the Omega principle, because omega is a Greek letter,

    Yes, omega is a Greek letter. I don’t know what this is supposed to explain about the principal. I presume they are claiming it’s like Jesus, with his “I am the alpha and omega”.

    we hope to call to mind pi, because the fact is, the relationship between the diameter of a circle and it’s certainly France is obligated,

    I assume she actually says it’s circumference rather than France, though I don’t know why it’s obligated.

    in the same way to the relationship itself in the case of omega

    Does omega have a numeric value? If so, I doubt it relates to PI as a mathematical concept.

    is that epigenetic phenomena are inherently superior to genes in the sense that they are more flexible, more rapidly adapting,

    How bizarre to imagine that a gene function could be inherently superior, or separate from the genes themselves. It’s like claiming that blood flow is somehow superior or separate from the circulatory system.

    <

    blockquote> but they are inferior in the sense that they are subordinate to the objectives of the genome, the genome is in a position to shut down epigenetic phenomena. <\blockquote>

    Why are these people so obsessed with ranking? Neither genes nor epigenetic effects are inferior or superior. Genomes don’t have objectives or motivations.

    The entire paragraph is dazzling bullshite.

  11. Tethys says

    I looked up why we call it pi. It is not the only Greek letter used for mathematical notation, but it is a math concept all schoolchildren learn. Omega has the value 800, though I am not sure what gematria are. It seems to be a sort of fortune telling system like numerology.

    The first recorded use of π as a mathematical symbol comes from the Welsh mathematician William Jones in a 1706 work called Synopsis Palmariorum Matheseos, in which he abbreviated the Greek περιϕέρεια, (meaning “circumference,” or “periphery”) to its first letter: π.

    *via dictionary.com

  12. says

    #7: I always say, go look at the UCSB archive of evo psych stuff (UCSB is the home base of Toobey & Cosmides, and is the locus of infection here). Read their own documents, their FAQs & Q&As and all of their own information. It’s far worse than I’ve said.

  13. PaulBC says

    @1

    that epigenetic phenomena are inherently superior to genes in the sense that they are more flexible, more rapidly adapting, but they are inferior in the sense that they are subordinate to the objectives of the genome, the genome is in a position to shut down epigenetic phenomena. And to the extent that it does not shut them down. That is because they are serving the genomes interests.

    So many red flags in this little gem. “inferior”, “superior”, “subordinate”, “interests.” As soon as people start attaching purpose to natural phenomenon, they’ve created a barrier to understanding reality, which isn’t that easy to understand to begin with. Not that understanding is even the goal in this case. What a load of BS, but I suppose there is a category of rube who thinks this is profound.

  14. unclefrogy says

    they sound like people who have lost their traditional god but not their religious reasoning.
    They are only missing throwing in a few jesuses and salvation here and there. They have not lost their ability to believe their faith is in their own superior understanding regardless of any facts. There is no question in their statements only absolute surety. It is what you would expect from evo-psyc and conservatives.
    I almost envy them that, I live in a far more interesting world with countless unanswered questions. While they are the embodyment of the queen who Alice reports was painting the roses red because

  15. James Fehlinger says

    Apparently they’re both anti-vax ivermectin proponents, too.

    Yes, and apparently this makes Weinstein beyond the pale even for
    Sam Harris.


    +++++
    Sam Harris Trashes Bret Weinstein With Alex Jones Comparisons
    Sep 21, 2021
    The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder

    The Majority Report crew reacts to audio of Sam Harris explaining
    why he would not debate or feature Bret Weinstein given their
    disagreements over Covid-19.
    ++++

  16. James Fehlinger says

    . . .beyond the pale even for Sam Harris. . .

    Oh. As the video embedded in the original post points out.

    ;->

  17. Rich Woods says

    @leerudolph #5:

    Is the relationship between the diameter of a circle and “it’s certainly France” similar to the relationship Tuesday and “this must be Belgium”?

    Excellent film! I don’t think I’ve seen it for forty years, though. The vaccination scream scene cut seems fitting for today’s world.

  18. chrislawson says

    This is what bugs me about evopsych. Clearly its empirical justification is fine (our minds are the product of evolution, therefore we can examine the influence of evolution on our psychological processes), but I have yet to see a paper of any merit.

    I’m not after a Dialogue Concerning Two Worlds or an Electrodynamics of Moving Objects, or even a Bertelman’s Socks. Just a solid study with a sensible rationale, well-conducted data collection, and reasonable interpretation of the data. What I see instead is a vast wasteland of polluted reasoning and toxic justifications for regressive political opinions.

    And this is even when a paper is recommended by one of the voluminous (in both numbers and decibels) proponents of evopsych. Can anyone point me to a single solid evopsych paper? Seriously. I’d love to see one.

  19. blf says

    we hope to call to mind pi, because the fact is, the relationship between the diameter of a circle and it’s certainly France is obligated

    I assume she actually says it’s circumference rather than France, though I don’t know why it’s obligated.

    A rather confused attempt to waffle about the relationship between π and the diameter is fixed; i.e., π = certainlyfrance ÷ diameter (or, the ratio of a circle’s certainlyfrance to its diameter is always precisely π).

  20. PaulBC says

    blf@29

    A rather confused attempt to waffle

    What if you’re trying to find the circumference of a Belgian waffle?

    (I was trying to waffle but in my confusion I’m afraid I said something definitive.)

  21. birgerjohansson says

    Chrislawson @ 9
    ‘The genome’s interest’ ???
    – As Karl Marx said, interest never lies!

    ‘because omega is a Greek letter’
    Those back-stabbing European Union bastards! We should Brexit evopsych.

  22. blf says

    PaulBC@30, “What if you’re trying to find the circumference of a Belgian waffle?”

    Belgian waffles usually aren’t circles and so don’t have a certainlyfrance, instead they have either a maybeflanders, perhapswallonia, or couldbebrussels (collectively referred to as thismustbebelguim); the constant is not π but frites, and the relationship is known as a fonction du mardi, or un autre bol de moules avec de la bière, s’il vous plaît.

  23. birgerjohansson says

    I refuse to read that book so I must rely on you.
    Kooks often feature in venn diagrams that overlap with mysticism, anti-semitism etc. How far down the rabbit hole are these authors?

  24. hemidactylus says

    @33 nifty

    Oh this is priceless (from the review by Ritchie): “They make alarming pronouncements based on flimsy data, such as when they say that water fluoridation is “neurotoxic” to children based on one reference to a “pilot study”.”

    Only distilled rainwater and pure grain alcohol for me.

  25. James Fehlinger says

    “They make alarming pronouncements based on flimsy data,
    such as when they say that water fluoridation is ‘neurotoxic’
    to children based on one reference to a ‘pilot study’.”

    Only distilled rainwater and pure grain alcohol for me.

    https://www.moviequotedb.com/movies/dr-strangelove-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-bomb/quote_28949.html
    ++++
    General Jack D. Ripper: Mandrake?
    Group Captain Lionel Mandrake: Yes, Jack?
    Ripper: Have you ever seen a Commie drink a glass of water?
    Mandrake: Well, I can’t say I have.
    Ripper: Vodka, that’s what they drink, isn’t it? Never water?
    Mandrake: Well, I-I believe that’s what they drink, Jack, yes.
    Ripper: On no account will a Commie ever drink water, and not without good reason.
    Mandrake: Oh, eh, yes. I, uhm, can’t quite see what you’re getting at, Jack.
    Ripper: Water, that’s what I’m getting at, water. Mandrake, water is the source of all life. Seven-tenths of this earth’s surface is water. Why, do you realize that seventy percent of you is water?
    Mandrake: Uh, uh, Good Lord!
    Ripper: And as human beings, you and I need fresh, pure water to replenish our precious bodily fluids.
    Mandrake: Yes.
    Ripper: Are you beginning to understand?
    Mandrake: Yes.
    Ripper: Mandrake. Mandrake, have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water, or rain water, and only pure-grain alcohol?
    Mandrake: Well, it did occur to me, Jack, yes.
    Ripper: Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation. Fluoridation of water?
    Mandrake: Uh? Yes, I-I have heard of that, Jack, yes. Yes.
    Ripper: Well, do you know what it is?
    Mandrake: No, no I don’t know what it is, no.
    Ripper: Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face?
    ++++

  26. says

    I really liked your video, PZ! Very well done!

    birgerjohansson @ #8:

    That book sounds like something that could have been written 15-20 years ago. Is there really a market for it today, beyond the Goop customers?

    There’s always a market for reactionary pseudoscientific (and pseudohistorical) bullshit.

    Silentbob @ #12:

    Heying is also an outspoken transphobic bigot and fan of Abigail “Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters” Shrier well will you look at that what a totally unexpected surprise.

    Here’s a podcast episode about that:

    “Heather Heying Goes Full TERF, Part 1.”

    “Heather Heying Goes Full TERF, Part 2.”

    I learned recently from the same podcast that Shrier’s book was published by Regnery.

    chrislawson @ #26:

    This is what bugs me about evopsych. Clearly its empirical justification is fine (our minds are the product of evolution, therefore we can examine the influence of evolution on our psychological processes), but I have yet to see a paper of any merit.

    I’ve never understood why our minds being the product of evolution isn’t more generally understood as meaning that they’re plastic, flexible, and inventive and that we’ve evolved to learn and develop within cultures, with all the benefits and dangers this entails. It just seems so obvious to me.

  27. Tethys says

    Potatoes aren’t native to Ireland, but that doesn’t stop these two from telling Irish people to eat potatoes for optimum health. I remain unclear if this is due to Omega, or because evolution and certainly France.

  28. KG says

    What I want to know is – what is Heather Heying doing out of the kitchen? She’s failing to leverage the advantages of our sex differences!!! Come to think of it, what are either of these numpties doing writing a book? Don’t they know that no hunter-gatherer culture ever developed a publishing industry? Thereby proving that reading and writing are maladaptive.

  29. lpetrich says

    Here’s another absolutely harebrained thing that Bret Weinstein did. Back in 2020, he had the idea of recruiting two people to serve as co-presidents, one from the Left and one from the Right. They decided on Dan Crenshaw R-TX-02 and Tulsi Gabbard D-HI-02. While DC is clearly a right-winger, with govtrack.us 2020 ideology score 0.78, TG is a relatively moderate Democrat, with score 0.35.

    Their site – articlesofunity.org – is now gone and that domain name was taken over by some cryptocurrency blogger. So you’ll have to look in the Internet Archive.

    I find rather weird that this entire discussion focused on the Presidency, without any concern for Congress. There is some research that states that there is a strong correlation between the strength of a nation’s legislature and the strength of its democracy. https://polisci.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/people/u3833/StrongerLegislaturesStrongerDemocracy.pdf In fact, the highest-scoring nations in democracy ratings are those with parliamentary systems, where the legislature picks the acting executive. Ratings like The Economist’s Democracy Index and the Fund for Peace’s Fragile States Index.

    So ignoring Congress is a VERY bad idea. That’s what I like about the Brand New Congress PAC. Its founders were some Bernie Sanders campaigners in 2016 who noticed how President Obama could not get very much done because Republicans and conservative Democrats obstructed him so much. They wanted to run candidates for every seat in Congress, and run them with a unified campaign with a Bernie-Sanders-like platform. That plan failed, and they recruited only 30 candidates to run in 2018. Only one of them won: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, someone who defeated long-time incumbent Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary.

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