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Friday, June 25, 2010

Evolutionary psychology racket alert: Serious news, not just more embarrassment for science

Someone tipped me off about this MIT Press book, attempting to explode the "evolutionary psychology" racket:
The claims of evolutionary psychology may pass muster as psychology; but what are their evolutionary credentials? Richardson considers three ways adaptive hypotheses can be evaluated, using examples from the biological literature to illustrate what sorts of evidence and methodology would be necessary to establish specific evolutionary and adaptive explanations of human psychological traits. He shows that existing explanations within evolutionary psychology fall woefully short of accepted biological standards. The theories offered by evolutionary psychologists may identify traits that are, or were, beneficial to humans. But gauged by biological standards, there is inadequate evidence: evolutionary psychologists are largely silent on the evolutionary evidence relevant to assessing their claims, including such matters as variation in ancestral populations, heritability, and the advantage offered to our ancestors. As evolutionary claims they are unsubstantiated. Evolutionary psychology, Richardson concludes, may offer a program of research, but it lacks the kind of evidence that is generally expected within evolutionary biology. It is speculation rather than sound science -and we should treat its claims with skepticism.
I say "attempting" because - from its blurb - the book sounds far too timid to me. (Prove me wrong, publisher, by sending me a copy.)

For one thing, evolutionary psychology is right up there with recovered memories as the kind of nonsense that professors of therapy get into because they don't have anything more useful to do. The trouble is, if anyone takes them seriously, they can cause problems.

Frankly, evolutionary psychologists come up with stuff so stupid that it falls beneath mockery.

I am still mad at Bill Dembski for scooping me on the Big Bazooms theory of human evolution, but I forgave him eventually, and in the meantime there is "why middle-aged men have shiny scalps" and "why dad can't dance" - supposedly, except when he can and does. And in many world cultures, he just must.

Whatever we want to call this stuff, it is not science. Science is about fact, not free-floating, idle speculation. But - as noted earlier - I expect this book to accomplish little because the publisher and maybe the author are far too concerned with placating the tenured profs they should just dismiss. Prove me wrong.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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