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Monday, October 24, 2005

Out of Africa?: How about out with the stereotypes?

By a happy coincidence, a commenter has suggested Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man, a book against sociobiology (evolutionary psychology). I've read it and recommend it. Precisely because it is against that sacred cow (or load of bull, depending on your preferences in gender equity), the book was unfairly neglected or attacked in Gould's lifetime. Sociobiology, as evolutionary psychology was called in the 1970s, was hot, hot, hot, both in the academy and the media. While I am here, I may as well shill another book as well: Rose, Hilary and Steven Rose, Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology (London: Random House Vintage, 2001) is a more recent, and unjustly neglected collection of essays trashing evo psycho. You can use Amazon's "look inside" feature to try before you buy.

Regular readers of this blogspot will know that I regard evo psycho as the weakest link in Darwinism - and one reason that the public enrages top science boffins by scoffing at it. It's one thing to tell me tales about population genetics in slime molds - if the tales were false, how would I know, and why would I care? But just try telling me tales about how literature or politics or religion evolved, supposedly as a result of natural selection, and guess what? You are right in the middle of the stuff I really know. If it doesn't sound plausible to me, that's because it's mostly speculation piled on speculation piled on a much weaker fact base than I am used to dealing with. But don't believe me; read the books shilled above and decide for yourself.

That said, I think that the people promoting the "out of Africa" account of human origins should have more horse sense than to rely on stereotypical pictures of modern-day Africans to make their point. Enough already about the skin pigments. If showing an Afrikaner babe mashing potatoes in downtown Jo'burg would somehow not "look right" in the context, face it, we are dealing with stereotypes. If
If you like this blog, check out my award-winning book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.
Are you looking for the following stories?

"Academic Freedom Watch : Here's the real, ugly story behind the claim that 'intelligent design isn't science'?".

Roseville, California, lawyer Larry Caldwell is suing over the use of tax money by Darwin lobby groups to promote religious views that accept Darwinian evolution (as opposed to ones that don’t). I’m pegging this one as the next big story. It will be interesting to see the line that the “separation of church and state” people take.
How to freak out your bio prof? What happened when a student bypassed the usual route of getting frogs drunk and dropping them down the chancellor’s robes, and tried questioning Darwinism instead.

Joseph, Cardinal Schonborn is not backing down from his contention that Darwinism is incompatible with Catholic faith, and Pope Benedict XVI probably thinks that’s just fine. Major US media have been trying to reach rewrite for months, with no success.

Museum tour guides to be trained to "respond" to those who question Darwinism. Read this item for an example of what at least one museum hopes to have them say.
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