June 25, 2009

Newsweek v. Evolutionary Psychology

Like all of us, Newsweek's Sharon Begley isn't getting any younger. And she's not getting any happier either about that tenet of evolutionary psychology that asserts, in her scoffing words in the current issue of Newsweek:
Men attracted to young, curvaceous babes were fitter because such women were the most fertile; mating with dumpy, barren hags is not a good way to grow a big family tree.

So, she spends 4300 words renewing her long-running attack on Evolutionary Psychology in:
Why Do We Rape, Kill and Sleep Around?
The fault, dear Darwin, lies not in our ancestors, but in ourselves.

... Evo psych took its first big hit in 2005, when NIU's Buller exposed flaw after fatal flaw in key studies underlying its claims, as he laid out in his book Adapting Minds.

I don't think it's too unfair to claim that Begley enunciated her most personal objection to evolutionary psychology in her 2005 review of David J. Buller's book in the Wall Street Journal:
Besides, if you scrutinize the data, you find that 50-ish men prefer 40-something women, not 25-year-olds, undermining a core claim of evo psych.

So that's why 45 year old strippers make so much more money than 25 year old strippers!

I give economists a hard time sometimes, but they all know this very useful concept -- "all else being equal" -- that Begley seems unfamiliar with, even though it's obviously essential to putting evolutionary psychology's assertions in proper perspective.

The really funny thing is that Begley has never figured out that David J. Buller’s attack on mainstream Evolutionary Psychology comes from an even more politically incorrect direction than does EP. Buller focused on two weak links in EP:

1. The brain evolved a wide variety of domain-specific modules.

2. The human race evolved a single human nature back during the Stone Age, with only sex differences being the only differences among humans of interest or importance.

And those premises are indeed weak, but their weakness has major implications that Begley would not want to mention in public.

1. Evolutionary psychology has tended to ignore the key insight of the last 105 years of psychometrics: the existence of a g factor, a general intelligence factor. This is not to say that there aren’t domain specific mental modules, just that the g factor glass is not just half empty, it’s also half full, and thus needs to be included in evolutionary psychology, or, indeed, any form of psychology.

2. Similarly, standard EP has tended to gloss over the fact that The Era of Evolutionary Adaptation has extended up to the present. Indeed, as Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending argued recently in The 10,000 Year Explosion, the coming of agriculture likely accelerated the rate of genetic change. But continued Darwinian selection after the dispersal of the human race out of Africa to quite different environments on different continents raises ticklish issues about human biodiversity that can be career killers in modern America. (Just ask James D. Watson!)

Considering how much eminent thinkers such as Watson, Arthur Jensen, and Charles Murray have been abused for their frankness in recent decades, it was perfectly reasonable for the founders of evolutionary psychology to shy away from these issues. After all, their taking on Feminist Orthodoxy at the peak of its power two decades ago was enormously brave.

Nonetheless, the future evolution of evolutionary psychology will depend upon finding solutions for these two shortcomings in its fundamental approach. (While somehow avoiding getting Watsoned.)

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

42 comments:

Theo said...

- "Evolution faster when it's warmer" - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8115464.stm

Could explain why there us so much more genetic diversity amongst equatorial Africans as opposed to the White Europeans and Asians who live in colder northern climates.

agnostic said...

Damn, she looks like hell. And she's about 53. I would've guessed 15 years older, but with dyed hair.

She wrote an article last April about how Botox may or may not get into your brain. She's got a desperate hankerin' for some schadenfreude. She'd probably do best to just get a little Botox herself, though.

Just re-read that 2005 post of yours about her.

Begley: Besides, if you scrutinize the data, you find that 50-ish men prefer 40-something women, not 25-year-olds, undermining a core claim of evo psych.

"So that's why 45 year old strippers make so much more money than 25 year old strippers!"

Bam, right in the gut!

Simon said...

I'm not quite sure why this is supposedly such a bad article. There are some weak arguments, like the researchers with made-up data on why rape is a bad idea in a hunter-gatherer society (They went to the hunter-gatherers, they didn't see any rapes, so they made up some figures).

But the last page reads like something out of Cochrane/Harpending '10,000 Year Explosion'. This article is helping to overturn the idea that human nature was fixed in Africa 100,000 years ago, and for me that's go to be a good thing. It talks explicitly about g - general intelligence - and recent evolution for agriculture & urban living. It doesn't mention that that evolution must have affected different population groups differently, but she doesn't want to get fired.

sabril said...

I would guess that if a 50 year old man is choosing between a 45 year old woman and a 25 year old woman for a secret sexual affair, he will pick the 25 year old 99.9% of the time.

If he's looking for a wife, other considerations come into play such as social approval and companionship. But in terms of raw sexual attraction, men are far more attracted to women who are at an age where they are likely to be able to conceive and produce healthy children.

Reactionary said...

Are you kidding, Steve-o?

Don't you know that a woman hits her sexual peak much later than a man?

She enjoys sex more than ever she did when she was younger. Kids out of the house mean she can indulge herself in ways she didn't feel she could before their departure; she's more sexually experienced and more adventurous than when she was younger.

She sees herself as attractive, more attractive than when she was a teen or at 20, primarily because with age has grown a self-confidence, a confidence that was missing when she was "nubile." When she was "nubile" she cared about pleasing others, not understanding that she herself deserved to be pleased.

I mean, surely you can tell all this just from looking at Sharon Begley's picture.

OneSTDV said...

It's interesting that anti-HBDers always accuse HBDers of acting solely on our supposed racial biases. Yet, we point to years of psychometric data, much of which comes from the most eminently accurate sources like the US Military, Collegeboard, MCAT/LSAT people, NLSY, NAEP, etc.

But when frumpy women, guilty white liberals like Nisbett, and black "intellectuals" like Cornel West deny our claims on the shakiest of grounds, they exist in a humorous obliviousness of their own biases.

Black Sea said...

If men knew what women were really thinking, and if women knew what men were really thinking, humanity would have died out a long, long time ago.

kudzu bob said...

Steve, maybe you should consider writing a book about Evo Psych as it relates to sex and marriage.

"Why do young strippers make more money than old strippers?" "Why do Asian-American women have better luck getting dates than Asian-American men do?" "Are lesbians really gay?" And so on. The subject matter is inexhaustible and endlessly interesting to ordinary folks.

And the topic, while provocative, isn't as radioactive as race/IQ, and might make you some money. Hell, it might even get you on TV, the true definition of success in post-modern America.

Anonymous said...

What was it you said a while back to the effect that female journalists always write stories about why all men should think they are hot? =)

ironrailsironweights said...

Besides, if you scrutinize the data, you find that 50-ish men prefer 40-something women, not 25-year-olds, undermining a core claim of evo psych.

Consider Mark Sanford. 49 years old, and he's nailing a 43-year-old.

Peter

blaze star said...

agnostic--your own schadenfreud appears to be getting all wiggley. In order not to seem as icky as the journalist in question, I'd take the Maurice Chevalier approach if I were you--the French do everything with such politesse, even the most controversial sexual behavior between two consenting adults somehow finds a civilized niche that satisfies all parties. If you do this, your sunset years should be blessed. Look to the strollers! Thank heaven for de leeetle girls... for they grow up ...da da dee.

egads. Evolution--and I'm surprised people of a scientific bent still talk of it as if it is fact, when it is only theory and seriously challenged of late. No--I certainly don't mean creationists or intelligent design. So I'll address more what we do know about--the social issues that people connect with "evolution" concepts.

Journalists are fighting for their right to write. In MSM, they must be pc or die and pc is truly a mental illness nowadays, it so flies in the face of common sense and observation. She's not totally wrong--stripping and porning are entertainment; they're business. Women these days do not have the right to expect lifetime support from a significant other. Nobody does. Their domestic and reproductive duties are not THAT onerous anymore and men realized this as early as the 1940s. Men as well as "feminists" pushed for women in the workforce, because men felt "used" too. So naturally women with careers they consider important are more likely to view their worth in ways not strictly sexual and reproductive. Their livelihoods depend on it. The ego is porous--the worth we feel in one area of life has a tendency to seep into the whole, leading to inflated egos.

In the old days, wives could often overlook "affairs" to a great extent, if they didn't bring home diseases, or impede on the serious business of raising a family for the couples' mutual posterity.
Most people over a certain age are not great "catches" for the average younger person, if you're talking about marriage. Reproduction (at least natural) is impossible for women past 45-55, and, the latest statistics suggest, should be approached with great caution by older men. This is perfectly in line with what happens to humans physically and mentally as we age.
The gob-smacking reality is, that to maintain our culture and civilization, we all have to give up on certain adolescent fantasies, or pay a price. Nobody wants to pay for anything anymore, metaphorically speaking. This author resents the price she and her ilk pay and is in some denial, but she ain't the only one.

Victoria said...

Besides, if you scrutinize the data, you find that 50-ish men prefer 40-something women, not 25-year-olds, undermining a core claim of evo psych.

Scrutinize the data, indeed! What data? Men don't prefer older women; in the second-go-round, what with loss of hair and fat in belly, the 50-something man, unless he's lucky for various reasons, has to settle for them. Why does she choose 25-year-olds? Why not 30- to 35-year-olds as a preference for such men?

Shawn said...

This is in line with what you have noticed before about women trying to restructure reality to make themselves hotter looking (e.g. Maureen Dowd). I get a chuckle out of it

If older men are with older women it is usually because they in love or simply cannot or are for some reason ethically opposed to getting younger women; usually it comes down to finances. A woman's sexual attractiveness peaks between the ages of 16-22.

John Seiler said...

I clicked on the link to Begley's Newsweek article. Next to it was an internet ad that totally refutes her article.

The ad shows a fat woman, about 40, and the headline, "Mom Lost 47 lbs Following 1 Rule!"

I clicked on THAT ad, and it shows the typical pictures before and after Mom lost 47 lbs. She looks pretty in the "after" picture, a little like Michelle Pfeiffer at 40.

She writes, "I used to weigh 127lbs. I was never runway model skinny, but I was slim. I had a little booty. And my husband always made me feel fantastic."

She then tells us that her weight crept up after each of her 3 kids -- until she saw Dr. Oz on Oprah talk about the acai berry!

Mom concludes: "My husband is so proud of what I accomplished and I have more energy to do fun activities with my kids. But best of all, I look and feel sexier than I did in my twenties!

"I hope my story provides at least some motivation to help you lose weight. Just do not give up, because losing weight really will change your life in ways you never imagined. You will feel things you have not felt since you were 20."

Dutch Boy said...

Any evidence that young, curvaceous babes are any more fertile than young, not-so-curvaceous babes? It seems to me that it is the youth, rather than the pulchritude that is germane. Lord knows there would be no over-population if only the beautiful among us procreated!

Anonymous said...

Besides, if you scrutinize the data, you find that 50-ish men prefer 40-something women, not 25-year-olds, undermining a core claim of evo psych.
"ms" begley should be reminded there's a difference between what someone prefers and what someone can get.

Anonymous said...

“”””Besides, if you scrutinize the data, you find that 50-ish men prefer 40-something women, not 25-year-olds, undermining a core claim of evo psych.”””

Since evolution is all about producing children to carry on your genes then I would think that any 50-ish man who wants children would prefer the 25 year old over the 40 year old since the 25 year old has a lot better chance of producing children

DJF

josh said...

Nice pic! I picture flying monkeys! "Now my pretty--the ruby slippers!"

bg said...

reading Roissy is doing Steve good

David said...

"Why Do We Rape, Kill and Sleep Around?"

What kind of article title is that?

Who's "we"?

I myself don't rape, kill and sleep around. Is Ugly Begley speaking for herself or tarring her potential date material with a broad brush?

Anonymous said...

Pretty big for someone who doesn't display a recent photo on his own blog, Steve. You too agnostic.

mengbomin said...

"Could explain why there us so much more genetic diversity amongst equatorial Africans as opposed to the White Europeans and Asians who live in colder northern climates."

That would already be pretty easily explained by the Out-of-Africa model, as the initial gene pool for populations outside of Africa would be smaller and thus initially less genetically diverse.

No need to call upon a faster molecular mutation rate as a main explanatory factor. A potential additional factor? Perhaps, but I would doubt it's power as the main factor.

Svigor said...

Could explain why there us so much more genetic diversity amongst equatorial Africans as opposed to the White Europeans and Asians who live in colder northern climates.

Wow, you're really making the rounds, aren't you? As I replied to your identical comments at MR and AR:

Selection pressure is much higher in cold climes; lower selection pressure and you increase diversity.

Svigor said...

Besides, if you scrutinize the data, you find that 50-ish men prefer 40-something women, not 25-year-olds

In other words, the youngest women they can get. :)

methinks said...

Even if the "module" model turns out deeply flawed, and many EP hypotheses are shown to be fallacious, the male lust for young, curvy chicks was absolutely cranium-crushingly obvious waaaay before Edward O. Wilson was conceived. You have to wonder if some of these people are living on the same planet. I mean is that even Evolutionary Psychology? Isn't that folk wisdom from pre-history, not to mention every single human culture ever? How intellectually insulated does this woman have to be?

Methinks their deep thinkers should stick to the historical Jesus. But Newsweek knows its readers. Pious, comforting nonsense that relieves painful cognitive dissonance sells. Turning life into an intuitively-appealing morality play will always trump the unpleasant realities. Like Nietzsche said, Christian morality is more robust in "secular" intellectual culture than ever.

Anonymous said...

OneSTDV,
I've been reading HBD blogs for years and it's clear that feminists/leftists have their racial and sexual biases and conservative HBD advocates have theirs. Now HBD explains reality far better than feminist theory but:

A. It is not flawless
B. A magic 8-ball could probably explain reality better than feminist theory

Anonymous said...

Black Sea, all too true. Which is why people who think that honesty is always the best policy (at least in social life) usually haven't thought things through.

Reactionary, "sexual peak" and "sexual attractiveness" are not the same thing. That a women's sexual peak is in the late twenties/early thirties has been known for years.

Shah Doobie said...

Matriarchy is a complete and total dead end for civilization.
On every level matriarchy self-destructs the framework for stable society. Ultimately matriarchy seeks to turn all men into non-males.

Matriarchy is fundamentally incoherent and that is why it exists hardly anywhere and has rarely existed throughout history.

If you are a king or ruler and you want to destroy a rival civilization a good battle plan is to do everything to encourage matriarchy in the rival civilization. That is true subversion.

Anonymous said...

Reactionary,

"I mean, surely you can tell all this just from looking at Sharon Begley's picture."

She does old and dour, doesn't she? Much older than her mid-forties. That's too bad--she looks just the way I imagine you look, judging from your tone. Rank attitudes make for rank, prunish faces.

Sounds as if a middle-aged woman, perhaps your wife, left you in the dust and you've not gotten over it, holding a grudge against all women. My guess--you haven't the charm or sense of humor to attract a woman over 30, haven't the looks to attract one under 30 Poor, poor man.

David Davenport said...

Methinks their deep thinkers should stick to the historical Jesus. But Newsweek knows its readers. Pious, comforting nonsense that relieves painful cognitive dissonance sells. Turning life into an intuitively-appealing morality play will always trump the unpleasant realities. Like Nietzsche said, Christian morality is more robust in "secular" intellectual culture than ever..

Methinks Ms. Begley, like most Newsweek writers,editors,and bosspersons, is Jewish.

///////////////////////////

By rare coincidence, I happened to glance at that Newsweek piece. ( "Newsweek" -- the current title page says "New Week".)

This Begley woman says one thing contradictory to the usual lieberal cant. The lieberal party line is that human evolution stopped a long time ago, maybe 100,000 years ago.

Sexy Sharon B.'s article says, instead, that human evolution has continued unto more recent times.

However -- get ready for Begley's New New Left spin -- this recent evolution has evolved men fit for our metrosexual current age, men less violent, more monogamous, kinder to stepchildren, etc.

I'm not the first to note that someday soon the Left will concede a bit of ground regarding human evolution -- such as evolution not stopping 100,000 years ago. But having conceded a teensy bit of anthropological turf, the Left will continue to try to put their own spin on human evolution.

David Davenport said...

I can think simplify things even further: a large percentage of Newsweek readers are probably lonely divorced women over 40 years old -- and not practicing Christians.

This evolution piece is Newsweek's attempt at a cheer-up aimed at part of its core audience.

Reactionary said...

That a women's sexual peak is in the late twenties/early thirties has been known for years.

That's probably when men are the most adept at loveplay and sexual intercourse as well. And the libido of both sexes declines with their respective hormones. So again, whence this strange mythology of all these Olympia Dukakis-tiger lilies whose supposedly dried-up, stale husbands nevertheless seem to be having torrid affairs?

Reactionary said...

I can think simplify things even further: a large percentage of Newsweek readers are probably lonely divorced women over 40 years old -- and not practicing Christians.

My homepage on my work computer is uncontroversially set to msn.com. Just about every day there's a link on it advertising "Sexy plus-size [fill in the blank]!" I'm sure glad I don't cut myself that kind of slack.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

"If you scrutinize the data..."

From here? Badabump.

Hey, is this thing on?

Sid said...

In all honesty, I put very little stock in evolutionary psychology. Most of the controversial, but accurate aspects of it aren't new discoveries. They're common sense (why family members prefer family members to strangers, why women want wealthy men, why men want beautiful women, etc). The problem is that the existentialist-postmodernist literati has refused to acknowledge even basic truths out of hopes of creating their own identities, or proclaiming the equality of all men, and consequently evolutionary psychology seems unusually powerful in contrast.

But on its own, it's a rather flimsy interpretive art. Which is all it is. In Stephen Pinker's book, "The Language Instinct," he goes on at length to defend and uphold evolutionary psychology when it really isn't pertinent for the book.

At one point, he dismisses that the mothers of ancient Spartan hoplites and feudal Samurai warriors would smile when hearing that their pugnacious sons were killed in combat, contending that history is written by generals, not by mothers. In fact, we all know that all mothers so dearly love their sons' lives, and not their glory, that no mother would rejoice at the account of her son's death!

I almost threw my copy out of the window of such a stupid remark. I know little of Japanese historiography, but the accounts we have of Spartan culture come most clearly from Plutarch, a vegetarian who lived in the Roman Empire centuries after Sparta had been razed. Furthermore, the Purananuru of the Tamils has similar accounts of mothers rejoicing at the glorious deaths of their sons, crying with tears of joy. And Palestinian mothers have a similar jubilation when their children detonate themselves, as is consistently seen.

Considering how Pinker is more or less the media face of evolutionary psychology and a popular science writer, and how he made an egregious error outside of his expertise by comparing the mentalities of war-bearing mothers to softened soccer moms, it puts the rest of evolutionary psychology at jeopardy. Whenever I hear an evolutionary psychologist extrapolate on the possible, or definite origins of such-and-such mental characteristic and how it relates to Darwinism, the scientific veneer they give themselves is now more blemished than ever.

Anonymous said...

Consider Mark Sanford. 49 years old, and he's nailing a 43-year-old.

But that apparently started when she was 35 and he was 41.

Anonymous said...

David - Ugly Begley - I know its crass of me but...LOL!

BRT said...

Yeah, she's stupid. In the 2d sentence she's already calling rape a "trait", and in the 3d sentence she refers to " rape genes".

methinks said...

I don't agree, Sid. EP is largely solid and revelatory. Pinker's gone overboard...like with his hatred of modern art. I mean I don't consistently love modern art, but when I was younger I had wonderful pseudo-religious, mystical relationships with it...which the original modernists were very aware of. "Primitivism" in modern art is just another supporting argument for EP. Check out that ancient Greek word "katharsis." Duh. Pinker makes mistakes.

Clearly the religious mytholization of the tribe can cause Spartan mothers to weep with real joy. But the revolutionary insights of EP are the best place to start comprehending how humans intuitively fetishize their tribe and gods. You're responding to the pop science thrust of the arguments. I tend to think many of the pop scientists are annoying populists, especially with their pitiful groveling to mainstream morality. "This is GOOD!" Yeah, and maybe it's not good, maybe it's the way it is, life is messed up.

"People are the same!" Yeah, they're the same and they're hugely different, culturally and probably biologically, and there's no contradiction there, unless you wanna have a stupid superficial nature vs. nurture debate. Any "intellectual" avoids EP at their everlasting peril, though.

Cat Patrol said...

If Sharon Begley had red hair, she would look like Agnes Moorhead.

Sid said...

Methinks: That is solid. I concur that there is a lot to be gained from understanding the fetishization that all premodern cultures have to some extent, with their dichotomies of pure and impure, clean dirty. Why is something dirty? The olden answer is that the gods decree it so. Because our age has rejected the gods, it can steer clear of how human beings have taboos and fetishs, and condemn them as being "irrational," thus placing their own taboo upon the matter of taboo. Evolutionary psychology, at its best, dispassionately examines why human beings naturally have taboos. It also explains much hysteria, such as the environmental sort, and the Gaianists Half-Sigma describes. I agree. Popularization often is its own vulgarization.

Ironically, primitivism is an excellent way of understanding the Greeks and their tragedy by looking before the Greeks. A lot of Classicism involves looking at how the traditions following the Greeks beheld their forebears. A lot can be learned from comparing the Iliad with tribal warfare, while usually the Iliad is seen through the Latins' battles. Dramaturgically, examining catharsis the way a Frenchman would in the time of Shakespeare is less releasing than feeling katharsis as a Greek did. You can learn more about Greek sculpture from the Cyclades chippings than you can from Michelangelo, just as the early modernists saw.

Anonymous said...

"Reactionary, "sexual peak" and "sexual attractiveness" are not the same thing. That a women's sexual peak is in the late twenties/early thirties has been known for years."

What do you mean by 'sexual peak'? Peak of what exactly? Lidibo? Skills? If it's skills I should like to point out that it doesn't take much skill to please a man.