August 18, 2005 makes the Human Biodiversity case against evolutionary psychology:

In "Cave Thinkers: How evolutionary psychology gets evolution wrong," a glowing review of David Buller's critique of evolutionary psychology, Adapting Minds, Amanda Schaffer thinks she's making the case for feminism, but she's actually explaining why evolution make racial genetic diversity inevitable.

As Razib pointed out at GNXP, Buller's critique is less of evolutionary psychology than of "Evolutionary Psychology™®©," as codified by my friends John Tooby and Leda Cosmides in one of the most admirable feats of academic marketing of our era.

As I wrote in "The Future of Human Nature" in Toronto's "National Post" in 2000:

However, the inevitable conservatism of Edward O. Wilson's sociobiology made it so many enemies on leftist-dominated campuses that anthropologists John Tooby and Leda Cosmides found it expedient to relaunch sociobiology under the new, improved brand name of "evolutionary psychology." In a brilliant marketing ploy, they spin-doctored sociobiolgy into academic acceptability by pronouncing themselves the truest True Believers in equality. They portrayed human nature as almost monolithically uniform, and proclaimed that science should only study human similarities.

Yet, except for identical twins, no two humans' genetic codes are the same. So, exactly whose genes were they going to study? Stumped, the evolutionary psychologists responded with name-calling: Interest in human differences was deemed evil, or tedious, or insensitive, or just not done. This conservative egalitarian party line soon had many smart people parroting silly ideas. For example, one evolutionary psychology bestseller concluded "… differences between individuals are so boring!" Since most highly-educated people are infected with the Platonic virus that makes them prefer to think in terms of nonexistent abstract certainties rather than reality's fuzzy probabilities, few challenged the new orthodoxy of a homogenous human nature. The evolutionary psychologists themselves, however, soon found that while egalitarianism was a useful cover story, it was a largely useless methodology for learning about humanity. Ironically, but not surprisingly, evolutionary psychology has become primarily the study of sex differences. Why? Because knowledge consists of contrasts. For example, yesterday the National Post reported the controversial finding of a so-called "suicide gene." Its existence was inferred by contrasting the genetic codes of the suicidal to the non-suicidal.

Information can be boiled down to that most basic of contrasts, the ones and zeroes of digital data, but it can't be boiled down further to all ones. So, if we want to learn much about human nature, we're going to need to compare different kinds of humans: male and female, sick and healthy, young and old, smart and stupid, gay and straight, tall and short, black and white, and so forth. They all deserve respect as manifestations of human nature's rich diversity.

Grasping this realistic perspective on the varieties of human nature, we can now think about our onrushing ability to manipulate our natures without succumbing to the vapours. For we already have been diversifying our own genetic code. For instance, adults were uniformly "lactose intolerant" until cattle were domesticated within just the last 10,000 years. Fortunately, Darwinian selection can work so fast that in ethnic groups with a milking tradition (e.g., Danes or Fulanis from the Sahel), most adults now possess a gene allowing them to digest milk comfortably. In other words, just as our genes influence culture, culture rearranges our genes.

For example, Schaffer writes:

These problem-solving modules evolved between 1.8 million and 10,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene epoch. And there the selection story ends. There has not been enough time in the intervening millenia, EP-ers say, for natural selection to have further resculpted our psyches. "Our modern skulls house a Stone Age mind," as Cosmides' and Tooby's primer on evolutionary psychology puts it. The way forward for research is to generate hypotheses about the urges that would have been helpful to Stone Age baby-making and then try to test whether these tendencies are widespread today...

In addition, we are probably not psychological fossils. New research suggests that evolutionary change can occur much faster than was previously believed. Natural selection is thought to effect rapid change especially when a species' environment is in flux—precisely the situation in the last 10,000 years as humans learned to farm, domesticate animals, and live in larger communal groups. Crucially, Buller notes, in order for significant change to have occurred in the human mind in the last 10 millennia, evolution need not have built complex brain structures from scratch but simply modified existing ones.

Indeed. Evolutionary Psychology™ has a quasi-Creationist tendency to assume that human evolution miraculously came to an end with the invention of agriculture. In truth, it probably sped up at that point as conditions leading to survival or death changed radically. To take one obvious example, people whose recent ancestors didn't know how to make alcohol, such as Eskimos, most American Indians, and Australian aborigines, have a much harder time dealing with alcohol today than do people descended from a long line of imbibing Eurasian farmers. And among those, Mediterranean peoples such as Italians and Jews are much less likely to be ravaged by alcoholism than are Northern Europeans who didn't have access to wine until recently.

Of course, Schaffer might be disappointed to learn that no groups of humans at any point in the past evolved under Doctrinaire Feminist conditions.

Schaffer also writes:

EP claims that our minds contain hundreds or thousands of "mental organs" or "modules," which come with innate information on how to solve particular problems—how to interpret nuanced facial expressions, how to tell when someone's lying or cheating....

[T[he central, underlying assumption of EP—that humans have hundreds or thousands of mental problem-solving organs produced by natural selection—is questionable. Many cognitive scientists believe that such modules exist for processing sensory information and for acquiring language. It does not follow, however, that there are a plethora of other ones specifically designed for tasks like detecting cheaters. In fact, considering how much dramatic change our forebears faced, it makes more sense that their problem-solving faculties would have evolved to be flexible in response to their immediate surroundings. (A well-argued book from philosopher Kim Sterelny fleshes out this claim.) Indeed, our mental flexibility, or cortical plasticity, may be evolution's greatest gift.

In other words, evolutionary psychologists ignore the g Factor to the detriment of their theories. Psychometricians increasingly agree that a "general factor" of generalized problem-solving ability accounts for much of human intelligence. This doesn't mean that humans aren't equipped with a whole Swiss Army Knife's worth of the special-function mental modules that evolutionary psychologists theorize about (they may be, or may not be), but evolutionary psychologists intentionally ignore the much more well-documented g Factor because it is politically incorrect.

Indeed, most evolutionary psychologists try hard to ignore entirely all of the the vast field of psychometrics. That's pretty funny because the data that evolutionary psychology is based on is pretty sparse, often consisting of questionnaires given to UCSB students, while psychometrics is based on 100 years of research, including military testing of scores of millions of recruits correlated against their subsequent performance.

In his bestselling (and very silly) The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould demonized the g Factor as the "rotten core" of the field of IQ (and proceeded to make a dog's breakfast of factor analysis as he flailed about trying to validate his prejudice). Indeed, two major late 1990s books entitled The g Factor suffered notorious publishing misadventures. Arthur Jensen's magnum opus couldn't find a major publisher and ended up at a mail order house. (Unsurprisingly, my review of his book, "The Half Full glass," was commissioned by National Review in 1998, but then they never published it.) Chris Brand's book The g Factor was actually pulled from store shelves by its own publisher! (You can read it here.)

Evolutionary Psychologists have tried very hard not to notice the science of psychometrics. There are a few exceptions: Geoffrey Miller is well-versed in the field but, as he admitted in his book The Mating Mind, he wasn't going to talk about it because he didn't have tenure yet. Steven Pinker wrote a chapter about IQ for The Blank Slate, but then cut it before publication. So, there is movement in a positive direction, but it will take awhile to get their courage up.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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