Friday, June 22, 2007

Denyse O'Leary Asks a Question about Evolutionary Psychology

It never ceases to amaze me that the IDiots know so very little about the science they criticize. They have this myopic view of "Darwinism" and they refuse to adjust it no matter how many time they're told that it isn't true.

So when one of them shows the beginning of understanding, it's time to sit up and take notice. Denyse O'Leary has recently shown just a tiny glimmer on Uncommon Descent [Okay: So evolutionary biologist Larry Moran does NOT believe in evolutionary psychology].
Responding to something I wrote at the Post-Darwinist about the popularity of evlutionary psychology among atheists, Moran (a textbook co-author you may well have suffered though in school), responds:
Just for the record, Denyse, I’m one of those evil atheists that you like to rant about but I’m totally opposed to evolutionary psychology.

But you already knew that many evolutionary biologist were against evolutionary psychology, didn’t you?
No, I didn’t, Larry, and if that’s true, it’s high time more of them voiced their objections. The only sustained critiques I have seen are Hilary and Steven Rose’s unjustly neglected Alas, Poor Darwin and David Buller’s also unjustly neglected Adapting Minds. Steven Rose is a neurobiologist, but Hilary Rose is a social scientist, and David J. Buller a philosopher.

No doubt, there are many critiques out there that I haven’t seen, but I wonder what proportion comes from evolutionary biologists, as opposed to social scientists who know the difference between research and speculation.
I'm not allowed to post on Uncommon Descent—apparently they don't want to learn about evolution. I imagine that many Sandwalk readers have also been banned so here's your chance to educate Denyse.

The most prominent opponents of evolutionary psychology are Richard Lewinton, Steven Rose, and the late Stephen J. Gould. I find it hard to believe that the IDiots have never heard of Gould and aren't aware of the debate in the New York Review of Books back in the mid-90's.

Denyse, here are some recent comments about evolutionary psychology [The Central Failure of Evolutionary Psychology]. I've listed some references below.

I don't know what proportion of evolutionary biologists are opposed to evolutionary psychology but I imagine it's significant. Opposition to evolutionary psychology comes from the same people who call themselves pluralists and who don't like to be called Darwinists. (You do recall, don't you, that many evolutionary biologists have moved well beyond Darwinism? You've been told more than once.)

Gould, S.J. (1997) Darwinian Fundamentalism The New York Review of Books Volume 44, Number 10 · June 12, 1997

Gould, S.J. (1997) Evolution: The Pleasures of Pluralism The New York Review of Books Volume 44, Number 11 · June 26, 1997

Rose, S., Lewontin, R.C. and Kamin, L.J. (1984) Not in Our Genes. Penguin Books, New York.


  1. Denyse also wrote
    Evolutionary psychology obviously lacks any systematic body of knowledge to match its grandiose ideas, so one might expect the evolutionary biologists to shout it down pretty loudly.

    Of course it doesn't take much imagination to substitute 'Evolutionary Psychology' with 'ID' and the statement will read just as well.

    She also wrote about Larry: Moran (a textbook co-author you may well have suffered through in school), responds:...

    It's sad that she just can't seem to resist making ad hominem statements like this. It's unnecessary and adds nothing to the debate. I've heard her speak in a Podcast, and she sounds like a sweet little old lady (albeit a rather patronizing one). But on paper she is just pure acid. So I have to be honest it will be pure schadenfreude with her much pushed book is ripped to shreds, as I suspect it will be (judging by what Bureaugard has already written, there's little reason to expect much 'evidence' let along a 'case' for anything).

    Yes, I've also been banned from The Great Dembski's web site - two or three times in fact. It doesn't take much. You so much as mention that ID is a religious-motivated movement and you're out of there!

  2. I'm not sure what it means to be "against" evolutionary psychology (imagin someone telling you they're against biochemistry, and you'll understand my confusion). The "spandrels" paper contained some examples of fallacious thinking, sure, but there are always people that don't understand what the hell they're talking about.

    don't throw the baby out with the bathwater-- even if modularity isn't as pervasive as some people would like to think and often laymen (and sometimes scientists!) err towards genetic determinism, genetic variation underlying behavioral patterns and instincts is indeed under natural selection.

  3. Ullica Segerstrale's Defenders of the Truth: The Sociobiology Debate is an exhaustive, though perhaps not completely neutral, history of the sociobiology/evolutionary psychology controversy.

  4. timcol says,

    It's sad that she just can't seem to resist making ad hominem statements like this. It's unnecessary and adds nothing to the debate.

    In fairness to Denyse, I think her statement, "a textbook co-author you may well have suffered through in school" was meant to be humorous. That's certainly the way I interpreted it.

  5. For a physicalist/materialist scientist, evolutionary psychology must necessarily be considered as a variation of non-scientific armchair philosophizing and literary criticism. There is no way out. Nobody has ever found the metaphysical and all powerful mental forces that account for all the miraculous events of fun and games evo/psych.

    The all pervasive fraud of Freudianism in the intellectual life of the twentieth century is a painful lesson in the mentalistic stupidity of millions of professed intellectuals.
    Mentalism is a critical tool of power and the powerful.

  6. Larry said In fairness to Denyse, I think her statement, "a textbook co-author you may well have suffered through in school" was meant to be humorous. That's certainly the way I interpreted it.
    I think you're probably right. I think I've been overdosing on reading her blogs too much. It's a reaction to all her awful strawmen and baseless assertions of what atheists are and are not. All the baseless crap she says just pisses me off. Frankly, she is clueless about what atheism is and isn't. But of course she has to keep her confirmation bias alive that her Big Daddy in the Sky has a Very Important Plan for her life...

    So I've decided not to read her stuff for a while, and instead go focus on learning some real science...

  7. Gould was a marxist(I don't know about the others you cited). Gould had an ideologigal reason to be against evolutionary psychology. Maybe he wasn't really an objective authority on the matter.

    It is my understanding that EP is alieve and well -- not going to be shut down soon.

  8. For a physicalist/materialist scientist, evolutionary psychology must necessarily be considered as a variation of non-scientific armchair philosophizing and literary criticism.

    evolutionary game theory is now an essential part of the understanding of sociality. Evolutionary Dynamics has several good chapters on it.

    Trivers's work on the evolution of emotions, self-deception, and parental conflict is likewise classic. Look up Natural Selection and Social Theory on Amazon for a great collection of his papers.

    The predictions of all of these theories have largely been borne out.

    James Watson has claimed that while the 20th century saw the union of chemistry and biology, the 21st will see the union of psychology and biology. And the unifying theme of biology is evolution, of course.

    Evolutionary psychology is a very fruitful area of research; ignoring it, or being "against" it, is somewhat silly.

  9. Actually, Larry, you were right the first time (unless she's really uncommonly dense), she does (or did) know that many biologists are skeptical of EP. She herself wrote about it on Uncommon Descent, here:

    She writes this:

    "Briefly, Miller senses that evolutionary psychology is not nearly as popular as it ought to be in the West, but..."

    Another: "Miller believes thath Euro-America is doomed to become a scientific backwater by 2050, so even if evolutionary psychology could hop off the breathless pages of the pop science press, it would be wasted on the lands of its birth."

    And: "...Evolutionary biology has--at least to judge from his account--failed to catch on in the lands of its birth."

    One can think of excuses O'Leary could have for such an obtuse reaction to Larry's post later on (she didn't believe Miller or some rot like that). But as generally ignorant of science as she is, she can hardly deny that she encountered Geoffrey Miller, who laments the lack of open-armed acceptance of EP among scientists.

    The real reason why she can't keep her stories straight is that about all she does is to react and to take up stupid arguments from other IDists. The attack on EP from IDists is a subset of their attacks on evolutionary theory itself, and I'm sure that Denyse isn't critically examining any stock criticisms of evolution. She's just sneering, is all, not thinking about what Miller and others have written, so that it is conceivable that she learned nothing from Miller's piece (she obviously doesn't learn much about evolution and ID opponents).

    I liked her, "If for whatever reason, you've been banned at Uncommon Descent, go to Post-Darwinists...".

    Who hasn't been banned, other than outright sycophants and very occasional posters from the other side? And why is it that UD can't keep its claims from being skewered except by banning nearly all critics?

    Glen D

  10. Looks like I predicted O'Leary's lame response fairly well, along with the usual threats that such ignorant types resort to:

    "Glen D: The fact that evolutionary psychology is not catching on in the West (if it is in fact not catching on) doesn't demonstrate that evolutionary biologists have no time for it.

    "The author of the article mainly blames monotheistic religion (as you must know, since - I assume - you have read it).

    "I have found the strongest opposition to come from common sense philosophers and from social scientists. Indeed, the evo psychos' sneers against the "Standard Social Science Model", which they hoped to overturn, suggest that THEY have seen social science opposition as the primary problem.

    "I notice you didn't yourself cite a long list of evo bios who oppose evo psycho. I wonder if you could find a single statement by a group of evo bios to that effect?

    "Be warned, I will not approve another comment that suggests I don't know the area. Either provide such a list or stay out of my combox. The Darwinist shell game is wearing mighty thin these days. - Denyse"

    (From her little realm of dictatorship, Post-Darwinist)

    Who does she think she's fooling? Is she really so incompetent that she doesn't know that "catching on the West", when by her own words it is doing well on the "breathless pages of the pop science press", means "catching on" among the relevant scientists, the biologists? As little as she knows about science, I cannot automatically suppose that she is that incompetent at reading the relevant literature.

    I suspect that many biologists are about where I am on EP, accepting that it is reasonable in principle, but doubting many (most, I'd say) of the claims made in its name thus far.

    Naturally, I have little interest in providing the evidence that she demands in lieu of her dereliction of her duty to learn before pontificating. It's the typical ID inversion of propriety, just make an irresponsible statement, then demand that we provide the evidence that they neglected to check out.

    Regardless of that, it's the same old nonsense from the uneducated blatherer. She doesn't know the area, complains that I "suggest" (it was more than a suggestion) that she doesn't, and reveals once again that she's almost completely ignorant about the subject, and will ban where she can't provide the evidence for her statements.

    Needless to say, she can just close her ridiculous little blog off to intelligence and correction, while she revels in the brilliance of her simple (you know, God-like) mind uncomplicated by the annoyance of learning.

    Glen D

  11. One more time on this subject. I found this at the DI site:

    Apparently they have no doubts about saying that many scientists, including supporters of "Darwinism," are critics of EP. They list several, including Jerry Coyne and Lewontin (PZ's hardly gung-ho, though I can't recall his saying that it was all wrong).

    Somehow I doubt that O'Leary will call this DI pronouncement, with its few examples, a "shell game" like she accuses us of, sans evidence. You know, like virtually all of her accusations, defamation, and various dishonest claims.

    I'm not venturing onto her wretched little blog to point any of this out.

    Glen D

  12. Great, for some reason the address I gave was cut off. I'll try again:

    Glen D