Gene Expression

Adaptationism not right-wing!?!?

An Empirical Examination of Adaptationists’ Attitudes Toward Politics and Science. You can find a full preprint at Geoffrey Miller’s site. The abstract:

Critics of evolutionary psychology and sociobiology have advanced an adaptationists-as-right-wing-conspirators (ARC) hypothesis, suggesting that adaptationists use their research to support a right-wing political agenda. We report the first quantitative test of the ARC hypothesis based on an online survey of political and scientific attitudes among 168 US psychology Ph.D. students, 31 of whom self-identified as adaptationists and 137 others who identified with another non-adaptationist meta-theory. Results indicate that adaptationists are much less politically conservative than typical US citizens and no more politically conservative than non-adaptationist graduate students. Also, contrary to the “adaptationists-as-pseudo-scientists” stereotype, adaptationists endorse more rigorous, progressive, quantitative scientific methods in the study of human behavior than non-adaptationists.

Some interesting points from the paper:

The two groups did not differ in sex ratio, χ2 (2, N = 168) = .406, p = .524 (adaptationists 64.5% female, non-adaptationists 70.4% female) or age, t(164) = 1.16, p = .248 (adaptationist mean 26.97, non-adaptationist mean 28.17).

…Reported p values were derived from two-tailed Fisher’s exact tests. Zero of the 31 adaptationists and 13 of the 137 non-adaptationists (11.2%) identified with the Republican party, p = .130. Two of the 31 adaptationists (6.5%) and 21 of the 137 non-adaptationists (18.1%) identified with Republicans or Libertarians, p = .256. Neither test revealed statistically significant group differences in party identification.

Comments

  1. #1 Colugo
    October 22, 2007

    Back in 1996 a first generation human behavioral ecologist told me that he had informally surveyed some of his colleagues and most of them had voted for Clinton. This was back when Nazism was still invoked by left wing anti-sociobiologists.

    Miller’s own views:
    http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/science-forecasts/mg19225780.108-geoffrey-miller-forecasts-the-future.html

    “… Darwinian critiques of runaway consumer capitalism should undermine the social and sexual appeal of conspicuous consumption. … (S)tudies of human happiness informed by evolution will reveal ever more clearly the importance of “social capital” … Enlightened citizens will demand to live in village-type spaces rather than alienating suburbs of single-family isolation and unbearable commutes.”

    I think the ‘sociobiology wars’ in academic-scientific circles have been muted by the perception of a bigger common threat in the religious right in the post-9/11 era; related to that is the rallying of even anti-sociobiologists and anti-adaptationists around Richard Dawkins, anti-theist polemicist. I remember when Dawkins was wrongly considered by the politically correct and postmodernists to be the epitome of all that was bad in science – biological determinism, apologias for social injustice etc. Reading Coturnix’s 2004 analysis of how selfish genism allegedly aids anti-abortionism made me a little nostalgic.

  2. #2 razib
    October 22, 2007

    Reading Coturnix’s 2004 analysis of how selfish genism allegedly aids anti-abortionism made me a little nostalgic.

    LOL. i remember that. that still makes me scratch my head….

  3. #3 agnostic
    October 22, 2007

    Normally the proliferation of acronyms is loathsome. Here, though, you can slightly alter it and make it somewhat funny. Change “conspirators” to “gendarmes” or something with a “g,” and maybe another word after that that begins with “h” (…”and Hitmen”). Then you get ARGH!

  4. #4 Chris
    October 22, 2007

    Even though I loath EP, I’ve always found the criticisms of it as right-wing politics embodied in pseudoscience to be silly, and more than a little bit counterproductive for anyone trying to provide reasoned arguments against its methods. The EPers I’ve known have all been liberal, some of them leftists.

    Also, contrary to the “adaptationists-as-pseudo-scientists” stereotype, adaptationists endorse more rigorous, progressive, quantitative scientific methods in the study of human behavior than non-adaptationists.

    It’d be interesting to look at the breakdown of areas for the non-adaptationists. Social psychologists have never been known for their adherence to “rigorous, progressive, quantitative scientific methods,” for example, so it’d be pretty easy to beat them out (perhaps many clinicians as well). But anyone who’s watched a faculty search for junior EP faculty knows that “rigorous, progressive, quantitative scientific methods” hardly characterizes the work of the next generation of EPers.

  5. #5 agnostic
    October 22, 2007

    But anyone who’s watched a faculty search for junior EP faculty knows that “rigorous, progressive, quantitative scientific methods” hardly characterizes the work of the next generation of EPers.

    Pretty much all psychologists aren’t interested in learning how to count — that’s why they chose psychology. ;) The differential psychologists tend to know a fair amount of math, and so do connectionist modelers. A lot of cog psych is formalized and abstracted, but doesn’t require math beyond what you’d do in high school. I think a minority of them, though, study math for fun, although all within the domains of logic and algebra (they love symbols!).

  6. #6 Chris
    October 23, 2007

    Yeah, psychology is definitely a haven for math-phobes, though cognitive psychology is a bit more mathematically sophisticated that just the linear algebra of connectionism. Mathematical psychology is a pretty big subfield of cognitive psychology (not only cognitive psychology, but it’s a big subfield within it in addition to being a field in and of itself), and then there’s that whole dying dynamic systems craze. Plus we have all those math-savvy computer scientists hovering around pretending to be working with us on modeling and AI projects, but really just to tell us how to solve for x whenever we get stuck.

    Oh, and when you get down to the level of perception, the math can get pretty complex (to say nothing of that boring as hell 1/f noise stuff that I’m pretty sure they don’t teach you in high school).

  7. #7 Jason Malloy
    October 23, 2007

    Psychology clusters close to, but is ultimately not as “hard science” as biology. Ergo the more biological the psychology sub-branch the harder the science. Sociobiology is a more robust science than its competitors.

  8. #8 Chris
    October 23, 2007

    Wooooow… that was one hell of a caricature of an argument.

  9. #9 Herod
    October 23, 2007

    Don’t academics tend towards the left anyway, particularly those who deal in words rather than numbers, for reasons explained by Robert Nozick?
    http://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/cpr-20n1-1.html

    I think that Dawkins opposition to the religious right has, at a deeper level, a lot to do with thinking that people who are not as clever as him could collectively have even more power than he does through the ballot box, and that scares the shit out of him. It’s not so much that he disagrees on their political views on abortion or the like (and let’s face it creationism is not politically important but it’s obvious why it would be important to Dawkins) just that they are ignorant unwashed who couldn’t make the right decisions so he has to either make them as clever as he is or he would be tempted to go for rule by an elite.

    I think you can have a test. Who do you think will arrive at a better process of decision making?
    A) 100 people with an IQ of 100 and a trial and error feedback mechanism like the “invisible hand” of the market or democratic voting.
    OR
    B) One guy with an IQ of 180.

    I think academics in general have a bias towards B.

  10. #10 razib
    October 23, 2007

    I think academics in general have a bias towards B.

    some psychologists and many economists would qualify: depending on the type of decision.

  11. #11 Rich Lawler
    October 23, 2007

    I’ve been teaching EP for about 4 years. I’ve never run across this political slant in such a formalized fashion. I always thought it was just “media chatter” above the fray of the folks-on-the-ground, actually doing research. Like any nascent discipline, EP contains a lot of specious story-telling amidst some excellent, rigorous, and creative science.

    Whenever I think of a rightwing adaptationist, I think of “Steven Pinker” …yeah, that’s it.

  12. #12 Caledonian
    October 23, 2007

    100 people with an IQ of 100 and a trial and error feedback mechanism like the “invisible hand” of the market or democratic voting.

    I’ve seen democracy in action. I’d go with the 180 IQ guy.

  13. #13 Chris
    October 24, 2007

    I know one thing, whatever their IQs, I’d rather not be subject to the decisions of anyone who believes in silly things like the invisible hand. ;)

  14. #14 Caledonian
    October 24, 2007

    Or the blind watchmaker?

  15. #15 windy
    October 25, 2007

    I think academics in general have a bias towards B.

    Then why do they insist on peer review? ;)

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