Gene Expression

National Geographic has a coverage of the Kanzawa paper. The title: Liberals, Atheists Are More Highly Evolved? I get what’s going on with terms like “highly evolved,” but I think it’s really problematic when media which serves as an interface with the public in regards to evolutionary ideas uses this sort of terminology, as it reinforces misleading perceptions. For whatever reason people default to a great chain of being model in relation to evolution, and to really communicate the science as opposed to intuition you need to break people of these tendencies. This is why I have qualms with phrases such as “oldest known lineage of human modern humans”. If you have a deep interest in phylogenetics you intuitively grasp what’s trying to be communicated, but for the public it just spreads the idea that the bushmen are frozen in time.

Addendum: It might be argued that the Kanazawa paper invites this sort of misinterpretation, but it happens all the time, not just with evo-psych sensationalism.


  1. #1 Bryan
    March 4, 2010

    Drats. I tried to issue a pr on a similar paper colleagues and I did (school balked; so too did some other orgs).

    Gesh; I want someone to discuss my crappy research in NG.

  2. #2 Nanonymous
    March 5, 2010

    Combine gullible people and an author who thrives on gullibility. Add words, shake well, spread on paper. This is the most popular recipe in scientific journalism and it never fails.

  3. #3 Jim Thomerson
    March 5, 2010

    It is better to say “apomorphic” rather than “more highly evolved”. Well, maybe not.

  4. #4 TGGP
    March 7, 2010

    I think both Gould & Dawkins would have agreed with you on the silliness of “highly evolved” talk.