Friday, May 05, 2017

Evan Marc Katz ~ bullshitting the gullible with pseudo-science

I've already demonstrated that Evan Marc Katz is so lacking in ethics that he advised single women to set their sights on married men.

He also advises women to be passive in order to catch "alpha males" whom Katz believes are the only real men. These are men who cling to traditional gender roles so hard that if a woman offers one a ticket to see his favorite band he will FREAK THE FUCK OUT because his masculinity is so fragile. Men who believe in rigid gender roles have been demonstrated to be more likely to abuse women.

So naturally Katz would have no qualms, most recently, against passing himself off as an expert defender of science even though it's painfully clear that he gets all his "science" right from pop-psychology articles in the newspaper.
Today’s post is a little more serious, because it talks about something that is unique and dangerous in our partisan post-fact world: the idea that beliefs about how the world should work are more valid than facts about how the world actually does work.
Witness this article in the LA Times, which poses a very challenging question: “Are gender feminists and transgender activists undermining science?”
I've already criticized evolutionary psychology, aka evo-psycho plenty on this blog over the years but it never hurts to mention that proponents of evolutionary psychology are so reflexive in their belief that all cultural phenomena is due to adaptation that even when women are sold into slavery, they interpret it as evidence of female sexual desire for "alpha males" as David Buller demonstrated in his comprehensive critique of evolutionary psychology (from over eleven years ago already) Adapting Minds (my emphases): a well-documented study, the anthropologist William Irons found that, among the Turkmen of Persia, males in the wealthier half of the population left 75 percent more offspring than males in the poorer half of the population. Buss cites several studies like this as indicating that "high status in men leads directly to increased sexual access to a larger number of women," and he implies that this is due to the greater desirability of high-status men (David Buss 1999 "Evolutionary Psychology the New Science of the Mind"). 
But, among the Turkmen, women were sold by their families into marriage. The reason that higher-status males enjoyed greater reproductive success among the Turkmen is that they were able to buy wives earlier and more often than lower-status males. Other studies that clearly demonstrate a reproductive advantage for high-status males are also studies of societies or circumstances in which males "traded" in women. This isn't evidence that high-status males enjoy greater reproductive success because women find them more desirable. Indeed, it isn't evidence of female preference at all, just as the fact that many harem-holding despots produced remarkable numbers of offspring is no evidence of their desirability to women. It is only evidence that when men have power they will use it to promote their reproductive success, among other things (and that women, under such circumstances, will prefer entering a harem to suffering the dire consequences of refusal).
Of course the kind of people who are stupid enough to care what a huckster like Katz says aren't likely to be aware of any serious critiques of evolutionary psychology. Katz lives in a bubble of dullards, which no doubt makes him feel like a genius, and he's perfectly content to live that way.

Evolutionary psychologists are not bothered in the least that their "science" is not empirical and in fact, like the poster children for the Dunning-Kruger effect that they are, they claim it's their opponents who don't understand or are even hostile to science.

I'll let an actual scientist, P. Z. Myers address that issue:
Why, oh why, do EP’s defenders rely on throwing up armies of straw men to slaughter? It’s silly. Here’s how (Jerry Coyne) starts:
There are some science-friendly folk (including atheists) who simply dismiss the entire field of evolutionary psychology in humans, saying that its theoretical foundations are weak or nonexistent. I’ve always replied that that claim is bunk, for its “theoretical foundations” are simply the claim that our brains and behaviors, like our bodies, show features reflecting evolution in our ancestors.
Have you ever seen a critic of evolutionary psychology deny that we evolved, or that features and differences of the human body and brain are products of evolution? Not me. When I say that it’s theoretical foundations are ridiculous, I don’t mean the idea that there are evolved differences between the sexes, but that EP comes with a set of ludicrous assumptions, such as that we are adapted to the African savannah and the agricultural and urban adaptations of the last 10,000 years don’t count. It leads to absurdities like the paleo diet, in which it’s assumed that we should eat like cavemen, because evolution. 
I also criticize the just-so story-telling. Coyne should know this well: studying evolution is hard and demands rigor. Yet evolutionary psychologists will do a quickie study on color perception in college undergraduates and announce that women evolved to be better at recognizing ripe berries. 
And obviously, as you might guess, there are the methodological problems. There is so much trivial market-driven crap in evolutionary psychology that it swamps out any hypothetically ‘good’ research in the field. If I were doing research on the evolutionary basis of human behavior (I’m not, fortunately), I would run away so fast from the label “evolutionary psychology” that I’d make Kanazawa’s head spin, and he’d have to formulate some story about the distant ancestors of white people having to sprint away from noisy speculating sabre-toothed tigers. 
But then Coyne pulls his magic “proof” out of his hat: the existence of sexual dimorphism. Yeah, who has a problem with that? Men and women look different in grand and subtle ways. Some of those differences were almost certainly selected for. Again, I don’t know anyone who denies that, so it’s kind of weird to use it as his triumphant example. Except that he seems to think all those lefty wackos — you know, feminists, apparently — are in the business of denying the obvious. 
But the left-wing opposition to evolutionary psychology as a valid discipline in principle, especially when it involves differences in sexual behavior, seems to me based more on ideology than on biology. Ideologues cannot allow any possibility that males and females behave differently because of their evolution. Such people think that this would buttress the view that one sex would be “better” than the other.
I know a lot of modern radical feminists. I’m pretty solidly in the left-wing camp myself. And NO ONE denies the physical differences between men and women, or claims that evolution could not have played an important role in shaping the diversity of modern humans. Nor do any claim that there aren’t significant behavioral differences — we encounter those every day. What we oppose is the credulous insistence that every single difference is a product of selection, that the influence of culture is noise gently overlaying the purity of the biological signal, and worst of all, the idea that the status quo is justified as a product of biology (which Coyne at least tries to distance himself from at the end).
Katz himself demonstrates the untestable nature of evolutionary psychology. Evo-psychos claim that men and women have fundamental, completely oppositional natures. But when an example of someone behaving in a way that goes against their alleged gender nature is presented, evo-psychos will say something like Katz says here:
Sort of misses the point, Emily. We’re talking about generalities – always.
But "generalities" is the very essence of evolutionary psychology and that's why it's just as much a science as astrology. Evo psychos make claims about how men and women are but admit there are exceptions - but if you have a high enough percentage of exceptions to a rule, the rule is bullshit. 

Fifty years ago women were kept out of the Boston marathon, on the theory that women just couldn't handle it. As Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially enter the Boston Marathon said:
"It was feared that anything longer (than 800 meters) was going to injure women, that they wouldn't be able to have children or they somehow turned into men," she told NPR.
" 'You'll never have children,' they said. 'You're going to get big legs. You're going to grow hair on your chest.' It was hilarious, the myths.
I'm sure the sexists of the time argued, after Switzer ran the marathon, that she was an exception to the general rule of female fragility. Now that millions of women have run in marathons I don't think even someone like Evan Marc Katz could deny that women do not endanger their fertility by running marathons. Because Switzer was NOT exceptional. But until women were allowed to run, it could not be proven.

But evolutionary psychologists avoid presenting test scenarios. The claim that women are by nature "hypergamous" and men are not could be disproved if enough men and women were shown to behave differently than their gender roles. But evolutionary psychologists are not attempting to find such people - assuming you could tease out "natural" behavior from its complex interaction with culturally-learned behavior - because they are already certain they are right. And so it will never be known how many exceptions there are to this alleged rule of gender-based behavior, and evo-psychos don't even bother to predict the percentage of exceptions there will be. They just do a lot of mumbling and hand-waving about generalities. So evolutionary psychology is unfalsifiable.

That is why evolutionary psychology is a pseudo-science.