Monday, February 05, 2018

Evo-psycho bros & the reproductive success of Immanuel Kant

It's easy to understand why some people are drawn to evolutionary psychology. Their studies don't take much work:
  1. Detect a human social behavior
  2. Write a paper declaring the social behavior to be a direct result of sexual selection based on the evo-psycho just-so stories about human behavior in pre-historical times.
  3. Get published.

Also if you have old data handy,  developed by white supremacists, do not hesitate to base claims of black intellectual inferiority on that data.

Here we see a work in progress by the Winegard brothers, joined by David C. Geary of the University of Missouri entitled The Status Competition Model of Cultural Production.

They argue that most of what men do is to impress other men and thus make them more desirable as mates for women indirectly. Although sometimes men do things to directly impress women. Like write treacly love poetry.

The paper doesn't address the inconvenient fact of homosexuality which will always remain one of the most obvious problems with evolutionary psychology. If we are here because every non-survival activity that humans perform is meant to attract mates which leads to reproduction, how is there homosexuality?

The Winegards/Geary paper references the usual evo-psycho suspects Buss and Toby and Pinker.

And what evo-psycho work would be complete if it didn't cite a right-winger with no credentials other than she makes a living being paid by the Koch brothers to attack feminism?

Although I didn't realize that Christina Hoff Sommers  considered herself a "philosopher" now.

How about "Koch Brothers Handmaidens"?

The Winegards and Geary are simply rehashing Pinker's claims in The Blank Slate. The New Yorker had an excellent response to the Darwinian fundamentalism of Pinker's views of culture:
Most of life is conducted in an environment of man-made stimulants and inhibitors, incentives and deterrents. Many impulses are channelled or suppressed, and many talents and feelings are acquired, and have no specific genetic basis or evolutionary logic at all. Music appreciation, for instance, seems to be wired in at about the level of "Hot Cross Buns." But people learn to enjoy Wagner. They even learn to sing Wagner. One suspects that enjoying Wagner, singing Wagner, anything to do with Wagner, is in gross excess of the requirements of natural selection. To say that music is the product of a gene for "art-making," naturally selected to impress potential mates—which is one of the things Pinker believes—is to say absolutely nothing about what makes any particular piece of music significant to human beings. No doubt Wagner wished to impress potential mates; who does not? It is a long way from there to "Parsifal."

Heads up breeder wanna-bes! Parsifal is coming to Manhattan in 2018!

And that brings us around to Immanuel Kant. The Winegards and Geary use Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" to illustrate their theory that creating culture, including philosophical works, makes one attractive to mates.

According to Kühn, whose acclaimed biography of the philosopher has just been published in Germany, Kant also had "amorous interests" in two women - though there is no evidence these were consummated.

It was only at the age of 57, after Kant had published his most famous work, his Critique of Pure Reason, that he was in a position to support a wife. "By this time it was too late," Kühn said.
With the exception of Schopenhauer they couldn't have picked a worse philosopher to illustrate their theory of philosophy as an enhancer of reproductive success.