Thursday, March 15, 2018

Biosocial criminology ~ so what about Australia?

The biosocial criminologists don't seem aware, or don't care that their field is built on the shaky foundation of evolutionary psychology: untestable theories about how humans chose mates in prehistoric times; strict adaptationism; the Northern Superiority Hypothesis; and studies that were funded by racists.

It seems to me that the only way they can continue to believe in the hereditarian basis of their field is to ignore evidence that does not fit their theories. 

Two examples can be seen in this Quillette article written by Razib Khan and Brian Boutwell, which Steven Pinker recommended to his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers: Heritability and why Parents (but not Parenting) Matter.

In the first example, we see the steadfast belief of hereditarians that human culture has so little impact that it is indistinguishable from "evolutionary processes." 

After admitting to the existence of arranged marriages Khan and Boutwell say:
...Consider the landmark and very famous work (highlighted by Dawkins) carried out on the selective breeding of foxes.8 The goal of the work, in large part, was to better understand the processes of animal domestication. Foxes displaying high levels of tameness (when around a human) were bred with each other.  As it turns out, if you continually cross one tame fox with another, what you eventually get is an animal that starts to act (and even look) more like a dog than a fox.7,8  “Humans are not foxes!” objects the incredulous critic. True, but we don’t get to play by different rules (apologies to our creationist friends [and sadly, to many sociologists*3]).  The same evolutionary processes that apply to the fox and the hound (and every other organism on the planet), apply to us.7,8
Animal domestication is not "evolutionary processes" because throughout the evolutionary history of the creatures which eventually became foxes, the animals chose which other animals they wished to have sex with - an aspect of evolution known as "sexual selection" - without humans controlling the pool of potential mates. And the animals did not prefer traits like "tameness around humans."

Arranged marriages - really any kind of marriage - like animal breeding is an example of human culture intervening in "evolutionary processes." Deciding to have children with an individual selected on the basis of non-sexual traits is not an example of sexual selection but rather a cultural socio-economic process - and in the case of arranged marriages a process not even based on the socio-economic decisions of those getting married. 

And arranged and forced marriages are not only an historical issue. In places all over the world, in the present time, women and girls are forced to copulate with and be impregnated by men they do not sexually desire, because it is in their parents' socio-economic interest that they do so. Patriarchal societies are built on a foundation of thwarting female sexual desire. 

And wealth is no indicator of evolutionary fitness - inheritance laws are not based on the physical beauty and healthy bodies and agreeable dispositions of heirs.

But evolutionary psychology theories can't work unless you completely throw out the inconvenient complexity of human culture. And so that's what they do. 

And then there's this section of the article:
Consider an example that dovetails with the previous point.  Criminologists (and psychologists) have been aware for some time that criminal involvement runs in families*4 and is also heritable (a good portion of that heritability seems to be narrow-sense, though not all; see  The psychologist Robert Krueger and colleagues10 some years back, provided evidence that humans mate assortatively for antisocial and criminogenic behaviors (put differently, highly antisocial individuals tend to pair off with each other in a non-random fashion).  Does this completely explain the concentration of crime in certain families?  No.  Can it be safely ignored and assumed to be irrelevant?  No.  Just as narrow-sense heritability is a puzzle piece that can tell you something about where the distribution of a trait could be headed in a population, it also helps inform the question of why certain traits cluster in families.9
Now I did some poking around in the books of the biosocial criminologists and can't find any significant discussion of Australia. Which is astounding when you consider that the British system of shipping off its criminals to Australia is the greatest natural experiment ever related to biosocial criminology:
New South Wales, a state in southeast Australia, was founded by the British as a penal colony in 1788. Over the next 80 years, more than 160,000 convicts were transported to Australia from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, in lieu of being given the death penalty.  
Today, about 20% of Australians are descendants of convicts, including plenty of prominent citizens. 
Twenty percent of Australians are descendants of convicts. Surely that's unique in the history of the world. There should be dozens of studies of Australia by biosocial criminologists. But as far as I can find, there are none.

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that biosocial criminologists never mention the history of Australia  as a penal colony  because it would immediately call into question their claim "criminal involvement runs in families."

But haven't they thought about it themselves? How could they not have thought about it, it's a well-known historical phenomenon.

I think biosocial criminologists have careers because few people take them seriously enough to ask basic questions like "what about Australia?" If serious scientists started asking serious questions the entire field would dissolve.

Meanwhile the biosocial criminologists can keep writing for alt-right Quillette and crying on alt-right Stefan Molyneux's shoulder about how they are discriminated against by those liberals in academia. Who, as they will tell you, have a greater tendency toward criminality, because they are liberal