An Evolutionist's Devastating Critique of Evolutionary Psychology.

Jeff Coyne is an evolutionary biologist. He probably does not support 'Christian values' but he has recently been appalled that some evolutionary psychologists are justifying rape as a normal human activity. This has led to Coyne launching a devastating attack on the approach of evolutionary psychology. Here are some quotes from his attack:

"The latest deadweight dragging us closer to phrenology is "evolutionary psychology," or the science formerly known as sociobiology, which studies the evolutionary roots of human behavior. There is nothing inherently wrong with this enterprise, and it has proposed some intriguing theories, particularly about the evolution of language. The problem is that evolutionary psychology suffers from the scientific equivalent of megalomania. Most of its adherents are convinced that virtually every human action or feeling, including depression, homosexuality, religion, and consciousness, was put directly into our brains by natural selection. In this view, evolution becomes the key--the only key--that can unlock our humanity."

"Unfortunately, evolutionary psychologists routinely confuse theory and speculation. Unlike bones, behavior does not fossilize, and understanding its evolution often involves concocting stories that sound plausible but are hard to test. Depression, for example, is seen as a trait favored by natural selection to enable us to solve our problems by withdrawing, reflecting, and hence enhancing our future reproduction. Plausible? Maybe. Scientifically testable? Absolutely not. If evolutionary biology is a soft science, then evolutionary psychology is its flabby underbelly."

"In view of the scientific shakiness of much of the work, its popularity must rest partly on some desire for a comprehensive "scientific" explanation of human behavior. Evolutionary psychology satisfies the postideological hunger for a totalistic explanation of human life, for a theory of inevitability that will remove many of the ambiguities and the uncertainties of emotional and moral life."

"Thornhill and Palmer have frequently invoked the authority of science in defense of their evolutionary conception of rape. They insist that their detractors are ideologically motivated, whereas they are dispassionate scientists whose only priority is objective truth. In their media appearances, they have implied that their science is incontrovertible, and that any dissenter from their conclusions must be philosophically or politically blinkered."

Like so much of evolutionary psychology, Thornhill and Palmer's book is utterly lacking in sound scientific grounding. Moreover, the authors use rhetorical tricks that mislead the general reader about their arguments. Once its scientific weaknesses are recognized, The Natural History of Rape becomes one more sociobiological "justso" story the kind of tale that evolutionists swap over a few beers at the faculty club. Such stories do not qualify as science, and they do not deserve the assent, or even the respect, of the public."

"Thornhill and Palmer can be very nasty about those who differ with their analysis, mainly sociologists and feminists. "….In fact, Thornhill and Palmer are accusing others of what are really their own failings: "Not only is the bulk of the social science literature of rape clearly indifferent to scientific standards; many of the studies exhibit overt hostility toward scientific approaches, and specifically toward biological approaches. The message of these studies is clearly political rather than scientific." It is Thornhill and Palmer who are guilty of indifference to scientific standards. They buttress strong claims with weak reasoning and weak data. Their book lacks the measured tone and the openness to alternative theories that characterize truly scientific work. (Compare their sledgehammer approach with the moderate tone of On the Origin of Species.) It is perfectly clear to any fairminded reader of A Natural History of Rape that its objective is not to test whether rape is an adaptation, but to demonstrate it. Their evolutionary psychological explanation of rape is not their conclusion, it is their premise."

"Amid this debacle-for A Natural History of Rape is truly an embarrassment to the field-I am somewhat consoled by the parallels between Freudianism and evolutionary psychology. Freud's views lost credibility when people realized that they were not at all based on science, but were really an ideological edifice, a myth about human life, that was utterly resistant to scientific refutation. By judicious manipulation, every possible observation of human behavior could be (and was) fitted into the Freudian framework. The same trick is now being perpetrated by the evolutionary psychologists. They, too, deal in their own dogmas, and not in propositions of science. Evolutionary psychology may have its day in the sun, but versions of the faith such as Thornhill and Palmer's will disappear when people realize that they are useless and unscientific."

Final Comments:

Again, Coyne is an evolutionist but the irony of his fully justified attack on certain evolutionary psychologists who appear to be very close to justifying rape, is that much of what he says is a criticism of much else within Darwinism.

These comments are taken from Here. (But be aware that the quoted web page is not necessarily sympathetic to Coyne).


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