Men agree to casual sex more, because female strangers are not considered dangerous and bad in bed.

Or (Heterosexual) Male privilege, not evolution or innate female frigidness, explains the gender difference in accepting random propositions for casual sex.

Gender Differences and Casual Sex: The New Research:

[M]ost of the gender difference in women’s and men’s propensity to agree to a broad-daylight, out-of-nowhere proposition for casual sex is driven by women’s perception that their risks are higher, and their likely enjoyment is lower from the proposer.

In the actual paper, Conley (2011) concludes:

First, male sexual proposers (who approached women) are uniformly seen as less desirable than female sexual proposers (who approached men). Therefore, gender differences in the original Clark and Hatfield study are due more to the gender of the proposer than to the gender of the study participants. Moreover, the idea that these gender differences reflect broad, evolved differences in women’s and men’s mating strategies was not supported. Across studies involving both actual and hypothetical sexual encounters, the only consistently significant predictor of acceptance of the sexual proposal, both for women and for men, was the perception that the proposer is sexually capable (i.e., would be “good in bed”). The perceptions of sexual capabilities also mediated the relationship between gender and acceptance of casual sex offers. Finally, indirect evidence suggests that perceptions of risk may play a role in gender differences in casual sex attitudes.

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Some scientists criticize the field of evolutionary psychology.

In The evolution of rape?, PZ Myers writes:

There are days when I simply cannot bear the entire field of evolutionary psychology: it’s so deeply tainted with bad research and a lack of rigor. And that makes me uncomfortable, because the fundamental premise, that our behaviors are a product of our history, is self-evidently true. It’s just that researchers in this field couple an acceptance of that premise to a deep assumption of adaptive teleology, the very thing that they should be evaluating, and produce some of the most awesomely trivial drivel.

I’ve just finished reading an article titled “Darwin’s Rape Whistle: Have women evolved to protect themselves from sexual assault?“, and it’s everything I despise about evolutionary psychology. It’s nothing but sloppy thinking and poor science propped up by a conviction that plausibility is sufficient support for certainty.

[…]

Another way to look at it is that they are hypothesizing that women are more likely to behave in ways that invite physical attack and brutal abuse when they aren’t ovulating. That is a remarkable assertion. It also carries the strange implication that the consequences of rape can be measured by the likelihood of immediate fertilization, rather than by the toll of physical injury and emotional trauma, a peculiar thing for psychologists to neglect. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a general hypothesis that people, men and women, who can avoid violence at any time in their life, are more likely to be reproductively successful and thereby pass on their genes to subsequent generations? That’s all they’re saying, essentially, and the straining to sex it up by tying globally useful behaviors to reproductive cycles is unconvincing.

In Evolutionary psychology for the masses, Jerry Coyne writes:

Now I don’t oppose evolutionary psychology on principle. The evolutionary source of our behavior is a fascinating topic, and I’m convinced that the genetic influences are far stronger than, say, posited by anti-determinists like Dick Lewontin, Steve Rose, and Steve Gould.  Evolved adaptations are particularly likely to be found in sexual behavior, which is intimately connected with the real object of selection: the currency of reproduction.  I’m far closer in my views on this topic to Steve Pinker than to Steve Gould.  And there are many good studies in the field, so I don’t mean to tar the whole endeavor.

But, for crying out loud, let’s have the journalists and scientists show a little more responsibility when reporting on evolutionary psychology.  If there are problems with a study, describe them.  If an idea is pure speculation, say it.  If there are other explanations for a phenomenon, give them.  Let’s not gull the public into claiming that we understand something with near certainty when we don’t.   These lax reportorial standards, pervasive in evolutionary psychology, seem to be much tighter in other areas of science, like physics or molecular biology.  And this despite the enormous difficulty of demonstrating that any human behavior is an evolved adaptation.

Every time I write a piece like this, one that’s critical of evolutionary psychology, I get emails from its practitioners, chewing me out for being so hard on their field.  And my response is always the same: I’ll stop being so hard on your field when you guys start being more critical yourselves.  If you policed your own discipline better, I wouldn’t have to.

Of course, not only practising scientists see the poor logic of many evolutionary psychology arguments. Members of the general public can generally detect the logical fallacy formally known as affirming the consequent.

Evolutionary Psychology Bingo Card

Male IT geeks tend to think they are “low status” males.

Why are male IT geeks less successful in attracting women than other males, on average? Why are there few women in IT?

Among male geeks, a popular explanation for both these phenomena is that women avoid “low status” males, because women are programmed by evolution to have sex with men in exchange for men’s material resources.

the average person in the United States with an IT career makes $0.13. the average American household makes $0.096.

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Evolutionary psychology arguments support white supremacy.

High-profile evolutionary psychology arguments are thinly-veiled justifications for white supremacist ideology. For example, evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa argues that it is natural and biological for men to prefer blonde (white) women, because blonde hair signals youth, health, and fecundity. (He also uses evolutionary psychology to argue “Why most suicide bombers are Muslim”, “humans are naturally polygamous”, and “sexual harassment isn’t sexist”.)

If you wonder why many people consider these evolutionary psychology arguments to be white supremacist pseudo-science, read What If Black Women Were White Women? by AlienatiOn:

In “If Men Could Menstruate,” Gloria Steinem makes the persuasive argument that “Whatever a ‘superior’ group has will be used to justify its superiority, and whatever an ‘inferior’ group has will be used to justify its plight.”

[…]

What if suddenly, instantly, the power of white femininity were transferred to black women?

The answer is clear: Black women would represent value, purity; and based on their natural traits would be worthy of protection and instantly become the objects of universal desire. White women would represent the opposite.

[…]

White female features would be declared violent. Their “jagged” thin lips, “knife sharp” noses, and “harsh” jaw lines would be nature’s way of expressing why men have a natural preference for the soft features of black women. Soft lips, soft cheekbones, and soft, round noses would be proof of natural femininity. Full, pink lips and large, dark eyes would become associated with virginal black girls whose purity must not be compromised. Black female features would thus be said to represent youth.

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Evolutionary psychologists invent narratives based on faulty assumptions.

In Why Do We Rape, Kill and Sleep Around? The fault, dear Darwin, lies not in our ancestors, but in ourselves., Sharon Begley (Newsweek) writes:

These have not been easy days for evolutionary psychology. For years the loudest critics have been social scientists, feminists and liberals offended by the argument that humans are preprogrammed to rape, to kill unfaithful girlfriends and the like. (This was a reprise of the bitter sociobiology debates of the 1970s and 1980s. When Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson proposed that there exists a biologically based human nature, and that it included such traits as militarism and male domination of women, left-wing activists—including eminent biologists in his own department—assailed it as an attempt “to provide a genetic justification of the status quo and of existing privileges for certain groups according to class, race, or sex” analogous to the scientific justification for Nazi eugenics.) When Thornhill appeared on the Today show to talk about his rape book, for instance, he was paired with a sex-crimes prosecutor, leaving the impression that do-gooders might not like his thesis but offering no hint of how scientifically unsound it is.

(The theory of evolution by natural selection is not part of the set of faulty assumptions, of course. The faulty assumptions made by evolutionary psychologists concern humans’ evolutionary past, the human brain, and some basic facts about non-Anglo countries that some didn’t bother checking.)


Related post:

Who has the right to speak about racism?

There have been two recent, thought-provoking posts on Racialicious about who is allowed to speak about racism. In May I Be Offended on Your Behalf? Tami of What Tami Said, who is black, recalls some negative experiences with non-black people speaking about black experience. Because of this, she held herself back from writing a post about racism against Asian Americans. She wants allies and the mainstream to be sensitive and intolerant of race bias, but also she wants them to keep their privilege in check. She then questions this and asks if she (or anyone) has the right to be offended on someone else’s behalf.

In A Question of Authority, Fatemeh Fakhraie of Muslimah Media Watch was advised by somebody not speak to about racial issues “past a certain point,” because Fatemeh can pass for white. She was annoyed by this, because one of her identities is being a Middle Eastern woman, she knows many Middle Eastern women, and she also does her homework on the subject. Similar to Tami, Fatemeh is annoyed when some white people speak for people of colour. In particular, Fatemeh mentions white academics and non-profit workers who speak for Middle Eastern and South Asian women, when Middle Eastern and South Asian academics and activists are capable of speaking for themselves. However, she wonders if a South Asian professor of African American studies has the authority to speak about issues facing Black Americans. She also points out that being from a particular background does not make one a “spokesperson” or “expert” on everyone of the same background. She asks: (1) What defines an authority on the subject? (2) Who has the right to speak as an authority on a race or ethnicity? and (3) Who gets to decide who’s an authority or not?

LM, a commenter on A Question of Authority, made an interesting point:

Anyone has a right to speak; whether they’re an authority is a separate question.

Why does it matter who is speaking? The truth-value of a proposition is independent of its speaker.

If there are such things as truths about racism and what we call “race”, then these truths exist independently of who speaks about them and regardless of if anyone speaks about them at all. The real problem here is not who is speaking, but what is being said.

The problem is that most people outside the racial group being spoken about simply lack the racial knowledge specific about that group. Not only that, but many people who fit this category are unaware of the extent of their racial ignorance; they believe that they are knowledgeable. Kruger and Dunning (1999) published a psychology study titled, “Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments” (PDF)(HTML). The study showed that the participants who were particularly incompetent in a particular subject or skill grossly over-estimated their competence in that subject or skill.

If we accept the hypothesis that people incompetent in a knowledge domain generally have inflated self-assessments with respect to their competence in that knowledge domain, and if we combine this with society’s expectation that white people are more competent and knowledgeable in general, then that white presumptuousness about race that feels all-too-common is an unsurprising result. Obviously, personally observing hundreds of white and black people shake hands does not give you access to the inner thoughts of non-whites with respect to handshaking preference; watching BET heavily does not make you especially knowledgeable about black culture; reading The Joy Luck Club does not mean you understand Chinese American culture; and even if you had studied race for over a dozen years, no white person—or even black person—is the spokesperson for black people. Unfortunately, many white people think that it’s that simple, that people of colour can be understood through prototyping, stereotyping, and generalization.

Like other subjects considered difficult, race and racism are complex subjects. Even if you want it to simplify it by embracing racial color blindness so that you don’t have to think about race, it doesn’t make race simple. Even if you want to simplify it by embracing multiculturalism and celebrating differences, it still doesn’t make race simple. It’s a lot more complicated than that, and there are a billion little things that cannot be generalized in addition to the few things that can be generalized that make up people’s racial experiences. It’s great to look for patterns, but be educated about rigorous empirical methods, because it’s not that simple. For example, personal observation is not a good way to draw conclusions about people outside your racial group.

Where does authority come from? Authority comes from knowledge.

Again, the truth of a proposition is independent of who the speaker is. The reason that academics are often authorities on specific types of knowledge is that they are often right, or at least they are generally more knowledgeable than everyone else. Somebody who has studied a specific subject (such as a scientific discipline) intensely for several years is going to be exposed to more knowledge about the topic than somebody who knows of the subject only through fictional portrayals on TV, for example.

My dad once commented that he thought that scientists were presumptuous, because they make scientific claims about evolution. He believed that his opinion that evolution is illogical (based on the false assumption that evolution is about moving from the primitive to the advanced) is as equally valid as that of a biologist’s. I thought that he was presumptuous for thinking that biology was that easy, that biologists spent years of advanced study without ever coming across his type of criticism, because they had never thought of it before or even debunked it in high school biology. Of course, when I suggested that he read an introductory book on the topic of evolution, he refused, believing that one does not have to study evolution to know that it’s crap.

You should always question authority, but if you find yourself dismissing the the claims of people who have studied a subject for years or lived an experience for years, believing that these views are not worth considering, you are the one who is presumptuous, not the “experts”.

Society confers a type of authority on those who are knowledgeable (generally). Although there are good reasons for conferring authority on to academics, authority is more about how society works than about truth per se. Knowledge and truth are more closely tied to one another, but what counts as “knowledge”?

Is personal experience a type of knowledge?

Yes, but personal experience is imperfect knowledge.

The hasty generalization is a fallacy, even if you are a person of colour. People of colour are individuals, and have a myriad of different racial, ethnic, and cultural identities intersecting with other identities, such as gender, sexual orientation, class, and nationality. In addition, there are people of colour who arrogant, stupid, and cunning enough to try to be the spokesperson for their racial or ethnic group, and there are many white people who will accept what they say uncritically.

The problem here is that sweeping generalizations about people are false even when they are about people of colour. (Imagine that!) People are not homogenous, and statistical analysis can be assumed to be necessary in population studies of people of colour as well. People of colour don’t literally live in a different world from white people which defies the laws of physics, statistics, and logic.

White people need to be critical of self-appointed spokespersons of colour, because generalizing from one instance to all instances was never an effective empirical method as far as generating truth is concerned. This should not be a racial issue, but it is, because of racialization.

Once again, the issue is not about deference to racial authority between whites and non-whites, but about racial truths versus racial falsities, racial knowledge versus racial ignorance. Often whites make false or misleading statements about a different racial group even when they have good intentions, but it is the wrongness that is the problem, not the fact that they said it. When the white woman told Tami that “any black person who saw it would be offended”, the statement itself is absurd, even if it was told by a black person to another black person who disagreed that it was offensive.

Similarly, there are non-whites like Michelle Malkin, Irshad Manji, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and my archenemy Chinese Canuck who often make generalizations from their personal experience to an entire group of people. While their personal experiences are of course valid, their generalizations are not. The problem is not who is doing the talking; it is what is being said.

Everyone has the right to speak. Whether you are knowledgeable or correct is a separate question.