May 2002


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Ian Pitchford <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 12 May 2002 06:46:45 +0100
text/plain (69 lines)
From: "Herbert Gintis" <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, May 11, 2002 12:21 PM
Subject: Gintis Unfairly Accused, Unjustly Condemned?

I have some comments on Michael H. Goldhaber's diatribe against me. Here is
his posting to Science for the People, with my comments interspersed.

>... a few years ago I was surprised
>to see that Herb Gintis (of Bowles and Gintis, economists and authors of
>a good critique of the American educational system and other left-wing
>studies had written a very abusive and negative review of the Rose's
>ALAS POOR DARWIN. I wrote him to find out if indeed he was the same Herb
>Gintis, and it turns out the two of them have become dedicated and, as
>far as I can see, insanely simple-minded supporters of evolutionary
         Many authors issued negative reviews of the Roses' book, and not a
few were abusive. Mine was both, and I feel quite justified in my remarks.
There are a couple of good papers in the book, but most of it is just trash.
         I am not a supporter (or opponents) of the body of theory and
evidence critiqued in the Roses' book. I think some of it is probably
correct and some of it probably wrong. I think the contributions probably
outweigh the errors, though only time will tell. I do think the Roses' book
is just trash, however, which motivated my review.
         Bowles and I remain friendly and cordial to real scientists, who
defend their work on scientific grounds only, rather than being motivated
by tradition or political correctness. As such, we remain friendly and
cordial with most of the researchers trashed by the Roses. But we have our
differences as well, and some of them are about to appear in print,
including a critique of our work by Cosmides and Tooby and Evolution and
Human Behavior, to be published this month.
         We are not insane or simple minded. Our work has been published in
the American Economic Review, Nature, the Journal of Theoretical Biology,
and many other respected scientific journals. Mr. Goldhaber doesn't know
what he is talking about.
>They do things like try to come up with mathematical proofs
>that prejudice against 'shirkers " as opposed to workers would have been
>built in by our putative ancestors' supposed experiences as
>hunter-gatherers. Gintis was angrily adamant abvout the wonders of ev.
>psych, but what he and Bowles were up to, I was saddened to conclude,
>was mathemtically precise while being utterly intellectually shoddy.
         This is too incoherent to warrant a logical reply, but I must say
that I am not, nor have I ever been, "angrily adamant" in support of ev.
psych., or any one of the other interpretations of human behavior present
in the scientific literature. In fact, my main goal has been to develop and
integrated model of human behavior in which the insights of many schools of
thought are represented. I believe the behavioral sciences have been
excessively fragmented in the course of the previous two centuries, and we
are now in a position of making a credible synthesis.
>Further, followers of evolutinary biology, if not all its practitioners
>strongly support neo-liberal or libertarian ideologies, and the common
>drift of their work on ev. psych has that written all over it.
         My work is neither neo-liberal nor liberterian, as can be gleaned
from a look at the papers on my web site that relate to social policy.

Best Regards,

Herbert Gintis

Herbert Gintis
Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts
External Faculty, Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM
15 Forbes Avenue, Northampton, MA 01060 413-586-7756
Recent papers are posted on my <> web
Get Game Theory Evolving (Princeton, 2000) at