Thank you Jon. I would add that this is not an ideological stand. I
have no more use for ideology myself. It is a stand based on the
history of this subject and its (as far as I or others understand)
inability to make any actual contributions to further our knowledge.
Science is not about being liberal about bad ideas. Ideas that are
accepted are to withstand serious criticism, when they haven't they are
not scientific. This is a field that appears to be based on inherently
unscientific methodologies. So far the main response to the criticisms
has been to call its skeptics ideologues rather than deal with the
substantial issues that have been raised.
I think the extent this approach works is precisely because evolutionary
psychologists attempt to explain reality in panglossian terms. This in
turn is due to the fact we are a social species and that everyone is
concerned with their place in society. There has been and always will
be members of society who attempt to explain why the status quo has been
created by "nature" rather than by society. When this is dressed up as
science it needs to be challenged by scientists. To take every paper
that is written on its own without this context seems to be foolish.
That approach concedes the history behind this enterprise. I see no
good reason for that concession except that it makes fewer waves,
something that members of this list are hardly worried about.
I also agree that this does not mean suppressing studies, no matter what
their purpose. Studies are the grist of science. Evolutionary
psychology's problems start as a tradition of interpretation of
studies. This is where our efforts have been focused. If someone can
produce a study that can only be interpreted credibly by evolutionary
psychologists, I would change my mind. So far, none has been presented
that are non-trivial.
I hope what I mean by non-trivial is clear. An example of a trivial
example is that human behavior is clearly limited by genetics in that no
human being has ever been able to jump straight up in the air while
naked from a fixed platform on the surface of the earth at sea level to
a height of 50 feet or greater from the platform. Clearly there is no
specific gene or gene locus (aside from the whole genome) that is
responsible for this behavioral limit.
Jon Beckwith wrote:
> At 01:25 AM 7/6/2007, you wrote:
>> In the thread on sociobiology, I said in response to Ivan that I
>> think we must acknowledge the possibility that our opponents in
>> various debates are right, otherwise we are not doing science. If
>> there are differences in male and female brains, and if those
>> differences reflect some differences in cognition--emphasis on
>> spatial versus verbal talents, that sort of thing--what of it? Must
>> the fight for equality between men and women be based solely on the
>> conclusion that there are no differences between the sexes nor their
>> brains? If so, our ideology might be resting on very fragile ground.
>> In other words, special pleading is something that both left and
>> right can be guilty of.
> Probably, in contrast to some on this ListServe, I agree with
> what you say in this paragraph in principle. But, I could also say
> how do we know the "Intelligent Design" people aren't right.
> Shouldn't we take them seriously? I am sure there are differences
> between male and female brains, but at this stage of knowledge, we
> know nothing about what those mean for issues of gender differences in
> behavior. And we don't know, if the differences have some
> significance, whether those differences are fixed (unlikely) or
> subject to change. We certainly don't know enough to even consider
> what those changes might be, at least on the basis of structural or
> other differences. So exactly what is it that we are supposed to take
> So, at that stage of a "science", so much speculation or
> worse on "we now know" that women are different from men with
> implications of fixity, goes way beyond the science and, whether
> consciously or not, reflects the bias of the researcher. I ask again,
> give us some instances of science in this area that we should take
> seriously. I look at the occasional paper that seems to attract
> attention on this issue, and I can't see the evidence for the claims
> that are made. (I do it, because I am willing to accept that something
> may come out of such studies.) They are mainly of the sort, there are
> differences in brain structure or brain responses, therefore, women
> can't do math as well as men, etc. Do you know of any better
> arguments than these blatantly (if subconsciously-driven) ideological
> Again, I accept the possibility that there are differences,
> differences that may or may not be remediable by better teaching
> methods, etc. The differences may be even in the opposite direction
> from what is being claimed on the argument, for example, that women
> have been so discriminated against that, if given better
> socio-cultural conditions they would be "superior" (whatever that
> means). The sociological, psychological literature on issues such as
> parental and teacher expectations, etc. etc. etc. influencing
> male/female differences in different test performances is vast,
> probably orders of magnitude larger than those on biological factors.
> (Numbers of publications doesn't prove those arguments are correct,
> but in this age of the genome the very weak, at best, biological
> arguments receive far more attention than the numerous sociological,
> cultural, psychological arguments.)
> Jon Beckwith
> Dept. of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
> Harvard Medical School
> 200 Longwood Ave.
> Boston, MA 02115
> Tel. 617-432-1920
> FAX 617-738-7664
> e-mail [log in to unmask]
> website <http://beck2.med.harvard.edu/>
> *Recent books and articles:
> *My book, a memoir entitled: *Making Genes, Making Waves: A Social
> Activist in Science, *Harvard University Press, 2002.
> **Copies conformes ou copies qu'on forme ?* J. Beckwith. Sciences et
> Avenir Hors-SÚrie #149, p.71 (2006)
> *Should we make a fuss? A case for social responsibility in science.*
> F. Huang and J. Beckwith, Nature Biotechnology. *23:*1479-1480 (2005).
> *Whither Human Behavioral Genetics*, J. Beckwith in *Wrestling with
> Behavioral Genetics: Ethics, Science, and Public Conversation*, eds.
> E. Parens, A. Chapman and N. Press. Johns Hopkins University Press
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