A blue-haired woman gave a talk about evolutionary psychology awhile back at Skepticon 5. According to some, it wasn’t very well researched. Which isn’t too surprising, this person has a degree in Communications, not Science. An actual scientist (Undergrad), who works in evolutionary psychology, did critique the speech, painstakingly taking apart the areas he felt she got wrong. This, in a normal world, should be the end of the story, with the blue-haired woman admitting the flaws in her talk and maybe even sharing the experience in a blog post. Everyone leaves happy.
But not in the world of the blue-haired woman. Or her friends.
Enter Stephanie Svan. Svan takes it upon herself to explain what the blue-haired women really meant, and how wrong the scientist was.
One good reason to watch the talk now is that Ed Clint has posted a criticism of sorts of the talk.
I say, “of sorts”, because most of what Clint is upset about has nothing to do with the talk. You’ve watched it by now, right? You’ve seen the title: How Girls Evolved to Shop and other ways to insult women with “science”. You’ve seen all the newspaper headlines. You’ve seen the book covers.
You understand, presumably, that this talk was about the industry of pop psychology, which sells us reassurance that our world, in which gender roles are continually enforced, is just a consequence of natural differences between the sexes. Rebecca targeted both a credulous, sensationalist press and the methodologically weak science that produces the results used by that press.
To Ed Clint, however, that talk is denying the legitimacy of the entire field of evolutionary psychology. The title of his post? “Science denialism at a skeptic conference”.
Where does Clint get this idea?
The industry of pop psychology. Riiiiiight. Except, as the scientist explained, she was all over the board with her evo psych bashing. One minute referring to media portrayal the next the entire field. For someone with a degree in Communications, and getting paid for speaking, she sure made a mess of it.
Not to be outdone, The Grand Poobah of Skeptics, PZ Myers, enters the fray and immediately starts poisoning the well on Twitter.
— PZ Myers (@pzmyers) December 3, 2012
Then blogs about it. And the very first sentence contains a complete and utter lie.
You may have already heard that Ed Clint, a guy who has been dedicated to bashing Skepchick and Freethoughtblogs for over a year, has cloaked his biases in a pretense of objectivity and written a long critique of one of Rebecca Watson’s talks, accusing her of being a science denialist and anti-science because she so thoroughly ridiculed pop evo psych.
Ask for proof of this “dedicated bashing…for over a year.” and you’ll probably be banned from his blog. (Some links would have been nice, PZ, if there were any.) The post is more of a “bash the guy critical of the blue-haired woman” than anything else. But, here’s the confusing part. PZ more or less contradicts himself in back-to-back sentences regarding evo psych.
(I frequently advise students on good disciplines to pursue in grad school; bioinformatics and genomics have a great future ahead of them, as does molecular genetics and development, but evolutionary psychology is one I would steer them well clear of, as a field that has not and will not ever contribute much of substance. The good papers in evo psych are the ones that use the tools of population genetics well and avoid the paleolithic mumbo-jumbo altogether).
But he’s not done. In another post he defends the blue-haired woman from her detractors regarding her Communications degree.
That’s happening to Rebecca Watson right now. She dared to point out that a lot of pop and evolutionary psychology is bad science, and as a reward, the witch hunt is in raging progress. We’ve actually got people declaring that she only has a bachelor’s degree in communications, therefore she wasn’t qualified to talk about a field of evolutionary biology. Some people are slyly arguing that she shouldn’t be allowed to talk about science at all at conferences, and comparing her to Jenny McCarthy and Bill Maher.
How soon he forgets his own words. Let’s travel back to August of this year, and see what PZ was saying about candidate Paul Ryan.
The other appalling thing about Ryan is how much the media is puling about how smart he is, and calling him a brilliant policy wonk (also hammered on by Pierce). Ryan is a guy with a bachelor’s degree in economics whose entire career is defined by political gladhanding and devotion to far-right ideological nonsense. He’s not particularly well-qualified; a BA is a degree that gives you a general knowledge of the basics of a field, and it’s a good thing, but it does not turn you into an expert. Ryan’s degree in economics is worth about as much as Bobby Jindal’s degree in biology.
He must have a Communications degree like the blue-haired woman.
OK, back to Svan’s blog for one more quick look.
The blue-haired women was the first comment. She was too busy traveling to be able to respond herself regarding the scientists post, but somehow managed to be the first to comment on Svan’s.
Thanks Stephanie. I saw Clint’s post but as I’m traveling, I have no time to write anything up, so I’m very glad that you’ve done a great job of it. I’m actually giving this talk again tomorrow and I’m quite thankful to people who have given me notes and corrections. I even got a few good ones from Clint! He’s absolutely right that I misspoke in regards to Kruger’s affiliation (it’s U of Michigan, not Chicago, that should be embarrassed) and in regards to the favorite color study being given to Chinese people in the UK, not in China. Also, the “Why People Have Sex” study was not all white middle class women – it was only about ~60% white (and ~20% Asian.) I think I’ll note instead that the study involved 96% 18-22 year olds, all of whom were psychology students at University of Texas Austin, and among the women 27% of whom had never had sexual intercourse. More accurate and also more ridiculous.
There are other bits and pieces Clint got wrong but at a glance I think you’ve covered the bulk of the problems here.
Look at that last sentence. Do you see it?
Two people, without any formal training in Evolutionary Psychology, were able to “fix” the problems the evolutionary psychologist got wrong.
There’s a word for this kind of thinking.