Overuse and Abuse of Evolutionary Psychology

A friend of mine recently brought my attention to an article by The Star.  If you don’t want to read it, here’s the first few paragraphs:

“In new research bound to irk conservative geniuses, people with high IQs are deemed more likely to be liberal, monogamous non-believers than those who are less intelligent.

Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist from the London School of Economics and Political Science, says it makes sense biologically.

In an article for Social Psychology Quarterly, Kanazawa lays out facts based on U.S. data to support his theory. According to that research, young adults who identify as “not at all religious” had an average IQ of 103 as teens, while those who identified as “very religious” had an average IQ of 97.”

Anyways, the rest of the article tries to argue how this can be explained with evolutionary psychology. As you can probably guess from my title, I found this to be completely unnecessary.

The above is what I wrote yesterday, but then decided not to finish cause I just didn’t have the patience to go through the whole thing. Luckily I just found an blog entry by ‘The Good Atheist’ that talks about it. OH BOY!

This is probably the most important part:
“This study was also criticized for failing to take into account the fact that people with lower IQ also tend to live in poorer neighborhoods, and that their intelligence is more a sign of poor education rather than anything inherent about their brain power.”

All I want to say is it irks me that evolutionary psychology, which I believe has great potential in explaining universal human characteristics that are found in human societies that resemble those from thousands of years ago (i.e. explaining our basic genetic neural architecture), is all too often overused and abused, when a better explanation will most likely be found in sociological explanations.

For good treatments on the subject (in my opinion), read anything by Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, and Pascal Boyer.

This whole thing makes me want to read the Stephen Jay Gould book ‘The Mismeasure of Man


About dontdontoperate

28 year old originally from Barrie, Ontario, Canada. H.B.Sc. from UofT with a major in chemistry and a double minor in philosophy and math. M.Sc. from UofT in physiology and neuroscience. Finished my Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at McMaster in the fall of 2013.
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4 Responses to Overuse and Abuse of Evolutionary Psychology

  1. dc76128 says:

    I would like to agree with you. It is sad how often psychological concepts are misused. especially evolutionary principals. it bothers me how the media tends to spin even the most inconsequential findings

  2. dontdontoperate says:

    sad but true 😦

  3. chen019 says:

    Unfortunately, that book (The Mismeasure of Man) is more a work of propaganda than science. It is a popular book because it tells people what they want to hear, but it got seriously panned in specialist academic journals. Gould misrepresents the position of those he criticises and omits studies that contradict his argument.

    I’d recommend Nevan Sesardic’s article here, pages 593-596 particularly document how Gould’s allegations of bias against Morton are baseless.

    Philosophy of Science that Ignores Science: Race, IQ and Heritability, Philosophy of Science 67 (2000), pp.580-602.


    • dontdontoperate says:

      Oh my word. Thank you! I’ll be sure to check out that article. Yeah, as I stated in the post, I have yet to actually read The Mismeasure of Man.

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