Myth Busters: Flubs in Evolutionary Anthropology
Evolutionary psychologists and anthropologists have trouble explaining living humans, let alone past ones.
Can’t tell a tough guy by his face: Are the stereotypical wide-faced tough guys predictably mean? Science Daily said not so; they actually might be more self-sacrificing. “Existing research even supports this association, linking wider, more masculine faces with several less-than-cuddly characteristics, including perceived lack of warmth, dishonesty, and lack of cooperation,” the article began. “But a new study suggests that men with these wide, masculine faces aren’t always the aggressive tough guys they appear to be.” This implies that a new study overturned “existing research” that was considered by some to be authoritative at the time. Although psychologists at University of St. Andrews believe their own predictions were confirmed, and they were able to place their results into an evolutionary story, it’s hard to believe that genes for face width have anything to do with genes for aggression, or that games played by students can be generalized to describe men around the world.
Hold that politically-correct report: “New Studies challenge established views development of children raised by gay or lesbian parents,” announced a headline on Science Daily and PhysOrg. A researcher at St. Louis University was very cautious to say, in these politically-charged times, that “Not a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents.” That disclaimer done, though, he proceeded to discount the science on which previous politically-correct findings have been made, such as by the American Psychological Association (APA). “The jury is still out on whether being raised by same-sex parents disadvantages children”, Dr. Loren Marks said. “However, the available data on which the APA draws its conclusions, derived primarily from small convenience samples, are insufficient to support a strong generalized claim either way.” Prior work was slipshod, he felt:
Of the 59 studies referenced in the APA brief, more than three-quarters were based on small, non-representative, non-random samples that did not include any minority individuals or families; nearly half lacked a heterosexual comparison group; and few examined outcomes that extend beyond childhood such as intergenerational poverty, educational attainment, and criminality, which are a key focus of studies on children of divorce, remarriage, and cohabitation. In other words, “A lack of high quality data leaves the most significant questions unaddressed and unanswered,” concludes Marks.
Further reading shows that Marks did discover significant disadvantages for children raised by gay couples, and confirms the advantages to children of growing up in a traditional, stable, nuclear family:
According to his findings, children of mothers who have had same-sex relationships were significantly different as young adults on 25 of the 40 (63%) outcome measures, compared with those who spent their entire childhood with both their married, biological parents. For example, they reported significantly lower levels of income, more receipt of public welfare, lower levels of employment, poorer mental and physical health, poorer relationship quality with current partner, and higher levels of smoking and criminality.
“This study, based on a rare large probability sample, reveals far greater diversity in the experience of lesbian motherhood (and to a lesser extent, gay fatherhood) than has been previously acknowledged or understood,” explains Regnerus. “The most significant story in this study is arguably that children appear most apt to succeed well as adults when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day.”
Control thyself: “This is your brain on no self control” announced a headline on Science Daily. Brain scans seem to show “self-control is a finite commodity that is depleted by use. Once the pool has dried up, we’re less likely to keep our cool the next time we’re faced with a situation that requires self-control.” That’s a new theory by William Hedgcock (U of Iowa) that contradicts previous views that self-control is like muscle that gets stronger with use. It’s not clear, though, that his MRI scans of selected subjects given self-control games to play can be generalized to the population at large. It might have taxed subjects’ self-control to continue taking part in the experiment with all the noise of the scanner going on. Besides, it would seem presumptuous to associate MRI maps of a person’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex with a moral quality like self-control; which causes which?
Confusing cause and effect: A story on Science Daily purports to show that religions”use” prohibitions against extramarital sex to guarantee paternity. Buried within the article, though is an admission that a new NSF-funded study by Beverly Strassman (U of Michigan) “contradicts the prevailing view that traditional populations have high rates of cuckoldry.” Her team generalized taboos about adultery found among the Dogon people of West Africa to all religions that preach against it, but did not explain why “biological pressures” in some unguided evolutionary process would care about paternity. If any sexual union breeds fitness, why should any male care what happens after he moves on? The team apparently did not consider that a universal non-biological entity, namely conscience, might give all religions and tribes “pressure” to stay faithful. “In the United States,” Strassman found, “frequent church attendance and belief that the Bible is the word of God were the two most robust predictors of lower rates of self-reported extra-partner copulations.” This fact appears to have struck secular materialists as surprising. Strassman seemed especially fond of the scientific term cuckoldry, which, incidentally, is etymologically related to cuckoo.
Incorrigible storytelling: Given the questionable success by evolutionary anthropologists and psychologists to describe their living fellow humans, therefore, it would seem the height of presumption to propose why unseen ancestors would use marital faithfulness as an evolutionary strategy eons ago. Yet that is exactly what Sergey Gavrilets proceeded to attempt in his PNAS paper, “Human origins and the transition from promiscuity to pair-bonding” (PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1200717109 May 29, 2012), in which he freely admitted at first, “How such a transition from promiscuity to pair-bonding could be achieved is puzzling.” Indeed, he showed that four current models of such a transition are “not feasible under biologically relevant conditions“; i.e., Darwinism cannot account for it. Having trampled his predecessors’ models, he sallied forth:
Then, I show that the transition can happen if one accounts for male heterogeneity, assortative pair formation, and evolution of female choice and faithfulness. This process is started when low-ranked males begin using an alternative strategy of female provisioning. At the end, except for the top-ranked individuals, males invest exclusively in provisioning females who have evolved very high fidelity to their mates. My results point to the crucial importance of female choice and emphasize the need for incorporating between-individual variation in theoretical and empirical studies of social dilemmas and behaviors.
Yet his 4-part composite theory begs the question of how and why females had “evolved very high fidelity to their mates” or what “female choice” refers to in a mindless, biological process that would seem incapable of inventing an investment strategy without intelligent design. Gavrilets’ new model leaves one wondering what his wife or partner might say upon approaching a mating episode with, “this is my investment strategy in female provisioning” – if she had any female choice in the matter.
It gets so tiring to read the latest barf (i.e., technicolor yawn) emanating from the evolutionary psych and anthropology literature. What do they know that will not be overturned by the next study? How much is political correctness determining the procedure, let alone the outcome, of the findings? Do they do any better than fortunetellers at a sideshow? Why does anyone listen to these pukers, who with a mighty heave-ho try to throw their cookies farther than the last guy? It’s clear these “studies” offer little more than predigested evolutionary ejecta as sacrifices to Charlie, knowing the media will pick it up and regurgitate it faithfully for special delivery to the feet of the Bearded Buddha. Science Daily needs a new title when reporting disgorging evolutionary anthro-psycho stories: The Daily Heave: Evolutionists’ Retch-ed Attempts to Up Chuck.