April 21, 2020 | David F. Coppedge

Elitism Makes Evolutionary Psychologists Neurotic

‘The public is out to destroy rationality, and we must save the planet from stupidity!’ Elitists need to look in the mirror.

Psychologists and social scientists in academia—almost universally evolutionists in thinking—are suffering from a pandemic of neurosis, which the dictionary defines as, “a functional disorder in which feelings of anxiety, obsessional thoughts, compulsive acts, and physical complaints without objective evidence of disease, in various degrees and patterns, dominate the personality.” Their academic training has cultivated a particular neurosis, the Yoda Complex, which makes them feel obligated to tell their fellow humans how to think and act, as if they themselves escaped the random forces of mindless Darwinism.

Honesty “nudge” fails to replicate (Science Magazine). We’ve spoken of the “nudge” tactic before (7 August 2016, 24 July 2019). Nudgers are evolutionary psychologists and social scientists, and the politicians they have influenced, who have convinced themselves that it is their moral duty to get other people to believe and act like them. Nudging is elitist at its base, because the nudging is always one-way. CEH, in a spirit of fairness, suggested that it is only fair for nudgees to be able to nudge the nudgers back (11 July 2017). Isn’t that fair, if the nudgers believe that all humans are evolved apes?

It turns out that the science of nudging that these elitists depended on was fake. It could not be replicated. Notice the elitism in Tage S. Rai’s comment about the failure of replication, which basically falsifies the assumed scientific basis for nudging: “These findings have implications for current debates about the limitations of behavioral nudge-style interventions that favor subtle, easy-to-implement changes to the environment over more costly structural reform.” This translates into, “If you can’t nudge ’em, force ’em.” They never conceive of being forced back into confessing their fake science of nudging. Instead, they have a neurotic obsession to nudge, push, or beat their fellow evolved humans into submission – science or not.

How to spot bogus science stories and read the news like a scientist  (The Conversation). Doug Specht and Julio Gimenez, both from the University of Manchester, assume the posture of judges of true science vs bogus science. Their criteria for evaluating claims “like a scientist” are actually fair and reasonable. But the word “scientist” is so flimsy and flawed, the label is about as imprecise as the word “voter.” What does “like a scientist” mean? A scientist in what field? A scientist at what level of training? A scientist when eating dinner or when in the lab? Do citizen scientists qualify? Who is their best model? They also fail to define “scientific information” or warn readers that findings are often colored by the worldview and political persuasion of the researchers.

To make their article less elitist, it would be good to see if one could apply their own criteria to themselves. For instance, would they agree that some of the claims about evolution we have reported constitute fake science? (e.g., 12 March 2020), or would they stand up for Darwin instead with the loyalty of a cultist?

A scientific theory of gist communication and misinformation resistance, with implications for health, education, and policy (PNAS). Valerie F. Reyna, the sole author of this paper, acts as another self-appointed arbiter of truth vs misinformation. She would never think of herself as a presenter of misinformation. She already knows what is true. Evolutionary theory told her. Look at her blindness to her own bias:

Topics such as evolution, vaccination mandates, and stem-cell therapy seem to involve the heart, or motivational biases, more than the mind.

Whoa-ho-ho, hold on here. Is she saying that her own view of evolution involves the heart and not the mind? If so, the National Academy of Sciences would never have published her paper. Evolution is a fact!

This is the mark of the elitist Yoda Complex: giving one-way verdicts on who has Truth and who has bias. To elitists, it’s always the unwashed masses who don’t “get” evolution. Notice also that she mentions “vaccination mandates,” not just “vaccination.” CEH does not take a position on vaccination, but “mandates” implies government coercion, which is a matter of policy. And “stem-cell therapy” must refer in her thinking to embryonic stem cell therapy, because other types of stem cells are not controversial. If so, the subject becomes a matter of moral philosophy and human rights, not science.

Misinformation often pulls at the heart, such as case stories of children who develop autism or rare neurological diseases shortly after vaccination. However, FTT suggests that heart and mind are inextricably linked. Misinformation takes root in an absence of knowledge about what is plausible; it is reflected in how people represent the gist of the information that they see or hear; and the gist has a life of its own in the mind dissevered from what has actually been seen or heard. In turn, the gist induces emotions and brings to mind core values. Thus, emotion and motivation are not inevitable sources of bias that cannot be changed, but instead they are produced, in part, by how we interpret information in light of our backgrounds and experiences, including scientific literacy.

A diagnosis of Yoda Complex can be made by asking the patient to submit their views to their own assumptions. Ms Reyna appears to be an evolutionist. This means that if she really believes in evolution, then her heart and mind are inextricably linked by her genetic heritage from ape-like ancestors. This implies that her own social behaviors, including writing, derive from a long history of random mutations and natural selection (the Stuff Happens Law). That, logically, pulls the rug out from any claims of truth and moral authority, undermining her own paper. Let’s ask Ms Reyna how she responds to an accusation as a purveyor of misinformation. That should determine whether or not she is neurotic.

Evaluating the fake news problem at the scale of the information ecosystem (Jennifer Allen et al., Science Advances, 3 April 2020). Happily, this paper concludes that fake news is not as big a worry as many people think. Still, what is one to make of the statement at the end, “The authors declare that they have no competing interests.” Is that even possible? These authors are judging what constitutes fake news, misleading information and misinformation. Wouldn’t it be more fair for each of the authors to declare their political biases up front when talking about political bias? A look at their careers show that all either work for Microsoft or a major university. Those institutions lean politically left. Who can really trust any of them to be objective, just because they “declare that they have no competing interests”?

Update 4/21/2020: Angela Saini wrote an unusual opinion piece in Nature‘s World View section on March 6: “Want to do better science? Admit you’re not objective.” Using the dark history of eugenics as backdrop (which had been the scientific consensus in the early 20th century before it was discredited and shamed), she urges scientists today to be aware of their own tendency to fall in line with ideas that may later be discredited.

Scientists who imagine that bias lies in others, not themselves, fail to recognize that to live in the world today is to be drip-fed assumptions and prejudices that guide our thoughts and actions. If it were any other way, the demographics of academia would be more equitable, and the current strain of genetic determinism in governments wouldn’t be possible. Racism and prejudice are woven into the structures in which we all live and work — and into us.

It is good to remind scientists of their biases, but to be fully objective, Saini should state what her own biases and prejudices are that prompted her to write this commentary. If she abjures genetic determinism, is she simultaneously an evolutionist? How can she get those contradictory ideas to comport with one another?

The way we think about the brain may be completely wrong (New Scientist). With this Tontological title, Simon Inge reviews a new book by Matthew Cobb, The Idea of the Brain: A history (Profile Books, 2020), in which the author remarks, “My view is that it will probably take fifty years before we understand the maggot brain.”

Consider the reliability, therefore, of academic elitists who presume to use their human brains, which they cannot possibly understand, to pontificate about what is true and worthwhile. This is why the definition of neurosis fits: “a functional disorder in which… obsessional thoughts, compulsive acts … without objective evidence of disease, in various degrees and patterns, dominate the personality.” They cannot explain their own brains, but convince themselves that the brain is a physical object that evolved by a long series of chance accidents. And yet they presume to tell ones outside their tribe what is true and good. Is that not a little neurotic?

But don’t worry; we can give them an out. PNAS just printed another paper that says that scientists don’t know what neurosis is: “neuroticism was not associated with emotional variability,” it says. “This calls into question the definition of neuroticism and therefore how its association with mental illness is best understood.”

That means it may be inaccurate and unfair to diagnose the Yoda Complex as a kind of neurosis. That’s OK. For simplicity, we can just call it crazy.


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