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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Think twice (or why pop ev-psych might not be on the most solid foundation)

The evolutionary psychologist Dr Satoshi Kanazawa is (in)famous for his provocative claims: atheist liberals are smarter than religious right-wingers, black people are cognitively inferior to whites, beautiful people have more daughters than sons, feminism is evil, and so on.

There are, as you might expect, some criticisms of his work's technical quality. For example, Echidne here (pts 2, 3, 4), here, and here (pts 2, 3). Or Andrew Gelman here (PDF) and with David Weakliem here (PDF again). Or Culture Evolves (see the many links in the third paragraph). Or Crooked Timber here.

Then too, there are signs that his facade of political neutrality is either idiocy or lies (see also Cosma Shalizi).

Looooong story short, whether his provocative claims reinforce or challenge your biases, you might just want to find a more credible source than an evolutionary psychologist who proudly notes he hasn't studied biology since high school and gets statistics wrong to boot.

Which is why I'll just wrap up with Daniel Davies:

We can see the modern descendant of this primeval behaviour in the struggle in our comments section over the evolutionary psychologist, academic racist, genocidal fantastist and general-purpose embarrassment[1], Satoshi Kanazawa, on the general subject of everyone with a perceived national, institutional, disciplinary or academic connection to him desperately trying to backpedal and claim that he's one of you lot, not one of us lot.

The Americans are pointing out that he works at LSE; the Brits that he did all of his studies in America. The sociologists want to make it very clear that he's a psychologist - the psychologists that his PhD is in sociology. I have noticed that he actually works in the Managerial Economics and Strategy Group (ie he's a business school type) and am staying bloody quiet about it in the hope that nobody else will twig.

There might be something to this evolutionary psychology lark after all.

posted at: 20:20 Sun 28/Feb/2010 | /politics | permalink | 0 comments | trackback

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