Okay, I Lied. Sue Me.

I’m really back this time, but posts may be sporadic until mid-May. Aside from finals, I get to go doctor-hopping again (yippee!). Long story short(er), I’ve been having back pain and numbness again, so I’ve been trying to get in to see my neurosurgeon. Unfortunately, he’s insanely busy, and I couldn’t get in for a month. I went to my family doctor, who said that I had very distinct chyphosis (hunching), which I didn’t have a month ago, and that a few spinous processes were missing. So, my grandpa, bless him, e-mailed his doctor, who e-mailed my surgeon, who phoned me and said to come in that night. So, I was up at OHSU Thursday and Friday, having tests run, and they’re stumped so they’re sending me to a metabolic specialist to figure out what’s wrong with my spine. So I’m sorry for the sudden dearth of intelligent commentary in the blogosphere. (No, the fiasco hasn’t popped my inflated ego.)

Anyway, I have for you a rant that I’ve been thinking about for a while. Back when I was on Blogger, I wrote a post about feminism and evolutionary psychology, specifically about how they don’t necessarily clash. Since then, I’ve gotten into more than a few arguments with the people in my liberal arts classes about whether or not evolutionary psychology is a) supported by the evidence and b) useful. I’m not qualified to answer a (I’m probably more qualified than most of them, though, having actually taken biology classes), so it their arguments about twin studies etc. don’t bug me so much. It’s when they say that evolutionary psychology is irrelevant or harmful to the social sciences and liberal arts that my classmates get on my nerves

So, here are several ways that evolutionary psychology is relevant and useful to liberal arts and liberals:

  • It can provide a scientific basis for theories of political science, sociology, economics and rhetoric. One of the aggravating things about theories in liberal arts is that, regardless of whether or not they are supported by evidence, they have no antecedents. In science, you can describe animal behavior in terms of evolution, evolution in terms of molecular biology, molecular biology in terms of chemistry, chemistry in terms of quantum mechanics and (eventually, hopefully) quantum mechanics in terms of the unified theory of physics, which is (would be) a single, elegant equation that explains everything. In liberal arts, there is no such chain. When you ask a rhetorician why humans think and speak in metaphor (one of the more popular theories) the answer is eminently unacademic: it just is the way it is. On the other hand, if you can base this theory in the theory of the mind, which you can base in evolution, you have an unbroken chain from the complex theory of rhetoric to the simple theory of physics, weeding out BS and ensuring sanity.
  • It forces morals to be based on “ought” rather than “is.” Last semester I got docked some points in an essay for arguing that humans ought to argue by analogy because we can’t argue any other way. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Ought is not derived from is. The value of promoting equality ought not be predicated on the equality of ability in individuals, or even among groups. If we base a claim to racial equality on the equivalence of the races, the nonexistence of differences under the skin, then a single finding of innate differences in intellect or personality (unlikely, but possible) will undermine the claim.
  • Evolutionary psychology suggests that there would be very few differences between the sexes, and even fewer (if any) between races. Since women and men largely had to deal with the same hurdles (lions, finding food) when we were evolving, we should have nearly identical psyches. In fact, the only differences I can think of that have much support behind a biological (and thus evolutionary) explanation, as opposed to a societal one, are women having slightly better verbal/social skills and slightly worse spatial skills, and small differences in the rate of infidelity. So, basically, women rather than men should be attorneys and politicians, and men are cheating scoundrels.
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