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Rebecca Watson vs. Evolutionary Psychology

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Rebecca Watson vs. Evolutionary Psychology

Post  lpetrich on Tue Nov 27, 2012 4:18 am

How Girls Evolved to Shop, Rebecca Watson Skepticon 5 - YouTube
How Girls Evolved To Shop | Ashley Miller
Kate Donovan: it "made my sides hurt from giggling."
So, back in the day, men were hunters and women were gatherers…and now, men like museums while women prefer shopping…And the researcher in question noticed this on a trip to Prague. He went with some friends, and all the men in the group wanted to see cultural attractions and the women wanted to go shopping. And he was like, whaaaaa? [audience giggles] So he has determined that visiting museums is just like hunting, and shopping is just like gathering…ergo, SCIENCE!
A fun burlesque of some of the more fatuous research that has gone under that name.

I think that some serious evolutionary psychologist would not appreciate this sort of approach, but I'd like to see some serious one describe such studies as how not to do EP research.

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Re: Rebecca Watson vs. Evolutionary Psychology

Post  piginthecity on Tue Nov 27, 2012 6:10 pm

This all sounds very familiar to those of us who have seen the phenomenon of a charismatic speaker, in front of an emotionally committed audience telling plausible anti-science anecdotes.

It's in the checkability. Nobody in the hall can, then and there, refer to the peer reviewed scientific litrature to actually verify the claims, whether it's about shopping trips in Prague or living snails carbon dated to 20,000 years. But they can share a nice feel-good confirmatory moment together.

The onus isn't on professional scientists to come here and defend their science. Rather it's on those lay people who feel they have the knowledge to critique it, to show how what they are saying actually reflects the state of the science, by referring to the literature.

To be fair to Rebecca, I've no idea if she really said the above, or if she is truly against evolutionary psychology in some way, it's an anecdote about an anecdote, but if that is true, I'd be interested to know whether it's because evolution as a whole is false, or whether our psychology is excepted from it, and if so, what the rationalisation for this might be.

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Re: Rebecca Watson vs. Evolutionary Psychology

Post  arpie on Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:55 am

Reading this thread I'm bummed there wasn't more discussion. I'm kind of curious about the RW show, and from what I've seen so far am inclined to agree with pig's point about that style and lean toward seeing her as the feminist version of a more articulate Sarah Palin. But as always I'm open to contrary opinions.

I also want to learn more about the gaslighting trip. Had to look that word up and was amused at how I saw it being repeatedly used in charges flying at A+. Does anyone know if RW endorses this concept?

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Re: Rebecca Watson vs. Evolutionary Psychology

Post  julian on Sun Jan 20, 2013 11:54 am

EP may be grossly misrepresented in the media but it's not as if this is entirely the fault of the media. And yes, the responsibility is on professionals to accurately and effectively communicate their profession to non experts. Lay people do not have the expertise, the time or the money to understand every controversy and nuance to a particular subject.

If the concern is some media personality wasn't as fair as they could be to your science, it's on you to explain how they failed. This is not like evolutionary theory or Climate Science where there is a concentrated effort to keep good science out of the public eye.

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Re: Rebecca Watson vs. Evolutionary Psychology

Post  arpie on Wed Jan 23, 2013 2:12 pm

julian wrote:If the concern is some media personality wasn't as fair as they could be to your science, it's on you to explain how they failed. This is not like evolutionary theory or Climate Science where there is a concentrated effort to keep good science out of the public eye.

I agree, Julian. Meant to say so earlier, but was awaiting a reply from pitc. I think part of the problem though is getting the message heard amid the cacophony.

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Re: Rebecca Watson vs. Evolutionary Psychology

Post  wind on Thu Jan 24, 2013 4:34 am

There's a lot of bad science in psychology in general. There's also a lot of bad science in evo psyche.
Watson's takedown of that bad study is awesome, IMO.

But there's a long history here that's not addressed. There's the divorce of feminism from skepticism (and a lot of that was feminists getting over libertarians/objectivists, and just not wanting to deal with them any more. I can dig that.) A weirder (to me) aspect is that the divide has become so wide that ALL evo psych is viewed as pseudoscience in many/most fem circles.

All I know is me, and I am a skeptic first. If I have a religion, it is skepticism.

I am an atheist BECAUSE I am a skeptic.
I am a leftist BECAUSE I both value morality and am a skeptic.

In my view, there has been a lot of good evidence that has come out of evo psych (like, strong evidence that not only we humans, but many mammals, are social species who will endure pain/hardship to help others.) I don't think it's a pseudoscience ala homeopathy.

But in some feminist circles, that makes me a non-feminist.

Over and over again in my life, over the past decade or so, I've had to ask myself "are you a leftist first, or a feminist first, or a skeptic first, or what?" And over time, I've had to decide that to be a good leftist, good feminist, etc, I HAVE to be a skeptic first. I can't be a good ANYTHING without valuing ruthless self-introspection and self-doubt. And that's what skepticism is to me.

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Re: Rebecca Watson vs. Evolutionary Psychology

Post  arpie on Thu Jan 24, 2013 9:21 am

wind wrote:I HAVE to be a skeptic first. I can't be a good ANYTHING without valuing ruthless self-introspection and self-doubt. And that's what skepticism is to me.

Not sure I could categorize it all the way you have wind, but can definitely relate to the "ruthless self-introspection and self-doubt." I have often become a target on different message boards, and sometimes wonder if I'm not seeking some perverted form of validation. All the negative vibes I've encountered fortify my belief I do not suffer from low self esteem but in fact am making an accurate analysis of a increasingly dysfunctional personality. It is especially easy to think this way when you find yourself at the bottom of a pile on.

There are many ways our voices can be silenced besides banning. I see it happening everyday online, and is part of why I believe message boards are doomed and dying. There will be islands in the entropy stream though, and we can only hope this might be one of them. Wink

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Re: Rebecca Watson vs. Evolutionary Psychology

Post  nullnvoid on Thu Jan 24, 2013 10:58 am

My take - for what it is worth.

I watched the presentation and thought, "Evolutionary Psychology" is a thing? I've not really been into that. And it's kinda surprising because in the 90s I got an Arts degree with a major in archaeology and have a general interest in evolution. So I don't really have an opinion about evo psych and it is now something that has been added to my 'to read about' list.

The controversy surrounding the evo psych seems basically linked to the 'nature vs nurture' controversy. In short, some people argue that we are a product of our innate nature and others argue that we become who we are through our experiences. I think the only reasonable assertion here is that we're a product of both. Ah but of course everyone accepts that it's both, but want to claim that one has primacy! Well...that's a manufactured problem if I've ever heard one. The extent to which we are the product of predestined fate or have free will is a very similar useless argument.

Given that our brains have evolved, it's perfectly reasonable to assume that evolution will have a certain amount of bearing on it. If we can find out what those effects are, then great. I don't think it hurts to have criticisms like Rebecca Watson's aimed at it. In my case, it drew my attention to it in order to find out more. Perhaps she could have been a bit more careful to indicate that these were extreme examples from within the discipline.

Wind- I don't think you have to be anything first. In areas where these things conflict it's usually because one or more of them is wrong. Identifying the inaccuracy is the route to improving the position of whichever ism you are part of. It should be Feminism. Not Feminism (TM). By that I mean that the ideal of feminism goes beyond what particular groups try to trademark it as. The same goes for socialism, atheism and any other ism you care to name.

arpie- try to stay present centered. Regrets are basically useless, and the future isn't written yet.


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