[FRIAM] the pseudoscience of evolutionary psychology?

uǝlƃ ☣ gepropella at gmail.com
Wed Feb 14 13:34:41 EST 2018

On 02/14/2018 08:20 AM, Pieter Steenekamp wrote:
> It may be difficult to quantify evolutionary psychology, but that does not mean it is pseudoscience. Like string theory that's also difficult to quantify, the scientific method is also applicable to evolutionary psychology.

But is it really a matter of quantification?  It seems, to me, more a matter of experimentation.  Does evolutionary psychology provide any predictions that are (might one day be) testable?

> I support the view as expressed in https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology:
> "Just as Darwin's theory of natural selection was almost immediately perverted to justify cruel bigotry (Social Darwinism, eugenics), so evolutionary psychology is readily twisted to buttress prejudice. This does not make evolutionary psychology wrong, any more than the brutality of Social Darwinism made evolutionary theory wrong, but it does suggest that claims rooted in it should be assessed very carefully, both by those reading them and those writing them."

Yes, that's a specific example of the larger point, that anything can be abused.  A great example is quantum woo, where the stranger inferences of quantum physics are abused to, e.g., justify belief in free-will or "mind over matter".  Or, an even better example would be the complaints lodged against Penrose for abusing Gödel's Incompleteness theorems to justify that humans engage in non-computable processes when doing math.

I.e. saying evolution and evolutionary psychology can be abused isn't really saying much unless we say *why* it's easier to abuse those two "theories" and, perhaps, more difficult to abuse Gödel's theorems ... or, e.g. theories about the electrical properties of materials or somesuch.  My proposal is that bodies of knowledge overwhelmingly populated with ambiguous gobbledy-gook are *easier* to abuse than those bodies of knowledge that are "hard", with well-defined terms, domains of applicability, and use cases.

Testability is a kind of pragmatic trickery we use to get at the truth in spite of swaths of gobbledy-gook.  I suppose I'd argue that string theory is more like Gödel's theorems than it is like evolutionary psychology.

☣ uǝlƃ

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