[FRIAM] the pseudoscience of evolutionary psychology?

Prof David West profwest at fastmail.fm
Thu Mar 1 18:07:29 EST 2018

An observation, if this thread is not totally abandoned.

Last Thursday night I had a conversation with Brigham Young. (I am a
huge fan of and explorer of altered states of consciousness, so take
that statement as denoting an experience that my mind turned into a
visual/audio metaphor.) One of the threads in our discussion was women
and in particular why so many religions (Christianity, Islam, Mormonism)
that began with pro-woman beliefs and practices only to devolve into
abhorrent misogynistic cults. (Brigham was an ardent feminist.)
I was talking with a friend about this conversation and he challenged me
with the question: if they were so pro-female, why not practice
polyandry? My first response was he was mistaking polygyny as a
"privilege" rather than a "responsibility." Of course, the foundation of
his taking things this way was the apparent sexual availability of
multiple women.
That aside, I began thinking about why polygyny is so common and
polyandry is so rare. About 2/3 of the cultures we know about are
'officially' polygynous — multiple wives and consorts are approved and
expected. Almost a third of cultures are serial monogamist. around 1%
are monogamous, and only a handful are polyandrous. In those few that
are polyandrous, it is most commonly fraternal polyandry — marry a man
and all his brothers.
Thoughts circled back to the onus of polygyny via Mark Twain's faux
interview of Brigham Young. Brigham saying that he cannot bring a
rose to one of his wives, he must bring 27 and how expensive that is.
And, if he gives a tin whistle to one child he must give one to each,
and imagine living in a home with 40-50 kids running around blowing
tin whistles.
Almost flow of consciousness takes me back to Peterson. His "alpha
males" cannot be more than greedy little boys because they do not accept
the responsibility of their actions - they are not Men! The same scorn
directed to absentee fathers in impoverished communities has been earned
by Peterson's minions. In cultures like Mormonism and mainstream Islam,
polygyny is (was) allowed, but there are strict expectations that must
be met by the polygynist.
Finally, and to the point of this thread, might the prevalence of
polygyny and the rarity of polyandry among humans be an evolutionary
adaptation" and/or an evolutionary psychology adaptaptation?
Evidence suggests that women can accommodate the sexual needs of
multiple husbands, but not the procreative needs. cultural evolution
might allow for polyandrous relations within the context of cultural
evolution but the procreative needs would dominate biological evolution.

On Sun, Feb 25, 2018, at 12:04 PM, Edward Angel wrote:
> Both the Lena image and the Utah Teapot have their own
> wikipedia pages.> 
> I was working with the image processing group at USC when they started
> using  the Lena image as their standard test image. Before that they
> had been using what they all called the “girl image” which was
> probably from the 50’s and had a resolution of around 256 x 256 so it
> was pretty limited. There were no women working in what was a very
> large research group so I doubt there was any protest over the use of
> the Playboy centerfold. At that time it was not easy to find good
> images to test compression algorithms with.> 
> The Utah teapot was created by Martin Newell at Utah from his wife’s
> teapot. It was very nice because it could be described by 32 smooth
> bicubic spline patches and was used everywhere for a long time to test
> rendering algorithms. It’s not used much anymore as people use much
> larger data sets and there isn’t as much interest in splines since you
> now render tens of millions of animated triangles in real time.> 
> The really great story about standard data sets (but not on wikipedia)
> is the 3D data set of a lobster. It was created from a CT scan of dead
> lobster. I heard a talk by the guy who did it. He had to sneak into
> the medical scanner room in a hospital where he was working at night
> to do it. It took multiple days at the end of which the lobster really
> reeked and was losing body parts (which is noticeable in the
> reconstruction). My student, Pat Crossno, did the 3D reconstruction
> with a particle system that sought out body parts and then distributed
> the particles across the surfaces.> 
> Ed
> _______________________
> Ed Angel
> Founding Director, Art, Research, Technology and Science Laboratory
> (ARTS Lab) Professor Emeritus of Computer Science, University of
> New Mexico
> 1017 Sierra Pinon> Santa Fe, NM 87501
> 505-984-0136 (home)   angel at cs.unm.edu
> 505-453-4944 (cell)   http://www.cs.unm.edu/~angel
>> On Feb 25, 2018, at 11:28 AM, Steven A Smith
>> <sasmyth at swcp.com> wrote:>> 
>> I appreciate and second Ed's observaions here.  While my own role as
>> an instructor during this period was very limited.   I was first a
>> student *among* CS majors (I was a Physics/Math major with a CS
>> minor) in the 70's when it was all pretty new by some measure and the
>> participation by women was higher than in the more physical
>> engineering and science disciplines (ME/EE and Physics/Chemistry)
>> which I generally attribute to the socialization of girls against
>> manipulating the natural world as aggressively as boys (i.e. playing
>> with sticks and stones outside), but might *also* reflect the
>> possibility that males DO have a *different* sense of 3D spatial
>> relations and possibly even materials than females.>> As for Lena... I think the fact that *she* was selected in the first
>> place by the male eye, and her recurrence in the "industry" was
>> probably almost exclusively a male propagation for what I would call
>> "obvious" reasons (and Glen might argue against that).   I think
>> Lena's pervasive image might have been a symbol of the "maleness" of
>> CS in general and Image Processing in particular and THAT might have
>> inhibited some women at a very subtle level, recognizing that the
>> other (male) students might objectify them a bit.  Of course one
>> could make a MUCH stronger argument in this regard for any of the
>> Sports fields and perhaps some subset of "Sports Journalism"?>> One might want to infer something about the ubiquity of the Teapot in
>> the field of Computer Graphics... Ed can probably reference how it
>> got started (who made the first Teapot as a 3D model?) and why it got
>> re-used so ubiquitously... sort of the "Hello World" of CG.   But
>> probably nothing about culinary arts or kitchens or even the British
>> love of Tea is likely to be significant.>> - Stve

>> On 2/24/18 6:57 PM, Edward Angel wrote:
>>> I found the email with David’s question for me re the Lena image. 
>>> I don’t think the Lena image had anything significant to do with the
>>> decline in the percentage of women going into CS. It was a very
>>> limited group of people that actually dealt with or even saw the
>>> image. And they were almost all male.>>> 
>>> When I was chair of the CS dept at UNM (1985-88) about 40% of the
>>> majors were women. Two other factors were much more responsible for
>>> the decline that started around then First, pre the mid 80’s, women
>>> saw CS as closer to Math but a major that led to jobs. However, they
>>> found that CS was more like Engineering (or was becoming more like
>>> Engineering), a field which for various reasons was not appealing to
>>> women or welcoming of them. Second, more and more students were
>>> attracted to CS because they they were computer game players. They
>>> were almost 100% male, aggressive, individualistic and often
>>> obnoxious, all characteristics that were not those that women
>>> students possessed (to their credit). Consequently, beginning
>>> programming classes were terrible experiences for many women
>>> students and they left the program With the faculty almost all male
>>> and comprised of people who had been rewarded for precisely these
>>> characteristics, there wasn’t much effort to change to make the
>>> program more attractive to women. Eventually CS at UNM changed and
>>> now has a healthy percentage of women students and faculty.>>> 
>>> Ed
>>> _______________________
>>> Ed Angel
>>> Founding Director, Art, Research, Technology and Science Laboratory
>>> (ARTS Lab) Professor Emeritus of Computer Science, University of New
>>> Mexico
>>>  1017 Sierra Pinon>>> Santa Fe, NM 87501
>>>  505-984-0136 (home)   angel at cs.unm.edu
>>> 505-453-4944 (cell)   http://www.cs.unm.edu/~angel[1]
>>>> On Feb 16, 2018, at 10:41 AM, Prof David West
>>>> <profwest at fastmail.fm> wrote:>>>> 
>>>> Some questions for Nick and one for Ed Angel
>>>> Peterson's "alpha male" silliness seemed to have prompted this
>>>> thread but I wonder if a different example might advance the
>>>> discussion more productively, especially since, I suspect, most
>>>> everyone on the list would dismiss Peterson as inane.>>>> 
>>>> The example I have in mind is sexism in computing. Back in the
>>>> sixties, two psychologists (Cannon and Perry) created a "profile"
>>>> or aptitude test to determine who would be a good programmer. Their
>>>> work became the de facto standard used for hiring (and to a lesser
>>>> extent for admission to grad school in CS) up to and including
>>>> today.>>>> 
>>>> Two psychological / behavioral traits dominate their profile: 1)
>>>> affinity for and proficiency at 'logical / mathematical puzzle
>>>> solving';and 2) antipathy towards people. Both of these traits are,
>>>> supposedly, more prevalent in males than females, especially the
>>>> second one. This instantly marginalized women as potential
>>>> programmers. (I would argue that this work also had significant
>>>> impact, indirectly and via cultural diffusion, on the reduction of
>>>> women in all of the STEM educational paths and professions.)>>>> 
>>>> Within the last year, James Damone, former Google engineer,
>>>> essentially made the same argument and explicitly stated that the
>>>> prevalence of the two behavioral traits was "biological" in origin.>>>> 
>>>> Some questions for Nick:
>>>>   -- is any assertion of a biological origin for a psychological /
>>>>   behavioral trait a naive evolutionary psychology argument? I say
>>>>   naive because I doubt that any of those individuals had any
>>>>   knowledge of the evolutionary psychology discipline or research.>>>> 
>>>>   -- If the assertion is made that 'anti-social nerdiness' is
>>>>   biological (evolutionary psychological) in origin, what criteria
>>>>   could / would be used to affirm or deny? Must you show that the
>>>>   trait yielded reproductive advantage? Would you need to show the
>>>>   trait was present in antecedent instances of the species — e.g.
>>>>   would you find individuals in hunter-gatherer tribes that
>>>>   exhibited the trait? Could the trait be biological in origin but
>>>>   not 'continuous' in some fashion — e.g. a case of punctuated
>>>>   equilibrium.>>>> 
>>>> Nick has accused me of shameless reification when I use the
>>>> term/concept of "cultural evolution" but ... I was taught that the
>>>> time frame required for biological evolution is too long to be a
>>>> reasonable basis for explaining or accounting for observed
>>>> psychological / behavioral changes in human beings. E.g.
>>>> psychological behaviors associated with things like social media
>>>> and cell phones are clearly observable but occur in time frames
>>>> that are generational at most, and most commonly intra-
>>>> generational.>>>> 
>>>>   -- Is it possible to argue for some kind of biological
>>>>   'precursors' — traits from which the observable changes are
>>>>   derived, and dependent? (Kind of like the evolution of eyes being
>>>>   dependent on precursors like photo-sensitive cells.)>>>> 
>>>>   -- Is it possible to disprove an evolutionary psychological
>>>>   argument (ala Peterson and Malone) simply by pointing out that it
>>>>   emerged and became prevalent in a time frame inconsistent with
>>>>   biological evolution?>>>> 
>>>> The question for Ed Angel (only because he is a graphics maven):
>>>>   -- pure speculation, but what impact did the Lena image (de facto
>>>>   standard for testing image compression algorithms), in 1973, have
>>>>   on the decline of women in the profession? A mere six years
>>>>   earlier, *Cosmopolitan* magazine was touting programming as a
>>>>   smart career path for women and around the same time a peak of
>>>>   37% of students in CS were women.>>>> 
>>>> davew
>>>> On Fri, Feb 16, 2018, at 1:53 AM, Pieter Steenekamp wrote:
>>>>> IMO it's going to be difficult to debunk evolutionary psychology.
>>>>> It is a valid part of the medley of components of psychology and
>>>>> sociology. But is it the truth the whole truth and nothing but the
>>>>> truth? No, certainly not. There is much more to human behavior
>>>>> than evolutionary psychology.>>>>> What's coming out from the #MeToo movement is just horrible. Sure,
>>>>> it may be consistent with evolutionary psychology, but we as
>>>>> humans should not accept it and root out the abhorrent behavior of
>>>>> some of the male of the species. And our society has been
>>>>> protecting the perpetrators and thank god that's changing.>>>>> But don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. Give credit to
>>>>> evolutionary psychology as part of the effort to understand human
>>>>> behavior.>>>>> 
>>>>> On 15 February 2018 at 22:08, uǝlƃ ☣ <gepropella at gmail.com> wrote:>>>>>> But your point *did* come through.  Peterson's (and many
>>>>>> people's) conception of the "alpha male" (or "alpha female" for
>>>>>> Frank), has become second nature.  It's everywhere in our
>>>>>> culture.  And it is ripe for a debunking that is complete enough
>>>>>> to GRIP the populace.  Dave's debunking is right, I think.  The
>>>>>> Adam Ruins Everything video is good, but too fluffy.>>>>>> 
>>>>>> Since Peterson depends on (some bastardization of) evol. psych.,
>>>>>> then it would be healthy to have an evol. psych. debunking.
>>>>>> *That's* what I'm actually looking for.  Perhaps your "Oh no"
>>>>>> paper contains that debunking.  I'll look.>>>>>> 
>>>>>> On 02/15/2018 11:58 AM, Nick Thompson wrote:
>>>>>> > I apologize for the length of MY DESCENT and for the poor
>>>>>> > quality of the Xerox.  It doesn't surprise me that the main
>>>>>> > point didn't come through.   I think Evolutionary Psychology
>>>>>> > does provide testable hypotheses, but I also think testability
>>>>>> > is not /sufficient /to make a hypothesis heuristic.  The
>>>>>> > hypothesis also has to be interesting.  To be interesting, a
>>>>>> > hypothesis has to challenge some way of thinking that has
>>>>>> > become second nature, and good EP thought sometimes produces
>>>>>> > such surprising challenges.  Such interesting challenges do not
>>>>>> > arise from studies designed to bolster social stereotypes with
>>>>>> > biological bafflegab.  Here is another paper
>>>>>> > <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/247372033_Oh_no_Not_social_Darwinism_again>
>>>>>> > much shorter (only 600 wds)  and better Xeroxed, which
>>>>>> > exemplifies my contempt for this latter sort of evolutionary
>>>>>> > psychology.>>>>>> 
>>>>>> --
>>>>>> ☣ uǝlƃ
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  1. http://www.cs.unm.edu/%7Eangel
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