Evolutionary Psychology

April 25, 2016


Evolutionary Psychology

Satoshi KanazawaAs you know, class, I am quite skeptical of evolutionary psychology. I was so struck by Dr. Kanazawa's recent evolutionary psychology post claiming that smarter people binge drink more (which was on the most popular list for weeks), that I commented on it in PT blogs, then posted about it on Huffington Post.

I pointed out that the better educated people are, the more likely they are to drink, the less likely to binge. Thus, if you divide binge level by drinking levels (that is, the percentage of drinkers in each group who binge), you get this hierarchy in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health: 68% of drinkers with less than high school degrees binge; 52% of high school graduate drinkers binge; 45% of drinkers with some college binge; 33% of college graduate drinkers binge.

What a fire storm that HuffPo post created, class. Let's discuss it, along with the question, "Is EvPsych bullshit?"

EvPsych as catechism

Whooo, put your hands down now, and stop shouting out, "being educated isn't the same as being smart." Virtually every commenter at HuffPo made that point, like laying down a card that trumps anything else that can be said. Here are a couple such comments: Allen Bouchard said, "You have a false premise in your reasoning, combined with a strawman. Satoshi Kanazawa's opening statement is that more intelligent people drink more. You then give statistics on education level and binge drinking. Education level and intelligence are not equivalent, so this unstated premise is false." More pointedly, Beka 13 said, "I love when scientists assume that the level of education correlates directly to the level of intelligence" (we're idiots!).

Okay, class, are you calmed down now? There are certain bromides that people announce, like a catechism, after which they feel there can be no more discussion, like "Addiction is a brain disease, " or "Correlation is not causation." But such a statement doesn't halt a conversation, it begins one. Think about the current debate. If, as the National Survey shows, better educated people binge drink less, but as Dr. Kanazawa claims, smarter people binge more, that indicates more than that there is no relationship between education and intelligence. It says that they are actually inversely related - that is, high school drop-outs are smarter than college grads.

Class - do you really believe that?

EvPysch as fable

As is typical, class, Dr. Kanazawa lays out the EvPsych Hypothesis (yes, he capitalizes the word) from which all truth flows. Then he discusses prehistory, history, birds, fermentation, Arabic - what a yarn! All by way of explicating and supporting the Hypothesis - that intelligent people like novel experiences and thus drink, binge, and get drunk more.

Meanwhile, class, I have told you about how Christopher Ryan co-authored Sex at Dawn, which discusses the EvPsych fable of monogamy. Here's how NPR's Peter Sagal described the book and what it says about evolutionary psychology:

If you are interested in evolutionary biology (as I am) and are interested in sex (as everybody is), eventually you seek out an evolutionary explanation of human sexual behavior. It always goes something like this: Men, eager to spread their genes (in the form of unlimited sperm) far and wide, are naturally promiscuous, and women, eager to provide resources for their genes (in the form of rare and precious eggs), are nesters, trading sex with men for security for their offspring. . . .

Source: www.psychologytoday.com

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