Who Pays for Evolutionary Psychology?

A while back, I discussed some of the ideological aspects of theories that incorporate evolutionary explanations into the study of human behaviour (1), (2). In a series of comments, Michael Turton expressed the opinion that I was unfairly describing both these theories and their political implications. Michael is not alone in this rebuttal. It is a common among the theorists of these models to claim that science and therefore scientific theories are apolitical, that some theories of behavioural evolution may be bad but their’s aren’t, or that bad people will be able to find science they can rationalize with their politics. This post will not directly address any of these arguments. All I want to do in this post is point out correlational information about who pays for research in 

My point is that in a brief search of the Internet the only politically aligned funding sources for Evolutionary Psychology that I could find were right wing. I’m not going to pretend that this is a complete or even good answer to the question of who pays for Evolutionary Psychology, but it does raise questions about why experienced businessmen would want to buy this kind of knowledge.

Before I get started, I’d like to address a point that’s only tangentially related. In one of my posts, I stated that Evolutionary Psychology seems to be made up of many of the same people who used to call themselves Sociobiologists doing very much the same research they did when it was called Sociobiology. Apparently, I am also not alone in making this claim, although I did derive this point independently based on personal experience doing research in this area 20 years ago. Philosopher Val Dusek has made much the same argument concerning the nature of these theories, as has Tom Bethell in this article.

What Kind of Theories Am I Talking About?

First, a point of clarification.

I am not talking about every theory that uses evolutionary principles to explain human behaviour. That would be ridiculous. Nor can I define adequately all the theories that do not have the problems I am about to discuss. Even anthropologists such as Clifford Geertz would not deny that human consciousness evolved and that it must bear some marks of this. It is the nature of these marks on which Gertz’s opinions would differ from the theories I am critical of. The theories I am critical of reduce human actions to discrete and atomistic bits. These bits correspond to a common sense classification of behaviours as categorized in the minds of the scientists doing the research. It is these discrete bits of behaviour which are posited to have been selected for by natural selection. This would include what is often discussed as Evolutionary Psychology.

Who Pays for This Stuff?

Let’s return to my initial question; who is paying for research into Evolutionary Psychology? This is not a simple question to answer while living in the Republic of China. Evolutionary Psychology is a significant trend in contemporary Social Psychology. There is much research being done in this field that would be being done under the auspice of the conventional work of a department. Much of the research in this area would be paid for by internal funding in the departments in which it is done. However, with the mighty wonder of the Internet, I have been able to identify some interesting patterns in private sources of funds for research centers of Evolutionary Psychology.

Evolutionary Psychology Lab at Florida Atlantic University

The Evolutionary Psychology Lab at Florida Atlantic University is a small lab established by Dr. Todd K. Shackelford. It appears that the lab functions primarily to supervise graduate students, although they have presented quite a bit of research in journals and at conferences.

At least some of the funding comes from the Woodhill Foundation. You can be excused for never have heard of the Woodhill Foundation. Before I did this search, I had never heard of them either. The foundation, which is a private group, was formed by Jim Woodhill. Mr. Woodhill is a supporter of personal rights and as such, has been a member of many rights advocacy groups. On the other hand, Mr. Woodhill is a also a leading member of the Republican Party and describes himself as a member of the ‘Republican Rebel Alliance’. He has donated substantial amounts of money to a group that pays drug addicted women to get sterilized.

The Woodhill foundation also funds the Cato Institute and the Manhattan Institute. Both of these groups have been heavily involved in creating research projects promoting market economies and discussing the dangers of social programs, such as state health care and welfare are. People for the American Way regard them as major right ring think tanks.

For those interested in relevant Cato Institute research, you might want to take a look at this paper from their website that discusses the evolutionary basis of private property, social stratification, and market economies. The paper is written by Cato Institute analyst and libertarian writer Will Wilkinson. Mr Wilkinson’s collection of writings for the Institute can be found here on their website and his personal blog is here.

Margo Wilson and Martin Daly

Margo Wilson and Martin Daly are two of the leading figures in Evolutionary Psychology. They were big names back when I was in graduate school and there was no such thing as Evolutionary Psychology – only Sociobiology.

Interestingly, this research paper was funded by NATO. I am not entirely sure what being funded by NATO means. I suspect that it’s because the topic of the research is violence, but what if I told you that I knew of research on mind control funded by the CIA? Wouldn’t it make you suspicious no matter how much the researchers claimed that their work, “passionately embraces the scientific method”? But as I said, the claim always is that there may be bad research out there somewhere, but that ‘legitimate work’ in Evolutionary Psychology is always politically neutral.

Howard Center

The Howard Center is another one of those right wing think tanks. It’s not on the list of People for the American Way, but it’s pretty clear from their website where they stand. In fact, the entire name of the center is the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society. In their own words,

Our work at The Howard Center on behalf of the natural family and traditional marriage continues to play a unique and influential role in American public life. Let us rebuild marriage now. We have a unique window of opportunity to bring marriage to the forefront of public discussion in America as the mainstream media and the public continue to talk about values, social issues and faith. We have the chance to show the positive aspects of marriage and its benefits to children, the elderly and our communities.

The founder of the Center, Dr. John Howard, holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern University and is a decorated war hero. He also served as the president of the American Association of Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities.

If you take a few minutes to go through their website, you’ll see that it’s about as hard-core family values as it gets. Family values stuff is usually associated with the religious right, but I suppose with the legitimation of Evolutionary Psychology in departments of Psychology, a publicly credible argument for explanations that could be embraced by the middle-class would have to utilize such concepts.

If you want to see where the Howard Center stands on Evolutionary Psychology, you might have a look at their website for this article by Dr. Alan Carlson. In it, we are told, “
Indeed, good science shows that “traditional marriage,” as such, is the defining trait of human nature, the key to our evolutionary progress.” and then goes on to conclude,

In the name of evolution, the campaign for “gay marriage” openly mocks the religious heritage of Western Civilization. It ignores the hard-won lessons of recorded history.  And it rejects the techniques of scientific inquiry, relying primarily on sentiment to make its case. In all these ways, the campaign is radical, indeed. Just as recklessly, this same campaign will, if successful, also subvert the one trait—permanent heterosexual pair-bonding focused on reproduction and childrearing—which science points to as unique to human nature and vital to human success, even existence, on Earth. It appears that the advocates for change play here with elemental evolutionary fire.

Now it’s true that Howard and Carlson have doctorates in French Literature and Modern European History respectively, and are not necessarily knowledgeable about evolutionary theory, but it is interesting where educated people on the left and right line up with respect to Evolutionary Psychology. I have no doubt of the response I would get if I asked your typical left-wing literary critic where they fall in this argument. So it’s interesting that the only examples I have of right-wing liberally-educated individuals talking about Evolutionary Psychology come out very clearly in support.

In fact, they’re not just academic supporters. These are people who are willing to pay from their own pockets for a public discussion of the role that Evolutionary Psychology can plan in policy.

Bradley Foundation

The most notorious link between this type of research and right wing political causes is the Bradley Foundation. While not expressedly supporting Evolutionary Psychology, the Bradley Foundation has funded significant research on genetic variation in behavioural traits.

One of the main assumptions of Evolutionary Psychology is that behaviour is the expression of a phenotype. That is, it correponds to the physical manifestation of genetic variation. Genetic characteristics exist in a range that has been selected for by natural selection. Regardless of whether or not the environment that imposed that selection exists now or in the past, there needs to be variation in the underlying genetic make-up of the behaviour in question. While this is not a very controversial point when we’re talking about height or resistance to African Sleeping Sickness, it is problematic when we’re talking about intelligence. In fact, the history of research on intelligence is nothing less than a battleground over the issue of genetic contribution to intelligence.

There is a very clear political division on how this issue is interpreted. One of the more recent works in this area is The Bell Curve by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray. The best-selling book addresses among other things, that the distribution of intelligence scores appears not easily influenced by environmental factors and perhaps inherited genetically. While not an original statement itself, the writing of the Bell Curve is controversial because it

…is heavily promoted by the Bradley Foundation, which has installed him (Dr. Murray) as a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Thanks to the foundation’s support, Murray and Herrnstein were able to bypass the usual process of academic peer review and deliver The Bell Curve directly to the American public in a splendidly organized and financed media campaign. This included a Newsweek cover story that called the science behind the book “overwhelmingly mainstream.”

And what is the Bradley Foundation? To quote from their webpage, the Bradley Foundation is

…committed to preserving and defending the tradition of free representative government and private enterprise that has enabled the American nation and, in a larger sense, the entire Western world to flourish intellectually and economically.

It is listed on the watch list of People for the American Way.

So What?

This search is hardly complete. I have not been able to access anywhere near most of the funding sources for this type of research. On the other hand, there seems to be a very clear direction between right wing political groups and Evolutionary Psychology. In fact, I did not even once come across a politically-aligned source of funding for this research that was not aligned with the right. As I have said, this search is only cursory, and if anyone knows of left wing or liberal funding sources for Evolutionary Psychology, please let me know.

But I ask you, so what? Who cares if the right funds science? If it’s the best science, then why would it matter? Does it matter if the right funds research on quasars or limnology? Somewhere in the search for all these links, I remember reading a researcher in Evolutionary Psychology stating that he didn’t care where the money came from because he was sure that his work was making the world a better place. In fact, an often pointed to fact is that a large number of Evolutionary Psychologists are women, white women all of them, but women nevertheless. So how could this research be particularly oppressive if members of a particularly oppressed group are doing it? Correct? The problem is that the right does not fund research on quasars and limnology; it funds research on Evolutionary Psychology. And why does it all seem to be coming from the right? Is the right wing so deluded that they’re willing to spend millions on work that will ultimately be their own demise?

Such arguments are ridiculous. No one would take it seriously if it was CIA mind control experiments. No one believed Canadian engineer Dr. Gerald Vincent Bull when he built the biggest cannon in the world for Saddam Hussein. He really believed he was doing great things for science, but the Israeli Secret Police killed him anyway. Businessmen and politicians pay money for the stuff they want. If the right is paying for Evolutionary Psychology, it’s because it’s what they want.

I’m going to make a statement that’s stronger than I have evidence for and leave it up to readers to point out if I’m wrong. There is no such thing as left wing Evolutionary Psychology. Many years ago, Sarah Hrdy made this bold attempt at integrating feminist thought and Evolutionary Psychology. Dr. Hrdy is a well-known primatologist and as such, the book sold well and was generally well received by academics. Nevertheless, it failed to make a major impact on the direction of research. I was able to find this bibliography of references about radical politics and Evolutionary Psychology, but it is worth noting that none of the listed works are major publications.

In fact, I can take this argument even further. Theoretical academia has long been considered the enemy of the right. This is true in engineering and physics, but it is particularly true in the Social Sciences. So true is this, that the only a tiny portion of professors at major universities are registered Republicans. The Democratic Party support among university academics is so overwhelming that it prompted a leading figure in the Democratic Party, Dr. Paul Krugman, to try and explain it. My guess is that almost all the scientists taking that right wing money to do Evolutionary Psychology research vote Democrat and have extremely liberal social views.

My point is that man or woman, liberal or conservative, all of this is irrelevant. These guys are businessmen and they know what they’re buying. They’re not mistaken. They’re not being fooled by tricky liberal psychologists. Ring wingers buy Evolutionary Psychology because Evolutionary Psychology is the kind of psychology that right wingers want. End of that story.

I have previously made the point almost to death that Evolutionary Psychology does not seem to provide us with anything meaningful to say about anything. Even though there is a lot that Psychology has to say about management, there is no evolutionary management. Even though Psychology has a lot to say about Military Science, there is no evolutionary military science. All that Evolutionary Psychology has been able to do is add really cool explanations to some otherwise inexplicable, but not very significant observations.

Because Evolutionary Psychology has no force, it can be adopted to say pretty much anything you want it to. In a sense, I am implying that there could be a left wing Evolutionary Psychology. Maybe I’m wrong. There certainly is no one even remotely successful at making one – and it’s not through lack of trying. In the meantime, all the right wingers are standing in line to buy the stuff. It may very well be that there’s something inherently right wing about Evolutionary Psychology. Really, can all these businessmen be wrong about what they want to buy?

A while back, I discussed some of the ideological aspects of theories that incorporate evolutionary explanations into the study of human behaviour (1), (2). In a series of comments, Michael Turton expressed the opinion that I was unfairly describing both these theories and their political implications. Michael is not alone in this rebuttal. It is a common among the theorists of these models to claim that science and therefore scientific theories are apolitical, that some theories of behavioural evolution may be bad but their’s aren’t, or that bad people will be able to find science they can rationalize with their politics. This post will not directly address any of these arguments. All I want to do in this post is point out correlational information about who pays for research in Evolutionary Psychology.

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There is no such thing as left wing Evolutionary Psychology.

Of course not. Left-wing political correctness can’t really tolerate the idea that people are products of their genes as well as their environments. It’s a central part of left-wing rhetoric that people are innately equal. The idea that people’s talents and dispositions depend upon their biology is abhorrent to left-wingers, regardless of whatever research may or may not support the idea.I think we’ll see right wingers promoting research on the benefits of veganism and healing crystals before we see left-wing think tanks funding evolutionary biology.

Actually, as I pointed out, there have been attempts at writing left-wing Evolutionary Psychologies. They have just not caught on. Even the Democrat voting scientists themselves seem to have trouble visualizing one.

Great article, Scott.
I’d never thought hard about who funds this research and the significance of that.
I don’t have time to devote to a full response, but here are some thoughts.
You say that there “There is no such thing as left-wing Evolutionary Psychology
This seems wrong. I might accept a modified statement that emphasized the sources of funding. The left by nature has fewer billions to toss around.
There’s, for example, Peter Singer, the author of A Darwinian Left. The following link comments directly on evolutionary psychology.
http://cogweb.ucla.edu/Debate/SingerPM.html
Singer is a heavier hitter than most of the people on that bibliography.
But there’s one heavy hitter on that bibliography, one of the key creative people in the formation of sociobiology/EP, someone Pinker and “The Selfish Gene” and the original book Sociobiology have all cited as a formative influence: Robert Trivers, who has been friends with members the Black Panthers and espouses more radical politics than myself, and I’m certainly sympathetic to leftist perspectives.
Also, I found this several-year-old link by a left-leaning EP department chair.
http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/projects/human/evpsychfaq.html
See especially
What are your politics? (Translation: Doesn’t evolutionary psychology have a crypto conservative political agenda?)
I realize these few links aren’t enough to prove anything. But there is at least the suggestion of lefty professors doing what they see as evolutionary biology research. I don’t know if this guy is accepting funding from Shell. Surely much of the funding—it would be interesting to know what percentage—comes from the state. Given that France and Germany and the Scandinavian countries are left of the Anglo-American, it might be interesting (and certainly a lot of work) to see if there are any lefty foundations funding EP in northern continental Europe.
Finally, I do find Singer’s (and others’) distinction between truth and policy cogent. I don’t find reason to despair about the pursuit of truth in the context of politics. But one does need to consider where funding comes from and the political sympathies of researchers, and your posting provokes consideration on this point.
One other point, in reply to Mark’s. I wonder if Marx himself was anti-Darwinian? Marx is after all not Chairman Mao or Stalin. The idea of “species being”–which suggests a perdurable human nature–is is the early Marx.

Trivers’ latest research is on self-deception:
http://www.annalsnyas.org/cgi/content/abstract/907/1/114
Only in New York State! Perhaps this article would seem out of place in the Annals of the Texas Academy of Science! Trivers is at Rutgers, though I have no idea where funding for this research comes from.
Also see this Edge talk:
http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/trivers04/trivers04_index.html
In which Trivers emphasizes state-deception which citizens swallow (there’s an element of self-deception in deception by others, unless you assume people are perfect dupes). I think there’s a leftist agenda behind this. It’s not hard to extend this to corporate-deception of consumers. If we know about the evolutionary basis of deception (and evolutionary psychology being what it is, any results would be very provisional), perhaps that would inform resistance to deception. Once again, I think there’s the possibility for a robust leftist evolutionary psychology, though, of course, one shouldn’t bring leftist ideology to the lab or the field or one is likely to see only what one is looking for.

Darryl, I don’t doubt that there are left wing Evolutionary Psychologists. In fact, as I pointed out, most academics in the US and I suppose Canada are left leaning. My interest is why there seems to be no systematic left wing Evolutionary Psychology.

I have suggested that there could be a left wing EP. If I am correct and the problem with EP is its lack of robustness, then there should be the possibility for one. It seems reasonable that the reason one hasn’t emerged as a major voice is that the right is a major funding source for ‘this type of research. Although, it is often assumed that the right has access to much more money than the left, but I don’t know if this is true. There are rich Democrats, and there are rich socialists in America. Much of the right wing backing for EP comes from wealthy individuals and their foundations.

Left leaning individuals are only more likely to espouse anti-EP views. There are clearly many left leaning individuals who advocate EP as a scientific approach to psychology. Why there is an EP that claims private property is an evolved cognition but no response to this is a deeper question. Perhaps it’s just lack of organization on the left.

But deep inside, Darryl, what I fear is that the EP of left leaning psychologists is just wishful thinking. While they chat with each other in the Harvard Faculty Club about this evolved cognition and that environmental condition of the primatives, the right wing businessmen who paid for all this stuff feel much more secure knowing that what they’re doing is ‘natural’ and they have the science to prove it.

Let’s see…ev psych takes its lead on cognition from Chomsky, the well-known right wing shill. Other important influences include that raving fascist William James.

One of the main assumptions of Evolutionary Psychology is that behaviour is a phenotype.

Nope. One of the main assumptions of evolutionary psychology is that behavior is not a phenotype, but the product of cognitive systems that are phenotypes. That’s the first principle in this primer on ev psych which I thought I sent you. It might be a good idea to get a grip on ev psych before you start writing about it. Cosimides and Tooby actually write on this very misunderstanding in their letter to the New Republic on this topic:

“As even many casual readers know, from the field’s founding, leading evolutionary psychologists have vigorously and clearly championed precisely the opposite view. By going to the New York Times March 14th article on evolutionary psychology, for example, to get a neutral list of other leading researchers (“adherents”) in the field (Don Symons, Martin Daly, Margo Wilson, Steven Pinker, David Buss, Randy Nesse, ourselves, etc.) and consulting their writings, one finds that each has made exceptionally lucid general statements on this point, backed up by numerous specifics. For example, in their book Homicide, Daly and Wilson identify nearly all of the major categories of what they are investigating – homicide – as nonadaptive; Symons in his Evolution of Human Sexuality (where many of Coyne’s own arguments concerning human sex differences were first articulated) identifies many major aspects of human sexuality as nonadaptive, including homosexuality (an obvious and consensus view); Pinker in his synthesis How the Mind Works similarly articulates the consensus view that music, religion, and the arts appear to be by-products; Randy Nesse and George Williams (arguably the world’s most eminent living evolutionary biologist) in their book Why we get sick outline numerous examples of nonadaptive features of human biology and psychology; and we ourselves have argued that, along with many other phenomena, the great majority of the thousands of heritable psychological differences in humans could not be psychological adaptations. Coyne’s statement is a fabrication, and particularly dishonest in the context of the book being reviewed: Palmer, one of the book’s coauthors explicitly argues that the phenomenon of rape is a by-product rather than an adaptation, and the first section of the book not only addresses but belabors the commonplace nature of evolved by-products.”

Identifying behavior as phenotypic is the kind of critique of modern evolutionary biology that creationists make.

I don’t know what else to say. Clearly scientists take funding from whoever will give it. I think it is reprehensible that you attempt to tar the field with the idiotic Bell Curve trash that all of them reject (in fact there is a critique of that nut Rushton’s ideas about kin selection and group behavior right there on the bottom of the first page of the CEP home page).

BTW, you should spend some time reading the stuff at the Center for Ev Psych. There you will find that a number of institutions such as the Harry Guggenheim foundation and that notorious hotbed of right-wing radicalism, the National Science Foundation, support quite a bit of research. Also the James S. McDonnell foundation, established by the airplane builder, funds them, so I guess that they must also be doing research to support US bombing programs. McDonnell himself was a believer in the occult, so maybe it’s magic they are secretly researching.

The fact is that they take money from whoever they can get it from, from sources left, right, and center. Thus your statement:

There is no such thing as left wing Evolutionary Psychology.

is correct. There is also no such thing as right wing ev psych either. There is no political ev psych, period. You simply have not done the kind of research that would enable you to establish the kind of money trail you’d like to have. Your claims are thus baseless; worse than baseless, because you do not understand the basic ideas of the field you are critiquing. The reason the “left” has no critique of ev psych’s claims is because it isn’t “left-wing” to critique it, it is scientific.

But as T and C point out, again in the TNR letter, the other reason there is no left-wing critique is because of the left-wing grip on social sciences field:

“Indeed, Coyne argues that human males and females have evolved different psychologies with respect to aggression and to sex, ratifying without acknowledgement the consensus mainstream view of evolutionary psychologists. If he were to advance or defend his beliefs outside of the context of an attack of evolutionary psychology, he would himself be attacked as an evolutionary psychologist. Ironically, although Coyne considers such views obvious, he seems unaware that any scholar who uses or even shows awareness of the evidence on these points would – at most universities – be ruled out as a candidate for a position in social or cultural anthropology, gender studies, sociology, or even most branches of psychology. Under the status quo, strict ignorance of certain facts and fields is a professional prerequisite in many disciplines. Program officers at NIH, NSF, and elsewhere privately advise applicants to remove all mention of the word “evolution” from their grant applications for them to have any hope of success.”

BTW, there is a paper right there on the first page of the CEP arguing that the whole idea of race is a cognitive and social construction:

http://www.psych.ucsb.edu/research/cep/

“Can race be erased? Coalitional computation and social categorization by Robert Kurzban , John Tooby, and Leda Cosmides Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 98 (26) 15387-15392 (#5414) “Seeing” others as members of a race may not be inevitable, as many psychologists had thought. Instead, the tendency to notice and remember someone’s race may be a changeable byproduct of brain mechanisms that evolved for another reason: to detect shifting coalitions and alliances. By creating a social context in which race was uncorrelated with coalitional alliances, we were able to drastically decrease the extent to which subjects noticed and remembered other people’s race.”

All of your assumptions and understandings are, not to put too fine a point on it, wrong. I think you need to study that primer, and perhaps brush up on your understanding of the whole idea of evolution.

Michael

I was about to give it to you for that post, Scott. But Michael Turton just killed the horse.

It is an interesting dilemma, scientists must proceed as if scientific research was a neutral endeavor if they wish to produce scientifically valid results, and yet they are well aware of the vested political interests of those who give them funding. Science has always maintained a certain degree of autonomy from its funders, but it would be absurd to imply that scientific research is truly apolitical. So arguing back and forth: “Science is political.” “Science is objective.” doesn’t get us anywhere.

We must separate two questions: (1) Why is it that right wing think tanks find EP worth funding? And (2) are there any contributions made by EP that fundamentally challenge the political assumptions of their funders?

Scott’s critics have only shown that EP is more nuanced than his characterization of it, but I have yet to see anything showing that EP actually challenges the views of its right wing supporters. From what I’ve read, however, much of the “nuance” in EP is often just lip-service to placate critics. The main thrust of the arguments and the conclusions drawn from it are are lacking such nuance. Still, this doesn’t matter. If people want to challenge Scott’s basic contention that there is no “Left wing EP” they need to do more than show that there are anarchists doing EP, or that EP has nuance, they must demonstrate that EP has produced research which calls into question the ideological assumptions of its right wing funders.

The closest thing here to such an argument is Turton’s quote of a piece showing that race is a “social construction.” However, it is a mistake to assume that contemporary right wing ideology is based on a notion of race. In fact, a change has taken place in the last few decades, and now the right tends to argue that race doesn’t exist. This is the main argument against affirmative action and other programs which attempt to undo the legacy of institutional racism. The idea that we can create “a social context in which race was uncorrelated with coalitional alliances,” is a right wing fantasy.

Scott’s critics have only shown that EP is more nuanced than his characterization of it, but I have yet to see anything showing that EP actually challenges the views of its right wing supporters.

Kerim, Scott’s whole position is wrong. There is no “right-wing” support of EP anymore than there is “left-wing” support of EP. Scott misrepresented the story — he writes, for example:

The Evolutionary Psychology Lab at Florida Atlantic University is a small lab established by Dr. Todd K. Shackelford. It appears that the lab functions primarily to supervise graduate students, although they have presented quite a bit of research in journals and at conferences.

At least some of the funding comes from the Woodhill Foundation.”

This is a smear, nothing less. Here’s the list of actual funders:

  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • The Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
  • The Woodhill Foundation
  • State of Colorado, Alternate Defense Council
  • State of Florida, Research Initiation Award, Florida Atlantic University
  • Verona University, Italy

Look! The notoriously right-wing NIMH funds EP! Apparently even a single right-wing source makes EP right-wing, and no amount of other funding can wash away that horrible stain. As the Lab notes, the Woodhill Foundation is giving funding for research into violence in romantic relationships. Please show the political slant of the papers, with relevant cites.

Scott goes on:

The most notorious link between this type of research and right wing political causes is the Bradley Foundation. While not expressedly supporting Evolutionary Psychology, the Bradley Foundation has funded significant research on genetic variation in behavioural traits.

But, as Scott says, it doesn’t fund EP research. So what is it doing there? It’s just a rhetorical trick, a bit of innuendo. It’s a common smear to conflate EP with the Bell Curve crowd.

Moreover his understanding of evolution and behavior is just flat-out wrong:

It is these discrete bits of behaviour which are posited to have been selected for by natural selection. This would include what is often discussed as Evolutionary Psychology.

Hogswill. Behavior doesn’t evolve; it is the cognitive machinery for producing it that evolves. EP studies that cognitive machinery by studying behavior.

Still, this doesn’t matter. If people want to challenge Scott’s basic contention that there is no “Left wing EP” they need to do more than show that there are anarchists doing EP, or that EP has nuance, they must demonstrate that EP has produced research which calls into question the ideological assumptions of its right wing funders.

First, you need to demonstrate that their research doesn’t call into question the ideological assumptions of right-wing funders. So far there has been no demonstration that EP has any social program or aligns with any social program, merely lots of misunderstandings, innuendo, cluelessness, and non-research. Please demonstrate that with relevant cites of the EP literature. Heck, it appears that neither Scott nor you have actually read the Primer on EP, so at the moment it would appear that neither of you know what is under discussion here. Further, I do not believe, at the moment, that either of you is willing to admit your (plentiful) errors and assumptions because your own politics so powerfully govern your response that you are unable even to see how your how own program is driven by ideology, not evidence. Hence, I do not see what evidence, at the moment, could get you to change your position.

Let’s have a demonstration, with actual evidence, not misunderstandings, cluelessness, and innuendo, about what the political slant of EP is.

Good luck!

Michael

Let’s have a demonstration, with actual evidence, not misunderstandings, cluelessness, and innuendo, about what the political slant of EP is.

Like I said, I think it isn’t a question of whether a discpline as a whole has a “political slant” or even the various researchers in that field. That is too simple a conception of how ideology works. And not one I think Scott subscribes too either.

It might help to look back historically. Eugenics was quite popular throughout the world before WWII. Many Eugenicists were liberals who thought they were helping reform mankind. It was only after the Nazi’s took the project to its ultimate conclusion that others began to take a step back and question the assumptions of their field.

It is worth pointing out that the early objections to Darwin from American christian groups was largely because they perceived contemporary Darwinianism as racist. In fact, they were right – even though Darwin’s theories have been vindicated in the long run, the way they were understood at that time was both incorrect and racist.

I am not saying that EP=Eugenics, simply that the way ideology works with science is far more complex than the either-or scenario Michael Turton presents us with. I think Scott’s research has shown some legitimate concerns about the underlying ideology of EP as well as the political motivations of SOME of its practitioners and supporters. It is worth asking ourself why such ideas are so attractive to the public and to the news media… And why it is that many prominant EP researchers are so keen to hide their roots in sociobiology.

I am not saying that EP=Eugenics, simply that the way ideology works with science is far more complex than the either-or scenario Michael Turton presents us with.

I’ve already responded to this in the next post…

Michael

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