Evolutionary psychology is bunk.
It can be used to explain completely contradictory findings, which means that the explanation is custom-made to fit the results of a given study.
Which means, it's no explanation at all.
There's no way it can be tested or disproved. Any contradictory findings are simply given additional evolutionary explanations.
Which means, it's really not a theory; it's a belief system.
Here's an article about a study recently published in the journal "Evolution and Human Behavior" that's getting some attention this week.
Maureen Dowd, who is every conservative's favorite columnist (to pick on, that is), used the study as a hook for her petulant, sniping column about "why men don't want to marry me". Rush Limbaugh, who is every liberal's favorite talk show host (to make rude jokes about), used Dowd's column as a hook for his radio talk show yesterday.
The study is being accepted far too uncritically by both sides as evidence that men want to marry women who are subservient to them. The study's authors claim that this is due to evolutionary forces, because... well, because that's how they could get it published in "Evolution and Human Behavior", most likely.
Anyway, here's a little fisking of just one sentence from the article about the study.
"A new study One study? Doesn't mean a thing. Remember that "one study" that found cold fusion in the laboratory? Exactly.
by psychology researchersHey, this is my field, so I can tell you that until you see exactly how the questions were framed, you just don't know if the study is unbiased enough to be useful. Psychologists are, in general, a pretty liberal bunch, who lean leftwards on marriage, feminism, evolution, etc.
at the University of Michigan, using college undergraduates,By college undergrads, I'm sure they meant "freshman in the Psych 101 class", just like probably 90% of the rest of such studies. This makes the findings of all such studies of limited value, but they're especially dubious when the topic is "long term relationships" or marriage. I mean, 18- and 19-year-old guys? Gentlemen, please correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't "long-term" mean "more than a week" at that age?
suggests that men going for long-term relationships would rather marry women in subordinate jobs than women who are supervisors.There you go! The smoking gun! Men don't want to marry smart, accomplished women!
Kind of a stretch at best, but if you read a little further in the article, you find out that there's absolutely no reason to draw that conclusion. It turns out that the subjects weren't asked to romantically consider a woman who is "a" supervisor; they were asked to consider a woman who is "their" supervisor. According to the article:
The men, for example, were shown pictures and asked, "Imagine that you have just taken a job and that Jennifer is your (emphasis added) immediate supervisor," or peer, or assistant. The participants were then asked to rate, on one-to-nine scale, how much they would like to go to a party, date or marry the person."Why would young men who've grown up in a culture that constantly screams "sexual harassment" want to consider a long term relationship with their own bosses? It's even possible that the subjects, who I assume were not told the real purpose of the study, might have thought the researchers were actually studying sexual harassment. This certainly could have influenced their responses.
Here's another pointed criticism, from Dr. Ellen Berscheid, a distinguished professor at the University of Minnesota (my own grad school alma mater, I might add):
Relational dominance, she said, could mean different things in a different study - like one that created hypothetical mates who were richer or poorer than the research subjects. With a money comparison, she said, "the results may well have been quite different."In fact, Dr. Berscheid goes further in criticizing evolutionary psychology in general. Now, she's politer than I am about it, and doesn't call it "bunk", but you get the idea:
In an e-mail interview, Dr. Ellen Berscheid, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, took a slight jab at "these florid psychoevolutionary interpretations of human behavior that wholly ignore the influence of contemporary, mundane social institutional forces."Exactly.