Gad Saad makes this comment to Begley, who dismissed evolutionary psychology in her article:
I challenge Ms. Begley to find a culture in the annals of recorded history where parents were overwhelmingly more concerned about their son's chastity as compared to their daughter's. I challenge Ms. Begley to find a culture where on average men have had a sustained preference for mating with post-menopausal women. I challenge Ms. Begley to find a culture where individuals who possess asymmetric facial features are judged to be more attractive and desirable than their symmetric counterparts. I challenge Ms. Begley to find a culture where on average women have had a sustained preference for lazy, submissive, apathetic men as prospective mates.Well put, Dr. Saad. It may be very hard indeed to verify, for example, the hypothesis that men's preference for younger women is an adaptive trait, but the trait is there, and so is the theory. Denying those is folly. We may not like nature's influence on our behavior, but I guarantee it's here to stay.
David Sloan Wilson's article in the Huffington Post is fairly thoughtful. He is very critical - in a paternal sort of way - of Tooby and Cosmides, two of the founders of evolutionary psychology, and counts the ways that they went wrong back in the day:
Let me count the ways: 1) They portrayed the mind as a collection of hundreds of special-purpose modules that evolved to solve specific problems in the EEA. 2) Their conception of the EEA was limited to the range of environments occupied by humans during their evolution as a species, which they acknowledged to be diverse. However, it did not stretch back in time to include primate, mammalian and vertebrate adaptations; nor did it stretch forward to include rapid genetic evolution since our hunter-gatherer existence. 3) They emphasized a universal human nature, or rather separate male and female natures, while minimizing the importance of adaptive genetic variation that cuts across both sexes. 4) They dismissed open-ended, domain-general psychological processes as a theoretical impossibility, creating a polarized worldview with "Evolutionary Psychology" at the positive end and "The Standard Social Science Model (SSSM)" at the negative end; 5) Their blueprint had almost nothing to say about culture as an open-ended evolutionary process that can adapt human populations to their current environments. They did not deny the possibility of transmitted culture, but they had almost nothing to say about it. Their most important point was that what seems like transmitted culture can instead be an expression of genetically programmed individual behavioral flexibility (evoked culture).Hey! Don't skip that. Read the whole quote.
It may sound like it, but Wilson is not out for a kill. Rather, he wants to fix these problems by taking back the terms to their right meaning:
Take back the terms! Terms such as "sociobiology" and "evolutionary psychology" have straightforward meanings: Sociobiology is the study of social behavior from an evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary psychology is the study of psychology from an evolutionary perspective. Unfortunately, there is a tendency for these terms to become associated with particular schools of thought and endorsed or avoided accordingly. Thus, the study of social behavior from an evolutionary perspective has never been more active, but the term "sociobiology" is avoided because of the controversy surrounding the publication of E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology in 1975. The study of psychology from an evolutionary perspective has never been more vigorous or rigorous, but the term "evolutionary psychology" is avoided by those who disagree with the particular school of thought that arose in the late 1980's.I have just finished reading E.O. Wilson's autobiography, Naturalist, and walked away thoroughly offended by what other professors and students subjected him to in response to Sociobiology. Particularly two fellow professors at Harvard, Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould, comes off as particularly nasty in their attempt of academic castration, based not on the lack of merits of Wilson's theory, but on the ideological implications of it, which didn't square of well with Lewontin's and Gould's Marxist views.
It's time (in fact it is way over) to throw away criticisms of scientific theories that do not attack the science. We may not like what we take to be the implications of a theory, but the only proper way to discredit it is to find its scientific flaws. Ideological angles are never an option.