Dear Glen and Peter, 


I started out my career calling myself an Ethologist and studying communication 
in monkeys and then crows. I ended my career as an Evolutionary Psychologist 
studying human infant’s cries.  So I feel some obligation to stand up to your 
critique, while acknowledging that much of it is fair. 


Lots going on right now so I will have to go at this slowly.  But for starters 
could we just agree to avoid saying anything stupid.  The two most obvious 
stupidities to avoid are: 


Human Evolutionary history has nothing to do with contemporary human behavior


Human Evolutionary history has everything to do with contemporary human 


Once the two extreme positions have been set aside, we are left in the messy 


Under what circumstances and in which domains does knowledge of human 
evolutionary history have anything to contribute to our understanding of 
contemporary human behavior?  


I would love to have a sustained, thoughtful discussion of this question on 
this list.  It is very close to my heart.   Because I don’t have time, right 
now,  to write a screed, or even a rant, I shall fall back on that practice 
favored by all academic scoundrels:  I shall cite one of my own papers. 
  (If this link doesn’t work, could somebody let me know, please?)


I hope we can carry this on for some time, but SLOWLY, please, so I can keep 





Nicholas S. Thompson

Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Biology

Clark University



From: Friam [] On Behalf Of Pieter Steenekamp
Sent: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 9:20 AM
To: The Friday Morning Applied Complexity Coffee Group <>
Subject: Re: [FRIAM] the pseudoscience of evolutionary psychology?


It may be difficult to quantify evolutionary psychology, but that does not mean 
it is pseudoscience. Like string theory that's also difficult to quantify, the 
scientific method is also applicable to evolutionary psychology. 


I support the view as expressed in

"Just as Darwin's theory of natural selection was almost immediately perverted 
to justify cruel bigotry (Social Darwinism, eugenics), so evolutionary 
psychology is readily twisted to buttress prejudice. This does not make 
evolutionary psychology wrong, any more than the brutality of Social Darwinism 
made evolutionary theory wrong, but it does suggest that claims rooted in it 
should be assessed very carefully, both by those reading them and those writing 


On 13 February 2018 at 23:07, uǝlƃ ☣ < 
<> > wrote:

I remain fascinated by the neoreactionaries (most of whom have ceded their soap 
boxes to their alt-right offspring).  And Google's tendency to promote fringe 
garbage ( 
landed Jordan Peterson in my Youtube recommendations awhile back.  Based on the 
videos Youtube recommended, he sounded like a typical right-wing 
pseudo-intellectual.  But when I noticed Sam Harris taking him seriously, I 
thought I'd look a little closer.  Sure enough, the majority of his online 
lectures spout fairly reasonable (albeit justificationist) rhetoric ... a lot 
like Harris and fellow right-wing flirt Jonathan Haidt, both of whom appeal to 
our xenophobic friends for differing reasons.

I'm reminded of the argument I made on this list some time ago that, although I 
believe open source is necessary for pretty much all things, it *facilitates* 
nefarious action by obscurity.  Because your library (e.g. RSA backdoors or 
JavaScript cryptocurrency miners) has so much code in it, and is just one 
library in a gamut of libraries you invoke, there's absolutely no way you can 
*trust* that stack ... even if it's FOSS and gets lots of eyeballs.

Peterson, Harris, and Haidt, rely on the overt reasonability of 90% of what 
they say in order to Trojan Horse the racist or otherwise questionable content 
of the other 10%.  Sure, they make a *technical* effort to weight their 
assertions.  And that's laudable.  (Slate Star Codex and Alexander's ilk do 
this well with their "epistemic status" rating, displayed fairly prominently 
most of the time.)  But this raises the reason I'm posting this to FriAM.  The 
quote from the Alternet article is (should be) provocative:
"Devotees of the pseudoscience of evolutionary psychology are fond of this 
particular maneuver: locate some behavior in the more ancient branches of the 
tree of life and project it forward across eons to explain little Johnny 
pulling little Susie’s pigtails, or the collapse of Lehman Brothers, or the 
Holocaust, or whatever. In any case, I like to imagine the diaphanous, 
energy-based extraterrestrials in their invisible starships, so unutterably 
alien that they gaze upon man and lobster and can’t tell them apart."

In particular re: Peterson, I've actually *used* (although mostly jokingly) the 
alpha- beta-male (false) dichotomy at cocktail parties ... to justify why I, as 
a proud beta male, am a wallflower.  But now, I'm worried that (like the many 
memes I learned from my libertarian friends) it's not merely a useful fiction, 
but complete garbage:

☣ uǝlƃ

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