Until this week I was blissfully unaware of Jordan Petersen. Two hours
of YouTube research later my beta male mellow has been well and truly
harshed. Be that as it may, the area of "evolutionary psychology" is
interesting and I would like to respond to Nick's request to discuss
it further.
I apologize in advance for the length of the post.

At the outset I would assert that Peterson's assertions have nothing to
do with evolutionary psychology as I understand it because the
'evolution" in question is _biological_ evolution. The grounds for this
assertion will follow a bit of story telling.
Once upon a time there was a context (we will call it Nature, or Gaia if
you want some personification) and a homogeneous population  of
organisms. Nature provided a plethora of distinct and distinctive
niches; into which the organisms flowed and began to exploit. Most often
each niche required some kind of particularistic change in the organism
occupying that niche and voila - adaptation.
if the niche were static, if Nature was static and unchanging, we would
have diversity but no evolution. The diversity could mask itself as
'evolutionary' just because adjacent niches could marginally
idiosyncratic requiring marginally idiosyncratic adaptations and we have
finches with different beaks.
Evolution requires either: change in the niche or differential
efficiency among the organisms (otherwise homogeneous) occupying that
niche. If the rate of change in Nature is slow enough or the efficiency
gradient is not too steep, the conditions are created for adaptation
over time. True the finches adaptations occur over time, over
generations of finches, but one more element is essential for evolution
as I understand it — an increase in complexity.
It is this 'adaption over time' along with 'increasing complexity' that
naive people like me take to be "evolution."
Our most primitive ancestors were a product of this kind of evolution -
biological evolution.
Our most primitive ancestors almost certainly had a "psychology" given
that the only requirement to develop one is sufficient "self awareness"
(sorry Nick) to differentiate between 'this' and that' with 'this' very
rapidly becoming "I" and 'that' becomes anything and everything else.
Now "I" and 'other' is kind of lonely. and probably not a good adaption
or evolutionary move, so gradations of 'Other' ensue and we have the
foundation for "Us" and "Them" and "Other." This allows basic social
organization and interaction of the sort we still see in primates and
would have seen in among our most ancient ancestors.
The closest approximation to what was, would be the few hunter-gatherer
societies known to cultural anthropologists and the recreations that
arose when archeological findings were compared to extant hunter-
gatherers. It would not be unreasonable to assume that the 'psychology'
of these ancestors was the product of biological evolution as much as
the physiological evolution.
So - first test for Petersen: were "alpha males" present in those
societies? If yes, then he has some, minimal, grounds for asserting
evolutionary psychological roots for his current claims.
Unfortunately for him, the answer is no. The closest approximation would
be 'leadership' roles. But those roles were - as near as we can
determine - both situational and ephemeral. Herd of bison walking by?
The most experienced bison hunter assumed leadership and organized the
band to run them over a cliff. Hunt over? So is the leadership.
The only person in the group that had lifetime status as a result of
specialized ability was the shaman and SHE was definitely not an
alpha male.
Shortly after the emergence of the "I" came language and, very
importantly, story. The ground is set for an alternative, mostly
complementary, form of evolution — cultural evolution. Instead of
waiting to evolve fur, like the polar bear, so we could inhabit
the arctic, cultural evolution led us to wearing the polar bear's
fur instead.
Here Petersen might, but I doubt it, find some antecedents for his
absurdities. E.g.,  -- unless it has happened in the last decade no one has 
ever been able
  to explain why 'men hunt and women gather', a pretty universal
  division of labor in hunter-gatherer and antecedent cultures. -- why have all 
cultures (excepting one small group on the south of the
 Black Sea a few thousand years ago) been patriarchal? (There are lots
 of matrilineal cultures, but that is different.)-- why, according to 
anthropologist Maria Lepowski, is there only one
culture, in historical times, based on sex/gender equality. (The pre-
WWII Vanuatu.)  -- why, statistically speaking, are men attracted to women 
having the
  appearance of fecundity (physical symmetry, developed breasts, width
  of pelvic girdle, hence hips) and women are attracted to men with the
  appearance of power (fame, money, social position, all being secondary
Don't shoot the messenger for the last one. Merely reporting what was
learned in a year long university course in sex and gender across
cultures - historic and prehistoric.

On Wed, Feb 14, 2018, at 9:20 AM, Pieter Steenekamp wrote:
> 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
> https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology:> "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 them."> 
> On 13 February 2018 at 23:07, uǝlƃ ☣ <geprope...@gmail.com> 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
>> (https://www.wired.com/story/google-autocomplete-vile-suggestions/)
>> 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:>> 
>> https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/rights-favorite-new-intellectual-has-some-truly-pitiable-ideas-about-masculinity>>
>>   "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: https://youtu.be/YTyQgwVvYyc>>
>>  --
>>  ☣ uǝlƃ
>>  ============================================================
>>  FRIAM Applied Complexity Group listserv Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at
>>  cafe at St. John's College to unsubscribe
>>  http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com FRIAM-COMIC
>>  http://friam-comic.blogspot.com/ by Dr. Strangelove> 
>> ============================================================
> FRIAM Applied Complexity Group listserv
> Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College
> to unsubscribe http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com
> FRIAM-COMIC http://friam-comic.blogspot.com/ by Dr. Strangelove

FRIAM Applied Complexity Group listserv
Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College
to unsubscribe http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com
FRIAM-COMIC http://friam-comic.blogspot.com/ by Dr. Strangelove

Reply via email to