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Will science survive politics? Whether something is politically convenient or not doesn’t affect its truth

Credit: DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini via Getty Images


May 11, 2021   7 mins

Back when people were still arguing about atheism vs creationism, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was a constant topic of argument. It was always angry right-wingers who would argue the toss about irreducible complexity at the bottom of my blog posts, claiming evolution broke the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It was left-wingers who went the other way. It was like climate change: the Left “accepted the science”, and (parts of) the Right refused it.

Darwin still divides the Left and Right, but the polarity has reversed. No one really cares about creationists any more. Instead, the row is over whether Darwin – and his theory, or its implications – is racist, or sexist. And the people passionately defending him are often right-wingers, while his critics are on the Left.

The latest incarnation is a by-the-numbers fighting-the-culture-war piece in the Telegraph about a guide to “Applying a decolonial framework to teaching and research in ecology and evolution” published by some plant scientists in the University of Sheffield. In the guide, science lecturers are told to contextualise Darwin by making it clear how his worldview was shaped by colonialism and racism.

I’ve read the guide, and it’s kind of tiresome. A small but irritating aspect is that it slanders the great pioneer of genetic biology JBS Haldane as a “racist and eugenicist”, on the basis of a piece of science fiction he once wrote.

It does indeed criticise Darwin too, one angle of which is that the HMS Beagle, upon which he sailed, was on a mission to map the coastline of South America in order to aid colonial control; that seems a strange thing to blame him for. But it also says that he thought white people were superior to black people, and men to women. It doesn’t mention his passionate hatred of slavery – “Great God how I should like to see that greatest curse on Earth Slavery abolished,” he wrote, saying it would be worth a million lives lost in war to end it – which feels relevant, but no doubt he was racist by modern standards. Cue a thousand-year war over whether we should judge him by standards of his own day or ours, and what those standards are, and so on.

I also rather wish that the Sheffield academics had mentioned whether or not they think Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true or not. There’s an awful lot of talk about power imbalances, Eurocentric viewpoints, and the legacy of colonialism, and how science “cannot be objective and apolitical” – but regardless of whether or not Darwin was racist, was he right? Maybe that’s taken for granted.

Universities, though, are universities; there are hundreds of them, and hundreds of academics in each one, and academics are mainly very left-wing. If you pick the most left-wing thing some academic has said that week, then you’ll never run out of things to print in your newspaper, if you need to keep stoking the culture war to rile up your readership. 

It’s not just the man himself, though. The interesting question is not whether he was personally racist, or to what extent his views were shaped by colonialism – the interesting question is whether his ideas were correct, or, more generally, which of the many, many ideas that have sprung forth from his initial, startling insight are correct, and which are not.

The sad, forgotten creationists aside, most of us gladly accept that dragonflies’ wings and wombats’ toenails or whatever have evolved; that those ancestors which had versions of those organs more suited to their environment tended to have more offspring.

But when Darwin’s idea gets applied to behaviour, it becomes more controversial. The field of science that tries to do this is called sociobiology; it was controversial enough when it arose in the Seventies, pioneered by EO Wilson. It caused a furore – protesters poured water over Wilson’s head during a conference talk, chanting “Racist Wilson, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.” Wilson’s work was mainly about ants.

When Darwinian ideas are applied to the human brain, and human behaviour, it is called evolutionary psychology, and that is more controversial still. 

Which, on the face of it, is strange. Evolutionary psychology is, at its heart, the idea that the brain (and therefore the mind, and human behaviour and psychology in general) is the product of evolution, just like every other animal organ. As Richard Dawkins wrote in the 2005 foreword to The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, that is so obviously true as to be almost not worth saying: “The central claim [of evolutionary psychology] is not an extraordinary one,” he wrote. “It amounts to the exceedingly modest claim that minds are on the same footing as bodies where Darwinian natural selection is concerned. Given that feet, livers, ears, wings, shells, eyes, crests, ligaments, antennae, hearts and feathers are shaped by natural selection … why on earth should the same not be true of brains[?]”

If you accept that evolution really happened and that humans are a product of it, then that should surely be uncontroversial. It’s surely the case that if we had evolved from bats, or whales, rather than apes, we would be very different, psychologically speaking. But evolutionary psychology is an astonishingly controversial field. It’s “pseudoscience”, or “unfalsifiable”, according to some.

The idea that the mind is evolved goes back to Darwin himself, but it was Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, a wife-and-husband team of academics, who really developed the field in The Adapted Mind, a book of essays they edited in 1992. 

Insofar as I can tell, evolutionary psychology is no more pseudoscientific or unfalsifiable than evolutionary biology in general. It’s harder to do, because brains and behaviour don’t usually leave fossils, but in principle it’s the same. You come up with some hypothesis, you make predictions using that hypothesis, and you test those predictions against reality.

For instance: one hypothesis within evolutionary psychology is the “psychological immune system”, the idea that we have an evolved tendency to behave in ways that reduce our exposure to dangerous pathogens. That’s pretty obviously the case in certain situations — for instance, faeces and rotting meat smell bad to us and we want to get away from them. But one more specific hypothesis was that people who have recently been ill, and therefore less able to fight off new diseases, would be hypersensitive to that tendency, and would want to (for instance) avoid people whose faces showed signs of disease.

One study found evidence that that was the case; a later, larger replication found that it wasn’t. Hypothesis (so far) falsified. This is bog-standard science.

It is true that there are a lot of comedy-sounding studies, into nipple erection and sexiness or a correlation between intelligence and semen quality, and some of them have failed to replicate

But if having some strange-sounding studies published, or studies that have failed to replicate, is enough to render an entire field pseudoscientific, then very few fields will survive. The field of medicine contains studies like this, in the medical journal Global Advances in Health and Medicine, which claims that to heal the body we need to study “the human energy field” and especially “organ-associated frequencies instrumental in the endocrine/chakra systems”. (It was eventually retracted, after two years.)

And this, in the same journal, encouraging “shamanic journeying” in paediatric palliative care, “in which the patient or the shaman moves into an altered state of awareness and encounters … ‘power animals.’” Or this paper, in the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, which looked at five (5) human brains, used no control group, did frankly weird things with the numbers, and used that to claim that aluminium in vaccines causes autism.

Those papers — which took me five minutes to find — are bad, and silly, and potentially harmful. But we don’t throw out the entire scientific field of medicine because there are weird, bad papers published on its fringes. Evolutionary psychology has its cranks, and its amusing or weird-sounding papers, but so does every field. Demanding that it alone be pure is an isolated demand for rigour. It’s not fair to apply uniquely stringent rules to evolutionary psychology, and I think the only reason people do is because evolutionary psychology is associated with a particular kind of reactionary politics.

It is, of course, true that evolutionary psychology can have obvious political implications that other fields, chemistry or astrophysics, say, might not. And some of them are unpalatable. The James Damore “Google memo” based its suggestion that women are, on average, less interested in tech than men explicitly on an “evolutionary psychology perspective”, for instance.

But there is lots of perfectly good, and politically uncontroversial as well as scientifically uncontroversial, science that goes on, looking at psychology through an evolutionary lens. Daniel Kahneman’s great work of popular psychology, Thinking, Fast and Slow, explicitly describes human psychology as an evolved thing: “The questions are perhaps less urgent for a human in a city environment than for a gazelle on the savannah, but we have inherited the neural mechanisms that evolved to provide ongoing assessments of threat level, and they have not been turned off.” He links our ability to read faces to a crucial evolutionary need to assess the intentions of people around us. This is evolutionary psychology, unadorned.

More importantly, though: whether something is politically convenient or not doesn’t affect whether it’s true. The Damore essay is a case in point. It certainly doesn’t seem to be unambiguously false: Cordelia Fine, author of Delusions of Gender and a populariser of feminism-inspired science, told the Guardian that Damore’s summation of the difference between men and women was far from perfect but “more accurate and nuanced than what you sometimes find in the popular literature” and “not seen as especially controversial”.

One problem is that if you say things like “Some of the differences between men and women are caused by evolution,” it sounds as though you’re saying “And therefore there is no point in working to reduce the gender pay gap”, or “and therefore women are supposed to have babies and not work”. It’s very hard to avoid people hearing those things. 

And it’s absolutely true that some people do use evolutionary psychology as a crutch for their beliefs; human beings are, indeed, not lobsters. (Mind you, they’re not clownfish either.)

Charles Darwin, the historical figure, is interesting to study, and it’s worth remembering that he was a man of his time. But Darwinism, the great insight of evolution by natural selection, is separate. It is true (or false) regardless of Darwin’s own views, and so are the many insights which have followed it. We can go back and forth over whether he was a racist, but the more interesting question is: was he right?


Tom Chivers is a science writer. His second book, How to Read Numbers, is out now.

TomChivers

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George Bruce
George Bruce
3 years ago

To make the argument a bit broader, and not just about science, most people just want a yes/no, good/bad, black/white answer to a host of questions that just cannot be answered in that way.
I presume it shows they still function in a rather primitive way – that animal, run from it or not? Person I have never seen before – attack or not?
No doubt it was very helpful for surviving, but not for advancing understanding of the world around us.
Unfortunately, it is by no means just the stupid who want these on/off answers.
I am quite surprised by how strongly even Tom words his question.
whether or not Darwin was racist, was he right? 
If I was asked that question, unless I thought the people around me were quite stupid, I would not go for anything stronger than certainly seems to give a good explanation for a lot of phenomena, have not come across anything I think is better in its place.
The universe is fascinatingly grey, not boringly white or black. And the universe is not at all interested in the fact you find it difficult to explain using just on or off like a third-rate artificial intelligence programme.

Bertie B
Bertie B
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

There are many cases where the greyness of science is apparent. But Darwins theory of evolution isn’t one them. Its a case of him being right… since he developed his theories we have discoved mechanisms by which that selection happens (DNA) and can now quite accuratally predict characteristics of offspring, evolution is controllable in a limited way in fast reporoducing species.

certainly seems to give a good explanation for a lot of phenomena, have not come across anything I think is better in its place”

Is, in this case false balance.

George Bruce
George Bruce
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

I do not understand what you mean by false balance. It is not an expression I have come across. I am certainly not saying that I regard alternative explanations that imply Darwin and evolutionary theory was utterly wrong as equally likely to be right.

Last edited 3 years ago by George Bruce
James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

But Darwins theory of evolution isn’t one them”.

The problem for Darwin’s fans is that his ideas are full of holes. However, he is the closest the Atheists have to a god. That explains the passionate dogmatic defence, despite serious issues with the “evidence”

Cassian Young
Cassian Young
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

Why? Suggest you read Daniel Dennett Darwin’s Dangerous Idea.

Last edited 3 years ago by Cassian Young
Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

Nazis &Communists used eugenics as their excuse for persecution,It wasn’t Darwin’s fault,he had lifetime doubts about Christianity,when his Favourite daughter died..he originally started A degree in divinity?…

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

I can’t think of a scientific theory which is better founded on observation and reason than Evolution.

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Good for you Starry……

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

There are many so far unexplained aspects to Darwinism, but so far, no “holes”. The theory is the only workable one we currently have to explain most of biology.

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Lets just do one hole. First cell….how?

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

Please explain the serious issues with the evidence?
From your comments the other day you seemed to take issue with how the environment doesn’t change species:

despite numerous predictions of what should happen to species when environmental conditions are changed

This is not Darwinian evolution by natural selection. The environment doesn’t change genes to cause evolution.

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Since life is so diverse, new spieces should be easy to create and hence show the science in real time.

Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

And poor Tom Chivers thought creationists were gone…

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago
Reply to  Andre Lower

There are more of us than you might expect. However, rejection of Darwin does not equal Creation

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

Evolution is no more apparent thn in the way we have seen the Sars-Covid-2 virus change and change again over the last few months so that it has moved from infecting three new cases from every infected person, to infecting perhaps by now seven new cases in the Indian variant. It is a truly beautiful, if horrifying illustration of how a mindless scrap of RNA can change itself to further its replication and seems to do so in an absolutely relentless way.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

Whilst I pretty much agree with you I would prefer to say that often people want an answer that gives a basis for action rather than a basis for more prevaricating whilst yet more studies are done.

Mark Bates
Mark Bates
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

I’ve always thought it was pretty simple. Back in the Caveman days you would be wary of someone who wasn’t from your village or someone that looks different from you (skin colour, skin disease etc) in case they harboured a disease.
This has not just magically disappeared from humans because of the racism discussion in the past 150 years and us humans thinking we are different from any other animal. This is why racism is still prevalent. It’s a natural behaviour that every person fights internally every day. After all survival is still 100% your priority in life. Education is the key to defeating racism.

Last edited 3 years ago by Mark Bates
mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Bates

One of many hangovers from early hominids and humans. In our culture aside from parts of the Labour Party, Greens and the blood and soil far right this view has largely disappeared (ie we have evolved away from it) Though the numbers of people who differentiate on the grounds of skin color or other physical characteristic are a tiny % of the whole, they are also the most vocal so appear much bigger and more dangerous than they actually are. Bit like a moth with large eye spots, or more like a hagfish covered in foul tasting slime!

Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago

Bowlby’s work on mother-infant attachment is one of the most important scientific theories to explain human psychological development and was based on careful observations made by Mary Ainsworth. Neuroscientific evidence now reveals how bonding between mother and infant affects the developing infant brain. Yet Bowlby was denounced as sexist and misogynist by feminists; they argued that he was telling women to stay at home.
The greatest of nature’s gift, maternal love, revered across cultures as seen in Baby Jesus and Mary, became a stick to beat science and men.
And so it goes on. Wellcome and MRC now closely observe gender ratio on a scientific proposal, and a great scientific project may be rejected if it falls foul of gender quotas.
Those that the Gods destroy, they are first made woke….

Last edited 3 years ago by Vikram Sharma
Alex Camm
Alex Camm
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Whilst I never found attachment theory a useful tool as a therapist, I still wholeheartedly agree with your point

Lindsay Gatward
Lindsay Gatward
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Yes. And it also occurs to me that a key factor once a species advances beyond operating just by inherited instinct that the survival of the individual is hugely enhanced by the behaviour of seeking parental approval and in humans this became so hugely vital and successful for survival that it continues subconsciously into adulthood and is why as adults we so deeply need and are moved by approval and admiration by and from our peers and tribe and gangs and in business and clubs and why we demure to and seek approval by a higher authority in our associations and politics and of course religion. Our cultures and civilisations originate in the simple and complex success of the advantage of seeking parental approval?

Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago

You may well be right. Cultures survive and thrive if cultural values confer advantage for both individual and group survival and fitness. Culture may have also evolved along Darwinian lines.
Except at Woke Central or Guardian who seem to have regressed?

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago

Every high school male knows directly that the class beauty always marries the “Rollo”, proving the law of natural selection for survival of the fittest. But every philosopher, poet, saint, hero, … knows that that is only the lowest order ‘virtue’ of the species. And neither Jesus nor Julian showed much promise there.
Science itself, as becomes daily clearer, is the problem. Survivability comes down to who can develop the deadliest weapon, or, who can master Nature so thoroughly that he destroys it and himself with it.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
3 years ago

Critical Theory poisons everything

CL van Beek
CL van Beek
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

Indeed. It is not science these people do, they practice a form of religion from before the enlightenment. It is the return of The Dark Ages.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  CL van Beek

With the green/climate change replacing religion. The XR performance even looked like a Ken Russell version of the past. To absolve themselves of their sins the rich just plant more trees. When the church was in control they tried to stop anything that threatened their authority and now we have the absolute medecine with no disagreements allowed. Just as the Sheriff of Nottingham would send his soldiers round to keep the peasants in check , now we have a police force bravely stopping old ladies drinking tea in their own back garden , as the government spreads fear throughout the land. Wonder when Arthur or Richard the Lionheart will return?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Good article. These people are as mad as they are evil. If they prevail then our society is lost. But we have known all that for some time.
Equally evil is the way that science is now driven almost entirely by money. In this regard, Tom needs to get across the lab leak hypothesis and gain-of-function research etc. Essentially the same scientists that (inadvertently) unleashed Covid are now asking for $1.2 billion to do it all again. And they will probably get it. As you may or may not be aware, Dr Fauci is behind all this.

Terry M
Terry M
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

“Dr Fauci is behind all this.”
Yes, he was intimately involved in providing the request (from the US govt) for an ‘exception’ to the prohibition on the study of the virus to make them human transmittable. And then provided funding to the Wuhan lab. That he can be considered anything but a criminal is absurd.

Dorothy Slater
Dorothy Slater
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Fraser” Don’t you dare disparage our saintly Drd. Fauci. Why just this weekend he said we will probably be back to normal by Mother’s Day 2022 and a few minutes later said we can PerHAPS take masks off indoors once we are all vaccinated. He has been much too busy to deal with gain of function research – more faux news from Trump and company
He also said we should enjoy the “privilege” of not having to wear masks outdoors. However, as I walk in my very upscale neighbor hood, I find that few are taking advantage of the privilege. Most are still masked -, children included – and are still crossing the street when they see me coming. Of course the masks are a huge profit making business and they don’t want it to end.
Thsnks to Fauci, this appears to be our new “normal”

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Dorothy Slater

Here in the UK it was mentioned on the news this morning that a mask had sold for a four figure sum!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

I recently had to attend a major NHS facility to have my decrepit heart checked.
As an NHS facility is the most dangerous place in
England I decided to take no chances.

I happened to have a standard NATO, Nuclear, Biological & Chemical (NBC) Gas Mask in mint condition lying about the house. A relic of a previous life.

On arrival at the NHS facility wearing the said Gas Mask, I was literally begged to take it off, as it was
“terrifying the staff & other out patients”

.Naturally I refused and had a most enjoyable half hour playing the maskers at their our game. So far the Great Plague is yet to strike me down, so perhaps there was reason in my madness.

God what fun it is to be old.
.

Peter Jenks
Peter Jenks
3 years ago

Charles, I love your story. Early in Lockdown 1 I did the same thing in my local TESCO. I was asked to take it off and cover my face with a folded handkerchief…a bit like a wild west bank robber.
Identity health and safety, remove a very functional mask and replace it with a pointless bit of cloth, rather than upset anyone.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Jenks

Thank you, and I glad I’m not alone.

Like you I now wear the ‘Wild West Bank Robber” handkerchief, if only for convenience! And it doesn’t scare my Spaniel.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Dorothy Slater

You should carry a small bell with and ring it at the approach of a humanoid mask-wearer.
You should also shout, but not too loudly “Unclean, Unclean”.
That should scare them off! Good luck.

Jennifer Britton
Jennifer Britton
3 years ago
Reply to  Dorothy Slater

Isn’t all business based on selling things that people want/need? I don’t see how manufacturing and selling ready made masks is so terrible. I made fifty masks for friends and family when ready mades were needed in hospitals. Oil is profit making; should we stop that too?

Your comment about people crossing the street in your “upscale neighborhood” suggests that people cross the street to avoid you either because you aren’t wearing a mask and they are still worried about the virus or because they know you disapprove of their not exercising their privilege of not wearing masks. I would hope their avoidance is due to the former rather than the latter.

Dominic Rudman
Dominic Rudman
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

There is a good (and long) discussion of this in the Bulletin of Atomic Science, concluding that Covid 19 probably was the result of gain of function experiments at Wuhan and outlining the connections with Fauci and some of the WHO investigators (notably Danczak), as well as the many reasons that the MSM have not discussed the possibility seriously (one of the most notable being that they didn’t want to find themselves agreeing with Trump on anything).
https://thebulletin.org/2021/05/the-origin-of-covid-did-people-or-nature-open-pandoras-box-at-wuhan/

S B
S B
3 years ago
Reply to  Dominic Rudman

Thanks for sharing the link..

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Dominic Rudman

Yes, a devastating article, 3+ million dead and the unbearable cost,…, demonstrates both the deluded self conceit as well as cowardice of the breed.
Sen. Rand Paul read it and went a round with Fauci yesterday; but, like his father, he’s a lonely voice; and Fauci is confident in his evasions.

Auberon Linx
Auberon Linx
3 years ago

It is indeed uncontroversial that human mind and behaviour have been shaped by evolution. The controversy around evolutionary psychology does not arise due to that trite observation, though. Rather, the field known as “evolutionary psychology” is based on a set of very specific claims about the structure and function of mind which are at best unsupported, and at worst, demonstrably false. For example, the founders of the field Tooby and Cosmides believe that mind has a modular structure and works as a kind of Swiss army knife, a view that is widely rejected.
As the article states, evolutionary psychologists often come up with claims about human behaviour that do not hold up to scrutiny. But even when they are trying to explain phenomena that are demonstrably real, evolutionary psychologists do not provide anything more than pseudoscience. Their “trick” is providing an evolutionary explanation for a human trait. In reality, this comes down to coming up with a superficially plausible-sounding story with a lot of evolution-related buzzwords. The thing is, there is no proof that the origin story is correct, and a different one might easily be concocted.
In evolutionary biology it is notoriously difficult to prove that a trait is a result of natural selection, and evolutionary psychology never meets the required criteria. That is the real reason evolutionary biologists do not consider evolutionary psychology a legitimate field, rather than some supposed moral panic about its implications.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Auberon Linx

You might try reading The Triumph of Sociobiology, a review of the way in which evolutionary psychology has now become a dominant paradigm of science.

Gabriele
Gabriele
3 years ago

Evolutionary psychology is, at its heart, the idea that the brain (and therefore the mind, and human behaviour and psychology in general) is the product of evolution, just like every other animal organ.

I am not a scientist, but from what I understand I do not think that is actually true and the main problem with evolutionary psychology. The modern theory of evolution essentially says that the characteristics of living things that get passed through successive generations are selected through natural selection. These characteristics are not chosen, the changes happens randomly but only the useful ones survives.
The crucial point is that natural selection operates on genes, that is discrete parts that define clearly what is the characteristic that get selected. There are no genes for the mind. So, on what unit exactly evolutionary psychology would work on? The vague concepts of “mind features” or psychological traits?
To me it seems that evolutionary psychology steals the terminology of evolutionary biology without having the required foundation that exists in biology. That is what I have a problem with. Nobody has any issue with saying that the brain is a product of evolution, but the mind is different.
To me it seems unscientific that evolutionary psychology tries to study the mind with a biology mindset that is not applicable to the mind. When they do that, they corrupt the well-defined biological concept of evolution in a vague-sounding idea of change-through-time. This risk damaging both biology and psychology because this way evolution loses its precise scientific meaning.

Last edited 3 years ago by Gabriele
CL van Beek
CL van Beek
3 years ago
Reply to  Gabriele

Where does the brain come from if it did not evolve, and has it been static since?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  CL van Beek

I’d back Gabriele from a slightly different angle:
The mind – and the brain – is extremely complex, flexible, and capable of change. Our behaviour is learned, our personalities and motivations are formed etc. from interaction with people around us. This learning is also transmitted from generation to generation through the people close to us. It becomes extraordinarily difficult to distinguish the influence of genes from the influence of social learning since they are transmitted through the same people (parents).

Sure, genetics and biology determine at least the basic machinery. Personally I believe that e.g. Damore is right – but you have to admit it is well nigh impossible to prove.

Last edited 3 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Gabriele
Gabriele
3 years ago
Reply to  CL van Beek

The use of the term evolution in your question identifies exactly the problem. Nobody is saying that the brain did not evolve. The problem is that in biology evolution has a precise meaning. It acts on well-defined things called genes.
Evolutionary psychology tries to apply the general idea to the concept of mind. It uses the term evolution in the much looser sense of stuff that changes-through-time, the meaning you are referring to in your question. It is not clear on what unit the evolution of the mind is supposed to work. Can they define and understand the link between brain and mind? If you change a gene, you get a different biological characteristics. What have you change in the brain to get a different mind-feature?

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Gabriele

Well, you could use drugs. Or surgery. Or genes. Or hormones.

The mind is not a thing that exists somehow separate from the brain that creates it.

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
3 years ago
Reply to  Gabriele

They’re not well defined, and their interaction with each other and the environment can be highly complex.

Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago
Reply to  CL van Beek

Origin of the structure: Animals with centralized neurologic control (itself a random event rewarded by evolutionary success) fared better than animals without that characteristic.

As for being “static since”: Animals with enhanced stimulus processing capacity (again itself a random event rewarded by evolutionary success) fared better than animals without that characteristic.

Bertie B
Bertie B
3 years ago
Reply to  Gabriele

I understand what you are saying, but the “mind” isn’t seperate from the “brain”, it cannot exist without the brain, and its existence and workings are completly dependent on the structure of the brain.
Dogs, Cats, Sheep, Pigs, all have brains – the structure of their brains is differnt to ours and as a result they have minds that are completly differnt to ours.
The “mind” is very abstract, but it is only capable of behaving in a way that is defined by the brain structure.
Take a dog for example – their brain / ofactory system is far more attuned to smells than ours. I see a wet patch on the pavement and guess that maybe a dog urinated there a while ago – my dog sniffs it and knows when it happens, who did it and what they had for breakfast… as a result they would surely understand time in a completly differnt way to how our brains can process it.

Gabriele
Gabriele
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

I don’t disagree with your observations. The mind depends on the brain, no doubts about that. The problem is understanding the exact mechanism that determines how the mind arises from the brain. Evolutionary psychology assumes that there is a “something” on which the evolution of the mind works but it does not really define it. In short, genes are real and we can define them. We do not know what would be the unit of the mind.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Gabriele

No, the evolution of the mind is not separate from the evolution of the brain, and the evolution of the brain is based on genes.

There is no profound mystery here, except the problem of consciousness itself. We don’t yet understand how consciousness arises from the action of matter- but the material basis of the mind is the result of the actions of the brain.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

I think the point Gabriele makes is right.
We know more or less exactly which specific genes encode which parts of the physical body, and the mechanisms through which they are expressed.
This is why we can actually see, for example, the evolution of Coronavirus happening.
We can see that some elements of human behavior – the mind – seem to be innate rather than learned, so it is fair to assume that genes also somehow control these inherited, instinctive behavior, but we really don’t know this for sure: I don’t think there is any known gene for “reasonableness” or how this expresses in the mind.
Personally I am quite sure that innate/instinctive behavior does exist (although this is heretical to a lot of adherents of trendy theories in “social science”) and it follows that it would be subject to natural selection, but I don’t think it is scientifically testable.
I have heard lots of interesting hypothesis about why certain human behaviors would have been selected for, or why evolution or sexual selection would explain differences in male & female behavior that all sound very reasonable, but I don’t think they are testable or falsifiable.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Then you need to do the reading. There are multiple examples of evolutionary psychology predictions that have been both confirmed and falsified. As an example, evo psych predicted that males and females would prefer hip to shoulder ratios in men (for females) and hip to chest ratios in women (for males) in mate selection. Furthermore, they predicted that those ratios would be stable across cultures.

And that’s exactly what they found, even in hunter-gatherer gatherer societies never exposed to western notions of beauty.. There is currently no other explanation for this finding.

Try reading The Triumph of Sociobiology for more examples.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

A convenient theory is that mind is not an attribute of brains but of matter itself, and only becomes manifest when a certain level of complexity, sufficient to support the construction and expression of theories about it, has been developed.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Its all in the Mind?.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

Actually, we don’t know much about the minds of dogs and cats and so on. We have some ideas but a lot of them are guesswork.

Val Cox
Val Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Gabriele

Nicely put. The plasticity of the brain is remarkable.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Gabriele

There are no genes for the mind. So, on what unit exactly evolutionary psychology would work on?

Doesn’t that amount to saying “only works in practice but not in theory”?
If a particular way of thinking improves your survival chances, those who have it will survive to breed, and those who don’t, wont.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Sure, but how is that ‘particular way of thinking’ controlled by your genes? If it is not, evolution has nothing to work on. You improve your survival chances by wearing seatbelts and not jumping red lights, but unless there are special ‘how-to-behave-in-traffic’ genes, natural selection cannot promote those behaviours.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The fact that we don’t yet understand it doesn’t mean that it’s not there though, right?
This reminds me of the eternal mystery of why being gay doesn’t get selected out of the population. You obviously can’t select for a disinclination to have descendants otherwise you’d not have any.
It turns out it’s disproportionately late-born siblings who are gay. The survival advantage is clear: if having lots more children than everyone else confers advantage, and if it’s a heritable inclination, you could hack natural selection just through fecundity. Everyone has two kids but you have ten, and so do they, and so do theirs. The survivors wouldn’t be the fittest, they’d be the most numerous. If there were ever populations where this happened, they have not survived into modern times, however. Instead, the later-born ones are born increasingly disinclined to have any kids at all.
The mechanism is completely not understood, but the effect is observable, and the benefit it confers is clear. That we haven’t yet identified how the in utero counter that makes later-born siblings gay works doesn’t mean there isn’t one. It just means we haven’t figured it out yet.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

This is the kind of thinking that gives evolutionary psychology a bad name. Yours is a nice, plausible story, but there could be lots of other plausible stories, and without a mechanism and a lot more solid evidence it is all a fog. It is too easy to invent an evolutionary story to explain why things have to be the way you want them to be – and then use your story to prove you were right all along.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Indeed. This ‘problem’ disappears if one regards ‘gayness’ as a deliberate act of will. A choice to recurrently exhibit one type of physical behaviour rather than another.

Last edited 3 years ago by Arnold Grutt
John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

But there is a mechanism- evolution. Your argument could be applied to every branch of science.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Homosexuality is most likely the result of hormones produced in the pre-natal environment. Unless the brain of a male is bathed in androgens, it will default to the female desire for men. A female brain receiving androgens will be masculinized for the male desire for women.

julian rose
julian rose
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Good science fiction theory, but only that I am afraid.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  julian rose

Actually, it’s currently the leading hypothesis for explaining homosexuality in the biological community. We already know that the body is masculinizes by the introduction of androgens in the amniotic environment at 6 weeks gestation. These hormones also masculinize the br

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Sorry- edit function doesn’t seem to work.

These hormones also maculinize the brain, so it’s no great stretch to hypothesize that they affect sexuality.

julian rose
julian rose
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Have you never thought that being a homosexual is brought by psychological trauma? It is not “natural” ever. The mind is extremely sensitive, especially to the mother- father relationship during early infancy. Genes have nothing to do with homosexuality. It´s all a corruption deviced by the mind to cope with trauma.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  julian rose

As far as I know, none of that has been proved.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

No, that’s not how genes work. There aren’t different genes for every specific behaviour. There are general biological traits that are shaped by learning. You don’t need a how to behave in traffic gene. You only need a brain wired by evolution to avoid danger, and the ability to learn what is dangerous.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Exactly – I guess that was a bit of a strawman argument, on my side. The kind of general ‘avoid danger’ trait you mention makes perfect sense, and likely is under some degree of genetic control. But if you want a specific evolutionary explanation for ‘gayness’, you need to assume some gene that controls gayness closely enough that it can be subject to selection pressure. If it is just a side effect of something else (like foetal hormones, as you say), it does not make sense to look for evolutionary explanations. That is why ‘evolution’ is not enough as a mechanism. Unless you can see how it could work and suggest (preferably prove) how and why natural selection could cause that effect, it becomes too speculative.

Added: I am not saying that evolutionary psychology is necessarily wrong every time, indeed I sort of believe in some of it. It is just very tempting speculation and very hard to prove, which makes it a trap.

Last edited 3 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

It is more than mere speculation. It is possible to do cross-cultural examinations of human behaviour, for example, mating, and test evolutionary hypothesis as an explanation for similarities. It is also possible to perform ethnographic studies, comparing human behaviour to that of our closest relatives, the chimps, to see how we are similar, and how we are different, to establish evolutionary explanations.

For example: studies of hunter-gatherer tribes in Somoa demonstrated that both men and women showed preference for certain body shapes in mates, the same ratio of hip to shoulder preferences for men by women, and for hip to breast size by men, as were shown in studies of European, Asian and South American people. Furthermore, those ratios were those predicted by evolutionary psychology from purely evolutionary premises. This is not a “just so story”, but a scientific hypothesis, based on an accepted physical cause (evolution) leading to a testable hypothesis which yielded conformation of the theory.

julian rose
julian rose
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

You are lost in words. There are no South American hunter-gatherer tribes anymore ( not since the 19th century anyway) so there´s no way to predict anything from them. The National Geographic documentaries you´ve been watching are all fakes.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  julian rose

I was referring to modern societies. The studies were conducted around the world with both modern and primitive people.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Body shape is probably one of the most solid results in this field – and I accept it too FWIW. It is not impossible to get to something, sure, but it is extremely difficult to discipline yourself to stay within ahlfway provable boundaries.

Terry M
Terry M
3 years ago
Reply to  Gabriele

There are no genes for the mind.”
And yet instincts, obvious mind functions, are clearly hereditary. The mind does not exist outside of the brain. Sorry.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry M

“And yet instincts, obvious mind functions, are clearly hereditary.”
An evidence-free assertion. Provide it.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Which part would you like him to prove? Instincts are by definition based on heredity. And they are clearly mind functions, not functions of some other organ.

As for evidence, you might try doing some reading on the subject. There is abundant evidence that all animals, including humans, have instincts.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Gabriele

Has it not occurred to you that the mind is just a way of speaking about the behaviour of the brain? Without a brain, there is no mind.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Mr. Jones–

I believe the best description of what “mind” is can be found in the Floyd Bloom, et al. out-of-print text Brain, Mind, and Behavior.

Mind is what the brain does.

In the same sense, digestion is what the gut does and respiration in what the lungs do. There are no genes for digestion nor for respiration. If an organ is built correctly during development, the anatomy will do the proper physiology.

Evolution simply changes how an anatomical structure (be it a molecule or an organ or a neural circuit) is developmentally built, usually, but not always, to the detriment of the organism.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ernest DuBrul
julian rose
julian rose
3 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

In the same sense, homosexuality cannot be a gene treat. Therefore, we can only conclude that it has it´s genesis in the very early stages of the mind development, a time fraught with all possible chances for trauma.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago
Reply to  julian rose

Mr. Rose–
I can imagine genes that control the construction of neural circuits in the brain for sexual preferences. And those preferences could be changed by mutation. I can also imagine external influences in development that might affect the formation of those circuits. Both probably occur.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

All of the organs are built by genes. The brain comes pre-wired, and wired differently in men and women, by genes. Our language ability, for example, is present in everyone because a particular part of the brain, Brocca’s area, is set up to construct a grammar based on whatever language environment the child finds itself in. The same is true of gender, which is hard-wired before birth. It is simply the result of evolution, in particular sexual selection, that has created male and female psychologies.

You actually concede this point when you say, correctly, that evolution changes neural circuits. That’s the point. The m8nd is based on the neural wiring of the brain interacting with the environment, running as software on the neural nets created by evolution.

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
3 years ago
Reply to  Gabriele

The mind is the external manifestation of the function of the brain; yes it has genes, yes it’s a product of evolution, yes evpsych is a science.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago
Reply to  Corrie Mooney

You could settle this argument only by giving an example of a testable, falsifiable prediction made by evpsych.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Ok. Here’s one.

Evolutionary psych predicted that men and women would find the hip to shoulder and hip to breast size ratio to be preferable in mate selection, and that those preferences would be stable across human cultures.

And that’s exactly what they found, from Hunter gatherers to people living in western cities.

julian rose
julian rose
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Can you just provide anything else apart from your flawed argument about hips and shoulders?

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago
Reply to  julian rose

Mr. Rose–
For discussion of key expts. in Evol. Psyc.and references to primary papers, try here: https://www.cep.ucsb.edu/primer.html

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

Thanks for the link. I keep assuming that everyone here has some basic knowledge of evolution, biology and psychology. I wish everyone had just learned the basics so the discussion could procede without having to constantly bring people up to speed.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  julian rose

It’s an obvious example, and is not flawed at all. There is no way to explain ross-cultural duplication in mate preferences except through our joint evolutionary history.

Sam Cel Roman
Sam Cel Roman
3 years ago

ffs, evolutionary successful lifeforms do not have MORE offspring than others, they have more offspring that SURVIVE to have more offspring. Otherwise, by your definition, a turtle is more successful than a cat.

Bertie B
Bertie B
3 years ago
Reply to  Sam Cel Roman

I find that a lot of people struggle with this, and the eaiest way of explaining it I have come across is simple saying: “have more grandchildren”
A Donkey and a Horse might have many children, but for reasons I don;t understand (nor really want to) their offspring are always infertile. So a Donkey mating with a Horse is not a good evolutionary strategy

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Sam Cel Roman

Which is why people in the west voluntarily have less children than in a lot of the world as they expect the one or two they have to survive. This even started in the nineteenth century where the professional classes started to limit size of families , so that they could focus family resources on them. By 1920’s-30’s an ideal family size was considered two children , an idea which has filtered down through all the classes. Unfortunately a couple only having one child about every half century (if you have your child at 40) is not going to keep the population going.

Bertie B
Bertie B
3 years ago

how science “cannot be objective and apolitical”

I fundamentally disagree with which ever acedemics (or anyone else) who believes that. And Im glad I went to a less prestigious university if thats the calibre of the thinking in some of the higher echolons.
As an easy example – Newtons exploration of gravity were in no way dependent upon his political leanings – it doesn;t matter if he was male, female, black, white, gay, hetro, catholic, aethiest…. Science is by definition objective and apolitical.

Terry M
Terry M
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

The proper application of the scientific method is objective and apolitical, but the scientists involved all have some built-in biases. It’s just a matter of whether they can separate their prejudices from their objective observations.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry M

Yes. But, ideally, the method incorporates that sifting mechanism through replication and peer review – when applied properly. Peers are required to pull apart the reasoning and methodology to evaluate whether the results are warranted.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

Bertie B–
If by “science” you mean simply doing the experiment and honestly reporting all the results, you are correct.

But science is much more than that. It involves deciding which questions are worth pursuing, what hypotheses can be formed, what testable predictions are possible, how to evaluate the results of the experiments that test the predictions, how and where to present the completed work, and, most importantly, how to gather substantial support for your hypothesis.

All of that is subjective and influenced by the scientist’s society at that specific time in history. In other words, science is a very human activity.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ernest DuBrul
Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

And which science gets funded.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago

Definitely!

Peter Kriens
Peter Kriens
3 years ago

Why was Damore’s memo not palatable?

And using Cordelia Fine is probably the worst person ever to shine some not negative light on it. Her book Testosteron Rex is one of the most biased, unscientific, riddled with straw men, and most continuous Motte & Bailey book I ever endured.

Last edited 3 years ago by Peter Kriens
Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Kriens

Mr. Kriens–

Why was Damore’s memo not palatable?

Good catch. I did a double-take at that, too.

Colin Macdonald
Colin Macdonald
3 years ago

We’re all implored to follow “The Science” by hacks who haven’t studied any kind of science since school. I certainly don’t agree with everything Ivor Cummins says but at least he’s attempting to examine the evidence, and he has the engineering nous to do this.
I really wish journalists here and elsewhere had a bit more ability to distinguish hard scientific fact, from scientific probability. An example yesterday from Radio 4 PM; “covid-19 cases gave tumbled in the UK because of lockdown and vaccines”, says our learned presenter, who obviously has never learned that correlation doesn’t equal causation. Anyway that bland proclamation stuck in the head of this far right loon, so I decided to look at the data and see what had happened in a country which didn’t look lock down and didn’t vaccinate (Sweden 2020). Sure enough deaths in Sweden tumbled by about the same degree. Now obviously this isn’t proof that lockdowns, vaccines don’t work, however it’d be nice if our MSM were a bit less certain and were able recognize their own limitations and have a bit more doubt.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
3 years ago

I wish the MSM tied their reporting or assertions to science literature where available, through links.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

Agree. It’s not just a scientific ignorance though, but also a poor grasp of statistical analysis and context.
Add even further to that the tendency of journalists to add opposing viewpoints (as if all matters were equal and opposite) in the name of balance.
All of this combines together to give us a lot of awful reporting

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

I think Tom has identified some interlocking bits of the puzzle, but not assembled them correctly.
It is exactly because Darwin’s work provides an explanation for different outcomes between men and women, this race and that, etc, that he has to be purged. The woke hypothesis is that it’s all about the patriarchy and racism, and that men, women, and different races do not even objectively exist. This makes racists’ achievement and consistency in identifying races pretty impressive, but I digress.
There is no room for compromise, so Darwin has to cancelled and silenced for his wrongthink.
This isn’t even new. Look at what happened when people were tactless enough to point out errors in climate science 20 years ago.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Yes. I wondered whether the furore around E O Wilson was due to what was perceived, and is to this day, an attack on the ideologically politically motivated idea of social construction (hence your Darwin post?).
But I think at its political base is a moral substrate and it is a resultant moral impulse forced on reality that is at issue.

Joff Brown
Joff Brown
3 years ago

Surprised it took until the penultimate paragraph to get in the inevitable swipe at Peterson.

Lord Rochester
Lord Rochester
3 years ago
Reply to  Joff Brown

Yes, disappointing. Every time someone sneers at ‘lobsters’ I identify someone new who didn’t actually read what he said about them in context.

It wasn’t a “crutch” [for a weak argument] (as implied by that word), it was a point that hierarchies continually reassert themselves across nature so need to be managed / coped with in our own lives.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

I suppose a dairy man selecting Holsteins for the milk volume, rather than Jerseys for the butter fat content is a ‘Breedist’ as he thinks one breed better for his needs than the other, in fact that he even believes the two breeds are different at all should be enough to get you banned from Twitter and youtube..

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

Very nice, thank you Tom Chivers.

“…the more interesting question is: was he right?…”

How to put this?
Darwin was… Less Wrong.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Are there any hypotheses in science that are completely “right”?

Like “good”, “bad”, “proved”, “true”, “false”, and other words, “right” and “wrong” do not belong in discussions of science.

Darwin’s hypotheses have been well-supported in the ensuing years. … And that’s the absolute best one could hope for.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ernest DuBrul
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul
Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

How long is a piece of string? Ah, well ya see, it depends on “what particular piece of string”, right?

So how come no one bothered asking the abundantly obvious question: “If Darwin was right”? Well, right about what exactly?

Without an answer to this
preliminary question, agreeing/disagreeing is pointless and irrelevant.

Last edited 3 years ago by Andre Lower
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

Although I am still a committed Lamarkian Evolutionist (there is no more reasonable theory on giraffe’s necks I have read), and dabble in ‘Intelligent Design’ as it also seems to have the ring of truth, and naturally believe Lysenkoism is worth study, my favorite evolutionary man is Bates.

His books ‘Naturalist on the River Amazons’ are unparalleled in nature writing. 11 years in the remote bush collecting thousands of species, and naturally his collaborator Wallace – another amazing naturalist and evolutionary genius, wrote similarly fantastic works. (although Wallace was a spiritualist wile Bates was a Unitarian.) With those two, and Darwin’s account of the Beagle, you have the PURE Genius of the Victorians – a group we will never see the like of again. Read them if you have the time.

But then I did the whole thing myself of going off into the bush for years, and I think his amazing book may have contributed a part of that, as a young man I devoured any nature and geographical travel books – especially ones which added philosophical thought to nature experienced. That the silly Dawkins is mentioned in an article with Darwin shows how sorry the world has become. “The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology” What a pile of junk that pseudo science is. I did read seriously his ‘Selfish Gene’, and it was a big deal in its day, but the man himself, I wonder about – my guess is he will become a wild eyed Mystic before he passes on, I see it in him. And how about Mendel?

“Gregor Mendel was an Austrian monk who discovered the basic principles of heredity through experiments in his garden. Mendel’s observations became the foundation of modern genetics and the study of heredity, and he is widely considered a pioneer in the field of genetics.” Christians founded science, scientists priests created ‘The Scientific Method’ in the Universities they created wile the entire world was ignorant. Religion has been where all science came from, the remarkably intellectual Christianity. One day it will complete the full circle.

Alex Camm
Alex Camm
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

https://evolutionnews.org/2021/05/giraffe-genome-is-not-evolutionary/

You might be interested in this rebuttal of Lamarck just put out on ID site

Bertie B
Bertie B
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I wish people would stop conflating the people who developed the scientific process were Christians with Religion has been where all science came from.
Its nonsense – it would be just as valid to say that science was pioneered by men and therefore men are the route of all science… or going further men with beards.
I don’t even thing its true anyway, the structured scientific process is also dependent upon Arabic practices and thinking.
Science is about asking questions and looking for (replicatable) answers. religion is…. well not about that.

David Simpson
David Simpson
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

Perhaps, science is looking at things from the outside, religion is looking at them from the inside. Scientism denies subjectivity, which is silly. Religiosity denies objective reality – equally silly.

Last edited 3 years ago by David Simpson
Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

Why are science and religion in competition? One answers questions about how things work and the other about meaning.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Dawkins book “The Selfish Gene” is considered to be the most influential book explaining science for laypeople in the 20th century. Lamarkiamism has no known causal mechanism, and is clearly junk science. There is no “ring of truth” in intelligent design, just a desperate attempt to offer the covering of science to religious nonsense.

Alex Camm
Alex Camm
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Not sure what entitles you to determine which has the ring of truth. ID seems to offer some valid criticism of Darwinism that tends to be shrugged of with ad hominem comments such as ‘religious nonsense’.

Chris Jayne
Chris Jayne
3 years ago

Hi Tom, enjoy your writing immensely.

The important thing *to you* is whether it is true or not. But the important thing to the subset of academics (I use the term loosely since they more closely resemble activists) in question is whether or not he was racist as that helps them justify his removal and supplant it with their own totalising world view. Truth is literally a secondary value. As Jonathan Haidt says you can seek truth or you can seek social justice. Those two aims are incompatible, as both are held sacred. Universities are increasingly focussing on the latter at every level in every discipline. Their own institutional values leave them incapable of resisting the social justice activism.

Recommitting to truth as a society isn’t enough. We also need to reform the values of our major institutions, and the activists have decades of a head start.

Michael James
Michael James
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Jayne

Then it becomes institutionalised in appointments, promotions and the distribution of research grants. No theory is more popular among academics than the one that reliably advances their careers.

Last edited 3 years ago by Michael James
Colin Colquhoun
Colin Colquhoun
3 years ago

That’s good science journalism. Really it is. Really glad to see it working. It’s a long way from writing up press releases.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
3 years ago

“More importantly, though: whether something is politically convenient or not doesn’t affect whether it’s true”

It does today. Which bodes poorly.

American universities have determined that “objectivity” itself is a white supremacist concept; the idea that there is a “correct” answer is anti-Black.

It is unclear how science can function in such an environment. Science used to be private; alchemists jealously guarded their secrets. It was the Royal Academy that codified the modern notion of collaborative scientific endeavors, publication of results, and replication for verification. Under universities turning against objective answers, Western science may be destined to either whither or once again turn private.

Last edited 3 years ago by Brian Villanueva
John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago

Thanks for this, because this is the issue we need to be addressing. Even if you don’t believe in evolution, you can at least agree (or at least should agree) that the truth can only be found through objective research in which free speech and imagination are paramount. These are the Enlightenment concepts that gave us science in the first place.

But SJW’s don’t care about concepts like truth or free speech, because they are epistemological relativists, who believe that the concept of truth is merely a patriarchal ploy to oppress everyone.

Do I really need to point out that the Enlightenment notions of truth and freedom are what ultimately led to democracy, including all of the rights movements until now.

Now the woke movement is founded on tearing down all Enlightenment projects, free speech, science and democracy first. Even if you don’t believe in evolutionary psych (and you probably should) you should at least agree that it’s worth investigating.

David Brown
David Brown
3 years ago

“Cue a thousand-year war over whether we should judge him by standards of his own day or ours, and what those standards are, and so on.” [Emphasis added.]
To anyone who feels that we should judge the people of the past by the standards of today, I would point out that we have no idea what the standards of tomorrow will be, and for all their certainty that they are “on the right side of history”, predicting the future is a mug’s game.
After all, a certain group of people who ran Germany for twelve years a few decades back were convinced that they were on the right side of history with all the sureness of any modern “progressive”, and that attitude has not aged well.

Last edited 3 years ago by David Brown
AC Harper
AC Harper
3 years ago

If you look at life through a political lens (of any colour) what you see is politics, that is current culture. And if you accept that humans are another example of evolving animals then there is no possibility for Utopia because there will always be people seeking advantage by not following cultural norms. And the political and evolutionary views will always be at odds.
Furthermore if you argue that you should judge a historical person by the culture of their times, that too is heresy. After all those believing in the perfectibility of Utopian man cannot be wrong.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
3 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

IMO, the penultimate sentiment of eschewing Presentism – and Moral Presentism more particularly – is that judgement is disavowed in favour of seeking to understand individuals and their behaviours by seeking to analyse the social and individual mores and norms of the day in order to discern their motivations and morality.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

Science is important and valuable when it strives (all other considerations barred) to tell the truth.
A newish problem nowadays is that climatology has been hijacked by vested interests and the evolution debate by dogmatists.
Anyone coming up with any discovery which modifies any of the claims of global warming is ruthlessly victimized by many of their peers. For one example, consider (a) what Judith Curry has had to say (she was head of the department of earth and atmospheric sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology) – https://www.city-journal.org/global-warming – and (b) how she has been vilified, in the most appalling (and misogynist) terms by fellow scientists for being carefully thoughtful and accurate and balanced in her account of the evidence.
In the case of Darwinian evolutionary theory, I have watched a debate between various scientists (some atheist, some not) in which all agreed that the Earth is not old enough to account for the extreme varieties of speciation which it has acquired; that some other evolutionary theory or an entirely other kind of theory is needed.
As society decays spiritually, (and therefore ethically and emotionally) one of the many victims of the process is Telling the Truth.

Last edited 3 years ago by Peter Scott
Colin Colquhoun
Colin Colquhoun
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

But can you give me some examples of people who have had similar careers to Judith Curry, but who are not Judith Curry.
, I have watched a debate between various scientists (some atheist, some not) in which all agreed that the Earth is not old enough to account for the extreme varieties of speciation which it has acquired; that some other evolutionary theory or an entirely other kind of theory is needed.”
I’d like to see that debate please Peter. Please provide a link, or at least a list of names.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

Here is the debate (still up on Youtube, happily): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noj4phMT9OE
As for ‘people who have had similar careers to Judith Curry, but who are not Judith Curry’, what exactly are you demanding? – Other instances of persecution? Or anybody else who is a climatologist but isn’t Ms Curry?

Colin Colquhoun
Colin Colquhoun
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Well there are thousands of climatologists. How many have a similar career trajectory to Curry? meaning, how many left climate science and took a contrary position? Please avoid words like “demand” and “persecute” etc.
I think Curry is interesting but at her most interesting when she describes social dynamics not the science.
The discussion you linked to was between two philosophers and a computer engineer. I will listen to it later, thank you for that.
btw Judith Curry is “Dr Curry” not “Ms Curry” if you want to use a formal mode of address.

Last edited 3 years ago by Colin Colquhoun
Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

Thankyou for correcting everything you could find fault with in my posts.
Of course it is good for me to be put right on all fronts, but I wrote on the supposition that all of us on this thread were trying to make contributions useful to one another in a debate on a contemporary problem (‘Will science survive politics?’), rather than ‘talking for victory’ or giving smacks to people who irritate us.
I don’t see what you mean by saying Dr Curry ‘left climate science and took a contrary position’. When Richard Wagner had composed his “Parsifal” and conducted its first performance at the last Bayreuth Festival he lived to see, would the world consider he had left music and taken a contrary position?

Colin Colquhoun
Colin Colquhoun
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

I don’t know anything about Richard Wagner. I’m a scientist. Scientific disciplines generally have a consensus position on many topics within them for which there is considered to be overwhelming evidence at this time. It’s not just climatology, it’s all of them. In principle these positions can be refuted, and over time they exhibit change. But it takes extraordinary evidence. Just one person isn’t enough unless they have striking evidence.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

Here are views from more than one person, and with some evidence.- ‘Climate Change: the Facts’ a book edited by Alan Moran and published by Stockade Books in 2015.
One can also read ‘A Disgrace to the Profession; compiled and edited by Mark Steyn’ which tears holes in the famous hockey-stick graph of climate change. This also was published in 2015.
I myself am no climate-change denier. It stands to reason that the globe is now so heavily populated and so many of us human beings do things which punish the environment, that more than ever we should be totally alert to our responsibilities as stewards of this planet.
Species, of plants and animals, are being thinned at a great rate. Humankind again proves itself profligate and foolish.
Yet I perceive, as another symptom of that same greed and folly, the extreme likelihood that once numbers of people in the sciences gain professorial tenure and/or paid gigs on mainstream media, grants from governments (and their self-importance has the tonic massage of being consulted by governments) – all on account of arguing anthropogenic global warming – they are under the pressure of an immense incentive to ring alarm bells; and bitterly to reject anyone with a temperate careful reading of such facts as are known.

Colin Colquhoun
Colin Colquhoun
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

“Yet I perceive, as another symptom of that same greed and folly, the extreme likelihood that once numbers of people in the sciences gain professorial tenure and/or paid gigs on mainstream media, grants from governments (and their self-importance has the tonic massage of being consulted by governments) – all on account of arguing anthropogenic global warming – they are under the pressure of an immense incentive to ring alarm bells; and bitterly to reject anyone with a temperate careful reading of such facts as are known.”
Most scientists, even the really top ones, are not active in the media, or are active only very rarely. A very small number appear frequently in the media as part of their career.
But everyone needs a grant. Almost all grants are governmental, some are from charitable trusts like Wellcome. Grant proposals are competitive. They are assessed by other scientists (ie by peer review) not by politicians. Politics only dictates research very broadly and indirectly if at all. But yes, it will be harder to get a grant for research that your peers don’t take seriously. That ensures money isn’t wasted, but also makes it harder for radical new ideas to emerge.

Last edited 3 years ago by Colin Colquhoun
Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

I take it that the very best kind of scientific mind does not have an automated instant-default position, to which it jumps (like an angry kangaroo) whenever anyone offers a paper, a treatise, an argument that contradicts positions which the said first-class mind has taken.
That mind – the great good one – attends carefully to what is being stated by ‘the opposition’, evaluates it on its own terms (i.e. in terms of its own merits against absolute criteria of validation, regardless of any theme or theory previously held by this, the great good reader/auditor) and searches hard for any grain of truth there may be, even in what proves to be a desert of error.
Such an intelligence will be the kind of scientific mind which produces very strong proofs for what it does find believeable, and which is most likely to make new breakthroughs in knowledge.
For instances of the big ghastly Orwellian blunderbuss treatment with which Science, in some of its highest ranking protagonists, now rakes us all, please see this essay by Ann Coulter, published only yesterday: – https://anncoulter.com/2021/05/12/1350x/

Colin Colquhoun
Colin Colquhoun
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

It’s politicians and the public who talk about “Science” in this way. It has nothing to do with reality. Scientists just argue all the time like anyone else, especially about new things. Ann Coulter makes money by making people angry. I think it was a good idea to wear masks this past year.
I take it that the very best kind of scientific mind does not have an automated instant-default position, to which it jumps (like an angry kangaroo) whenever anyone offers a paper, a treatise, an argument that contradicts positions which the said first-class mind has taken.”
I don’t think so, I think we all weight information by the credibility of its source, and it takes time to change ideas. Otherwise there would be chaos.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
3 years ago

if having some strange-sounding studies published, or studies that have failed to replicate, is enough to render an entire field pseudoscientific, then very few fields will survive …. we don’t throw out the entire scientific field of medicine because there are weird, bad papers published on its fringes

This is I think the most thought provoking part.
One thing that’s becoming worryingly clear is that in some cases, entire sub-fields of research actually are pseudo-scientific, not in a small minority of fringe cases but rather nearly all of it. What to make of epidemiology, in which the most respected and influential epidemiologists never seem to test their theories against reality and routinely publish pseudo-scientific papers that nonetheless get into Nature and Science? What of macro-economics, in which failed predictions are standard and considered unremarkable?
Ioannidis and others have claimed that papers failing to replicate is not a rare or fringe occurrence in medicine but is actually true for most papers. Wikipedia states that Amgen Oncology was only able to replicate 11% of 53 “innovative studies” they selected for further work so there must be some truth in that.
And let us not forget that replicability doesn’t mean the study is good. A study with bad methodology can replicate 100% of the time and still tell us nothing. And even a 100% replicable study with no methodology errors, can be totally useless if it tells us something obvious that everyone already knew. Damore cited evo psych studies to claim women are less interested in tech than men because he was trying to cover all his bases and argue with the sort of people who are enamoured of the university system, but there’s no actual need for such studies. Anyone who has lived outside a cave for some part of their life knows that women find tech less interesting than men. Funding this research had no point beyond stuffing the CVs of a few academics.
So where do we draw the line? What threshold of useless papers does it take before we allow ourselves to say that a field is pseudo-scientific? It feels like 50% is as defensible a choice as any, in fact even that would be seen as staggeringly generous by most people, but then indeed many fields would not survive. The real question is: why should they?

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Most failures of replication take place in psychology, not in the core sciences.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago

I’ve read Damore’s memo and tried to read Thinking, Fast and Slow. I found Damore’s memo fair and well reasoned and could see no reason to fire him. Kahneman’s book from my memory of it had to many studies of the small study extrapolated to the human race nature.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

Well, Damore said men and women are different with different interests. To the wokerati, that is heresy of the highest order.

David J
David J
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Ho ho, like the times I tried to interest my younger daughter in boys’ toys like a red Ferrari.
No chance, the pink fluffy rabbit and its ilk won each time.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago

You can accept as obviously true that some elements of human behavior are innate – not socially learned – including behavioral differences between male and female humans.
And you can accept that it obviously follows that those innate behaviors are just as much subject to natural selection as our physical biology is, but still think that evolutionary psychology is junk science.
It is junk because it is unfalsifiable – it doesn’t make any predictions that can be tested.
You can look at some aspect of human behavior and come up with a hypothesis as to how that behavior could have been selected for – “men are more aggressive because it makes them better hunters” – but that is not the same as doing science. You can never prove or disprove any such hypothesis. They are an interesting and fun mental exercise but nothing else.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Try reading The Triumph of Sociobiology for some of the hypotheses of evolutionary psychology that have been falsified, as well as those that have been confirmed.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Well for £12 on Amazon I would be very happy to be proven wrong.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

I also recommend Dawkins The Selfish Gene in order to get a grip on the underlying argument.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Read that one, thanks.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Mr. Graham—
Try here. For free. https://www.cep.ucsb.edu/primer.html

The experiments you seek are referenced.

Jonathan Patrick
Jonathan Patrick
3 years ago

“If the mind evolved from natural selection then it depends upon its survival value and not on the truth of its thoughts” – Charles Darwin. Let that sink in and realize just how much you are giving up when you assume a purely materialist understanding of the world. The question of how we ought to live becomes entirely non-sensical. If a line of thinking helps us survive then we will follow it, independent of its truthfulness. Human behaviour has so often defied how evolution would predict us to act that it is a wonder that scientists aren’t a bit less confident in themselves by now. Remember the arguments that we ought to be willing to sacrifice ourselves for others in direct proportion to how close they are biologically to us?

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago

The truth of Darwin’s claim does not depend on whether or not you think it undermines your notion of how we ought to live. But Darwin was right. Our brains did not evolve to know the truth, only to survive and pass down our genes. Sometimes that meant making a connection between reality and our beliefs, sometimes not.

That’s why science works- because it penetrates our beliefs, and establishes the truth of reality by eliminating, as far as possible, our biases.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago

No, humans aren’t lobsters, something Peterson never said. What he actually said was that hierarchy is not a “social construct”, as feminists claim, but an evolutionary one. If even lobsters have hierarchies, then there is no reason not to expect them in species like ourselves.

Peterson is actually making a point about feminism and it’s science denialism, but also making a point demonstrating that behaviours, as well as physical structures, can be created by evolution. And that means that evolutionary psychology is on a firm foundation.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Precisely.
“And it’s absolutely true that some people do use evolutionary psychology as a crutch for their beliefs; human beings are, indeed, not lobsters. (Mind you, they’re not clownfish either.)”
I think this is disingenuous. Peterson was pointing out that according to some social constructivists their exhaustive claim that hierarchies are social constructs can be negated with a singular disconfirming instance – lobster hierarchies and their age. He has also pointed out that for human hierarchies in particular, hierarchies are not social constructs of human societies for they are found in our closest primate relatives, the chimpanzees.
The linked article goes beyond what Peterson claimed IMO, but does acknowledge the serotonin uptake mentioned by him, although the author does critique the inference drawn from it.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
3 years ago

Politics is the art of exaggeration. Science is politicised. Therefore science is the art of exaggeration. QED

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

Your premises use two different meanings of the term “politics”. This is the fallacy of equivocation.

Not QED, but logical incoherence.

Last edited 3 years ago by John Jones
Mark Preston
Mark Preston
3 years ago

Political correctness is already killing science. For example, in this complex society anyone with a cognitive disadvantage really has a big big problem as manual work is less and less available. So, are we studying this? No, of course not.

Val Cox
Val Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Preston

Science is dead! What is known is too difficult to understand and that which is too difficult to know is now dogma.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Val Cox

If science is dead, does that mean you won’t be utilizing any of its discoveries- like your computer?

And by the way, science is only difficult to understand by those who lack the intelligence to understand it. Nor is it dogma, since every scientific fact is always available for refutation.

Last edited 3 years ago by John Jones
Alex Camm
Alex Camm
3 years ago

The dismissal of ‘sad creationists’ may be premature.
‘The return of the god hypothesis’ Stephen Meyer, offers a very cogent critique of evolutionary theory which deserves more than superficial mockery.

Terry M
Terry M
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Camm

No, it simply deserves more sophisticated mockery

Alex Camm
Alex Camm
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry M

What valid criticism are you offering?

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
3 years ago

In c21 Science has started to take the place previously occupied by religion. Science provides the pulpit and the authority behind various warnings, encouragements, and condemnations. These are issued by Scientists who have gained status as a result. Naturally Science has attracted people who “want to make a difference” and enjoy telling others what to do. Naturally too, Science has been recruited by politicians.
Science, being a religion, has its sacred texts which must be believed, not criticised. Challenge Science and you will provoke a stream of invective, you have triggered what Jon Haidt calls the “Scared/desecration” moral foundation.
Tom Chivers says the interesting question is whether Darwinism is true or not. Actually that is just too vast a question to be scientifically interesting, but it is a major Scientific question around which many a sermon might be constructed.
Not all science has become Science. The science which produced the various vaccines is not Science, it goes about its business as it always did. This sort of science matters and we can recognises it because it issues products not warnings, things not talk. It is also testable (a.k.a. falsifiable).
I always capitalise Science (the religion) and lower case science. Except for climate science which is The Science. Amen.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Mott

Science is not a religion because it is capable of self-correcting. The fact that some people are unable to change their minds about some scientific finding does not change that.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

One problem is that if you say things like “Some of the differences between men and women are caused by evolution,” it sounds as though you’re saying “And therefore there is no point in working to reduce the gender pay gap”, or “and therefore women are supposed to have babies and not work”.
maybe the perpetually aggrieved should spend more time absorbing things that are actually said rather than arguing about inferences only they hear. Of course, more time and thought should go into whether Darwin was right as opposed to how a viewpoint on X uttered decades ago comports with today’s sensibilities. But this is the feelings-not-facts environment in which we’re stuck at the moment.

Michael G
Michael G
3 years ago

This is an interesting article, because the clash between science and politics, science and philosophy (ethics), being pro-science and anti-science is even more obvious, when you have lived through the COVID crisis.
My point is that there are obvious things – like supporting rigid creationism or being extremely anti-vax – that are clearly unscientific. But when you take Darwin and COVID as an example, the answer is not that simple. Was harsh suppression of a relatively mild virus okay from the Darwinian point of view? Then there is the question of ethics. There is scientific evidence that when you open up the society, you risk an increase in infections, and infections lead to death. But your society remains open, and we often forget that it has a value of its own. But European nations have generally accepted many victims of a pandemic, and treated it as a better solution than the very harsh quarantines. Look at the UK pandemic strategy of 2011. They did not want to do anything at all (not even ban mass gatherings), if a severe influenza broke out in the UK. They accepted 300k additional deaths in the first 15 weeks of a pandemic. Would additional 300k deaths not overwhelm the hospitals and morgues? In reality, COVID took 46k victims by mid-June and it has been seen as a ‘social murder’ on part of the government. But when public health experts prepared for a pandemic, they were willing to sacrifice 300k just to save the normal functioning of a sociey. If there was no prolonged lockdown, would UK really exceed the predicitions made in the pandemic plan? Not really, the ICL predicted total “250,000 deaths in GB” if only mitigation was put in place. And when you compare UK to Sweden, they had 5k deaths in mid-June. If you multiply it by six, to adjust for the population, you have roughly 30-40k victims after 15 weeks of a pandemic in a country that chose to stick to their pandemic preparedness. And we knew that viruses cause disability, so things like long COVID were also taken into account. We knew that even flu jabs would not be available readily. So science may give you evidence, but the choice is political and ethical in itself. If I were to decide, I would chose to mitigate the disease and try not to overwhelm the hospitals, but I would not institute ridiculous governmental edicts to regulate every aspect of our daily life. As you can see, it is hard to get out of this. Some people are willing to do strict social distancing for years, because they are afraid of COVID and demand that it will be suppressed forever. This are hard choices, and strict science is only part of it. And, by the way, science is not perfect in itself, when you look for example at the question of masks. The ECDC – a renowned institution – is “winking” with their technical raport that there is indeed not much evidence to support them in a community setting.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael G

Covid is “a relatively mild virus”???
Try telling that to the Indian people.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Mr. Jones–
You are awed by large numbers, but you are ignoring the enormity of the Indian population.
The country of India is well below the worldwide number of cases/100k population and of deaths/100K population. Well below almost all European and North American countries as well.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

You can take my response as per your personal stances, it makes no difference to what is actually happening, but the official numbers are *total garbage*. I speak to multiple people in *different parts of India* and know of approaching a dozen people *in my immediate circle* who have caught the virus. I now know of two people who have died, one old, one under 50 who couldn’t get access to oxygen. What I’m being described is hell on earth – and the people I know are not poor. The black market there in oxygen, vaccines etc is totally crazy there as well as in quack cures. This has all spiked over the last couple of months, and I wouldn’t have believed it was possible if you had told me what would happen there so quickly. Unless I have an exceptionally unlucky set of acquaintances and relatives, the situation there is utterly horrible.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Mr. Kotak–
[The] official numbers are *total garbage*.
That may be very true, and, even if it is false, the situation is truly horrible because of the gross numbers.
But the numbers per 100,000 people for India are so far below the worldwide averages that any fictionalization of the gross numbers by the government would have to be massive.
https://www.statnews.com/feature/coronavirus/covid-19-tracker/?utm_campaign=cv_landing

Last edited 3 years ago by Ernest DuBrul
John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

Those numbers are the beginning of what could be a huge surge. “Only” 20 million or so people have been ill there from covid. That means that there are still a billion more who could become ill.

And then we’re all in trouble, because if covid goes through a billion more bodies, it will mutate many, many, many more times. It can become both more lethal and more transmissible.
India’s problem now could be ours by Winter.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

It’s Doctor Jones, actually.

That’s not the point. The hospitals in India are overwhelmed by covid patients. This is not the flu.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Not surprising Biggest Population 1.25 billion has overtaken Chinas 1.1billion…

julian rose
julian rose
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

You mean the obese, elderly and infirm Indian People? Get a grip man, you are watching too much TV.

Earl King
Earl King
3 years ago

So, there are two kinds of evolution. Physical and Mental. We no longer in any systemic way have slavery. We have at least in the Western world equal status between men and women. Isn’t that evolution? Is evolution learned or biological behavior? When the first small bands of ancient humans came in to contact with each other it must have taken a little while to learn to be cautious and wary. Worried that the unknown band or even known band would steal their food and women. This leaves us where we are today. You are walking in known dangerous neighborhood and someone is following you. Your eyes dilate, you heart are rises, you have activated your flee or fight senses. Meaning ancient learned behavior has its correlated biological behavior.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Earl King

There is Slavery for Example,Mining Lithium &other minerals, In Certain Asian Garment factories in bradford,Leicester etc…UK ended slavery in 1807 ,payments finished in 1837..

David Gray
David Gray
3 years ago

It’s quite possible to be a racist and also anti-slavery. Whether Darwin is a hero or villain to you, he certainly made an enormous contribution to science.
As the University of Sheffield guidance suggests, these are things to be aware of and to understand. I don’t think they are playing cancel culture wars with anyone, though as an angle taken by commentators, it makes for more clickable stories.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
3 years ago

Cue a thousand-year war over whether we should judge him by standards of his own day or ours, and what those standards are, and so on.”
Moral Presentism. I would argue it is predicated on an axiom that beliefs about reality, social mores, morality and ethics do not evolve over time. And these inform the morality and attitudes of individuals nested within that social context, at a particular time. Such biases the scientific method is designed to overcome as much as possible.
But when Darwin’s idea gets applied to behaviour, it becomes more controversial. The field of science that tries to do this is called sociobiology; it was controversial enough when it arose in the Seventies, pioneered by EO Wilson.”
I did wonder whether the furore over E O Wilson’s science was due, in part, to an interpretation that it offered a negation of social construction as the sole basis of human behaviour.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago

My experience in over 40 years of reading, writing, and teaching about Darwin is that very, very few people who comment on him and his writings have ever closely read any, let alone most or all, of Darwin’s works.

What I usually see are commenters whose acquaintance with Darwin’s ideas has come from school teachers whose acquaintance with Darwin’s ideas has come from school teachers whose acquaintance with Darwin’s ideas … ad infinitum.

Or else the chain should include whose acquaintance with Darwin’s ideas has come from textbooks, science textbooks being the catechisms of science — a listing of the accepted truths of the hierarchy.

Darwin’s writings are brilliant, fascinating, insightful, enlightening, beautifully written in Victorian English, and a wonderful mirror of the times. Practically everything everyone here has commented upon can be found somewhere in his oeuvre.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
3 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

In my case, and perhaps many others, my understanding of Darwin is mostly via Richard Dawkins’ books from The Selfish Gene up until The God Delusion.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago

Mr. O’Leary–
That is like asking a Roman Catholic theologian about the meaning of the Bible. He may be right; he may be wrong. But one should always read the original and a variety of commentaries whenever possible.

Mark Bates
Mark Bates
3 years ago

I’ve always thought it was pretty simple. Back in the Caveman days you would be wary of someone who wasn’t from your village or someone that looks different from you (skin colour, skin disease etc) in case they harboured a disease.

This has not just magically disappeared from humans because of the racism discussion in the past 150 years and us humans thinking we are different from any other animal. This is why racism is still prevalent. It’s a natural behaviour that every person fights internally every day. After all survival is still 100% your priority in life. Education is the key to defeating racism.

Last edited 3 years ago by Mark Bates
David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago

The problem is the left now follow it’s theories with religious fervour. The most current example it transgender theory that “Transmen are men and Transwoman are woman”. Any transgression of this mantra brings down a storm from it’s followers equivalent to the Spanish Inquisition or Puritan control.

Peter Ian Staker
Peter Ian Staker
3 years ago

Last edited 3 years ago by Peter Ian Staker
Adam C
Adam C
3 years ago

You little tease, Tom.
After a year of your peddling junk science and superstition, the headline “will science survive politics” could only ever have been about the politics of covid hysteria and political self-interest vs. the scientific method.
Instead we get something much less controversial.
Oooh you rascal!

Jeff Mason
Jeff Mason
3 years ago

Any science that is forced to pass some arbitrary political litmus test is suspect to me. Scientist are human and will ‘tweek’ either their outcomes or the interpretation of those outcomes if failing to do so keeps them from being published. How many scientists have been ‘canceled’ for daring to deviate from the accepted Climate Change dogma. Anyone who says ‘the science is settled’ – especially when it pertains to an infinity complex issue where the dogma is based on models – doesn’t know much about science.

Wendy Coke-Smyth
Wendy Coke-Smyth
3 years ago

I know I will get into hot water because of this but it is interesting to compare the culture in Europe and Asia in the 1800s and before to that in Africa.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago

Ms. Coke-Smyth–
Not hot water. A jacuzzi spa, perhaps.

Interesting, yes. Were it possible and legitimate to do so.

But you can’t make an honest comparison for any number of reasons — different geographies, different mineral resources, different flora and fauna, different hominid species to contend with, different histories.

In other words, humans did what they could in the environments they lived in. Without similar environments and histories in Africa, Europe, and Asia (disregarding the micro-environments on those continents), any comparison is specious.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ernest DuBrul
Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago

“More importantly, though: whether something is politically convenient or not doesn’t affect whether it’s true.”

I find no need for further comment. The sentence above is as close to incontestable truth as a sentence can be.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago

One problem that mitigates against science is a frequent dislike and denial of absolutes.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Ms. Johnson–
I don’t understand your comment.

The key aspect of all science is the realization that all of its results are uncertain. In science, you’re only as good as your last experiment. There is nothing absolute in good science.

Cassian Young
Cassian Young
3 years ago

>> It’s very hard to avoid people hearing those things. 
If this was a criteria for what science was allowed to say, there would be no science.

David Foot
David Foot
3 years ago

A very interesting article, I do agree with the notion that life could be a contradiction of the Second Principle of Thermodynamics to a point, and what is more a Maxwell Demon may help us argue/study this, but that is for another time. Also there you are Maxwell lived off the Empire so that he has to be wrong, he was white! Definitively he was wrong! What a terrible state we have reached in the UK and USA, our universities are infested with Marxists trying to cause dissent and generate “struggles” and to destabilize our nations.
These “pseudo-universities?” are not “centres of learning” they are centres of blocking learning, “unlearning” and degrees from places making such claims must be deemed fraudulent, this overt stupidity should qualify the degrees coming from such disreputable places. The title of this article is excellent, it says it all. We must make a stand, this is like 1945 and they are about to destroy the best Empire ever, and nobody is saying anything, and what is more they will be leaving the Marxist Empires intact of course, they were Marxists, now, this time is exactly the same, only this time it is the end game for all of us.
For a start the second economy on the Planet is not white, and it comes with doctors in Mathematics, Physics, you name it they have it, they also have two braincells to rub together and don’t seek to get paid for work they didn’t do like cotton which they never picked. What is more they are prepared to work very hard.
These pseudo-universities mix times, context, they don’t have a clue of what they are wasting our money and their time on.
We need to defund them and to give proper use to our public funds. At present those funds are an own goal for our society, so they must be stopped. Money spent on education must be justified.
Without going very deep it is obvious that Darwin all that time ago goes a long way to try and to explain the border of Mexico and the entire continent of Africa. Darwin tried, after all he was a great scientist unlike the cowboys from Sheffield, Cambridge etc.
South of USA and in Africa water is H2O and air has about 22% of O2, so whatever goes on there in those “less developed places” with low counts of Doctors in Mathematics, Physics, Biology etc. can only be like that as a consequence of those who are there South of the border or in Africa, not a matter for Sheffield nor for the traitor manufacturing plant of Cambridge, we no longer have any sovereignty in so many places, thanks to these Marxists we seem to be losing sovereignty and control even in our own country.
Sending “aid” abroad is a waste of money, most of these places did vote to be “independent”, thanks to the Marxists, so that is what they should be. Before the Marxists turned up India was united, Burma was prosperous, Rhodesia used to feed a great part of Africa, and you could holiday in Aden! Just to highlight a few of the 1945 Marxists anti-achievements.
What is more the Empire built places so fantastic that today people are still prepared to die with their children to try and get in, if that is what it takes live there. Clever wokes of Sheffield and Cambridge tell me what have these Marxists friends of yours got to show? How can the young be chasing this Marxist rubbish which has only given mankind genocides? Why aren’t they supporting the unique and superior Imperial doctrine to which no other empire nor doctrine nor religion can hold a candle to, please look at a map, look at the places which the Empire made.
For argument sake, even if that weren’t the case and some evil white witch is lurking somewhere South of the Border or in Africa these disturbed minds of the pseudo-universities contribute nothing to our knowledge nor to the debate of the science related to their unfortunate and meaningless intervention, you are not helping the useless who you pretend to speak up for, you are just joining them.
The Marxists are causing this catastrophe destroying our advanced societies, and this is to the detriment of humanity including “some the non-whites”, the ones who seem to be useless but green with envy (thanks to the Marxists who love and exacerbate whatever struggle they can lay their hands on to destabilize a society: Marxists just love the Zero Sum concept and envy, it is fantastic) but these “specific” non-whites take advantage of drugs and technology, etc. to which they don’t contribute that much, they are lucky to be in our world. Our advantages are going to stop if we don’t put order in our universities and even primary schools. Our education system is infected with Marxists everywhere causing trouble. We must speak out and decolonize our education of Marxists, get rid of them.

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
3 years ago
Reply to  David Foot

You may already know this, but in case you haven’t come across it yet, recent thinking on the Maxwell demon focuses on the fact that the demon itself is an information processor, therefore contributes to the entropy creation in the system. This means the overall entropy does’t drop after all.

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
3 years ago

The question isn’t always whether science is true or not. It can also be: can science be trusted to be left alone? Mistakes science has contributed to have had very real consequences. Think of Social Darwinism, Eugenics, Malthusianism – these led to the deaths or murders of millions. I see this as the crux of the critique of science (and Enlightenment) today, and I didn’t see a case above that explores this concern.

Last edited 3 years ago by Emre Emre
Donn
Donn
3 years ago

Nothing seems more satisfying to some than the dismissal of the proclaimed causes of autism. This flippancy in its spirit is always evident.
I propose a definitive, once-and-for-all termination of this controversy by a very simple method: Have the medical establishment proclaim loudly and assuredly the actual cause or causes of autism, thereby rejecting and crushing forever the prevalent notions so distained now by said medical establishment.
That the medical establishment refuses to do so forces into the mind much doubt that this institution has sufficient understandings to be credible in its declarations on the enormous epidemic of the autism spectrum growing before us, an epidemic that the medical establishment has no advocated preventative measures nor no treatment.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

For instances of the big ghastly Orwellian blunderbuss treatment with which Science, in some of its highest ranking protagonists, now rakes us all, please see this essay by Ann Coulter, published only yesterday: – https://anncoulter.com/2021/05/12/1350x/

Harry Potter
Harry Potter
3 years ago

Those fools brought up in the clean moral environment of the modern West do not seem to be aware of some common sense of the wider world and history of humen beyond their narrow echo chamber.
Long before the arrival of Europeans, from the Native Americans to the African tribes to the Far Eastern empires, humans had always been at war with each other, slaughtering enemies and expanding territories to gain more resources and power. The moral agenda called “decolonial framework” is laughable.
The west did not invent colonisation, which has existed since time immemorial. The West itself has often became victim of other forces’ conquests like Ottoman empire and Huns. Rather, it’s the West coined the word colonialism and deemed it as something evil. Indulging in the very western political dogma that colonialism is bad is itself another manifestation of Eurocentrism.
Just look at the land power empires that have managed to preserve their colonies. China, Russia never considered it a bad thing to expand the territory of their empire, as well as to exterminate different people within it’s border, they even do it openly to this day.

Every human being is by nature a racist. Racist systems go against the Enlightenment belief (which can hardly be true in reality) that all men are equal. You can eliminate unequal systems in institutions, but you cannot regulate how people view each other in their heart. It is actually a self-protective mechanism that roots in biological nature. In fact, the left-populists’ culture of cancel, the absurd hatred towards one’s own ancestors, white people and anyone who deviates from their moral dogma, such as Darwin, Einstein,Washington, are another form of manifestation of racism and witch hunt in this age.

Last edited 3 years ago by Harry Potter
Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

Will ”Fixed” Scientific data through fake Climate details & exaggerations on SARS2 deaths ,Science Like Police,Judiciary, Media (BBC) Mayors have been politicised

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

Science will always survive politics long term because it exists independently of political systems. Sometimes politics will get the upper hand: the Soviet Union, 3rd Reich and present day USA/EU/ANZAC are examples of this. Despite what they may think politicians are mortal and will pass. The ability to propose an idea and then test it to the current limits of falsification is not mortal, or even corporeal. If humans were wiped out before long another life form would pick up the knowledge baton.

Last edited 3 years ago by mike otter
Tom Fox
Tom Fox
2 years ago

Chivers is one of my favourite writers, because he really understands science and statistics, and presents important information in an accessible form. He’s certainly right that we need to take the politics out of science, and that is true both at the readership end of things, and at the researcher end of things, and perhaps especially in the media treatment, and presentation of its findings.
There is no more important form of knowledge for our future than science. Properly done and sensibly interpreted, it will produce solutions and technology that enhance our lives. It has been doing that for a couple of centuries already, and has increased our life expectancy as a species, from about 30 years in 1900, to heading towards three times that a hundred and twenty years later.

Carroll
Carroll
3 years ago

Climate Change is another similar thing. Yes Climate is real but not just a green house gas event. The earth is in an interglacial period. There have been numerous similar events before. Heating up is part of the natural process. Malkovich cycles offers the answer to the an increase in melting ice. Polar bears in trouble?? What did they do during the last ice age period? As they are here today they apparently figured it out. There is no stopping the coming Climate Change.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Carroll

Garbage.. Springs are coming Later ,we are in midst of Coldest April,May nowt to do with Co2 (Life Giving Gases) SW USA has had its coldest Winters since 1800….likelihood is Cooler drier summers ,Wetter Snowy Autumns &Winters will continue,Lack of Sunspot activity onsistent with 800,000 records….Biggest danger are Environmentalists and their love of Mass immigration & Veggie burgers (Actually Contain more oil) …Forest management also has Natural Firebreaks forbidden,eg malibu, New South wales…fires also started by Arsonists..

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago

“HMS Beagle, upon which he sailed, was on a mission to map the coastline of South America in order to aid colonial control.”
Seems unlikely, since what is now Guyana was Britain’s only colony in S America. The rest of the continent had recently achieved independence from Spain and Portugal, in part due to the efforts of Captain Lord Cochrane RN.