Friday, July 08, 2005

The Illogical Left, via Leiter


B. Leiter (blighter) commends a post by one P.Z. Myers, in which Myers says:

But if I...agree that there is a statistical difference in the distribution of the sexes in various occupations which is in some way driven by gender, I would say that it is 100% the product of society and culture, and that it is 100% the product of biological evolution.

[Todd Zywicki of The Volokh Conspiracy is] making the old, tired nature/nurture distinction, and it drives me nuts. It's a false dichotomy that is perpetuated by an antiquated misconception about how development and biology works. Genes don't work alone, they always interact with their environment, and the outcome of developmental processes is always contingent upon both genetic and non-genetic factors.
So much for the intellectual superiority of blighter and his ilk. Genes don't work alone, but nature must precede nurture in any explanation of aptitude. Consider this, for example. I learned to love the game of baseball at an early age (nurture). My love of the game fostered in me a desire to become a major league baseball player (a leaning born of nurture). I could never become a major league baseball player because of my eyesight, which even when corrected is about 20-40 (nature).

In sum: Nature trumps nuture when it comes to having the requisite ability to excel in any occupation that requires a modicum of skill, whether it be playing major league baseball or doing physics.

Glibness and intellectual superiority are not the same thing, as blighter proves whenever he opines or approvingly cites a like-minded Leftist.

UPDATE: Todd Zywicki defends himself rather nicely in the third update to his original post; for example:

In response to PZ Myer's assertion that evolutionary psychology is "poorly done hokum" and that there is "vigorous disagreement" about the entire field of evolutionary psychology I requested (quite reasonably, I thought) that Myers supply some specific examples of scientific disagreement over many of the core principles of evolutionary psychology, such as Hamilton's theory of kin selection. He has responded to this request for specifics that would support his claim that the entire field "poorly done hokum":

That semi-random list of principles is not the same as EP. It's like saying that because Michael Behe understands and agrees that natural selection has occurred, Intelligent Design is therefore the same as accepted neo-Darwinian theory. Picking a few points of concordance while ignoring the points of divergence between two ideas to imply a unity of support that is not there is, well, dishonest.

Nah, I'm plainspoken. He's lying. There is substantial disagreement in the biological community on evolutionary psychology, and to imply that this question has been settled in his favor is either gross ignorance on his part or simple fraud. Of course there is currently an ongoing battle over EP; check out the last link in my article.

I'm actually being kind by conceding that there is a legitimate debate on the subject. I know very few scientists who don't think Pinker is full of shit.

Ah, so now I understand--no need to respond to my request for analysis, because, well, "Pinker is full of shit." Why attack Pinker out of the blue when I never even mentioned him, rather than addressing the specifics I raised? Is it that Pinker is the only evolutionary psychologist with whom Myers is familiar? Then, falling back (again) on the good old reliable argument from authority, he also links to an interview with philosopher David J. Buller, a critic of evolutionary psychology, who raises doubts about some aspects of the evolutionary psychology research program. Apparently citing an interview with this particular philosopher where he critiques some aspects of the evolutionary psychology research program sufficies to demonstrate that the entire field is "hokum" and that the entire field is open to question (it is not clear whether Buller is one of the scientists, actually he's a philosopher so he may not be included, who think that "Pinker is full of shit"--if so, that must be in his book because I couldn't find that particular quote in the interview he links).

If anything, it seems like the argument Myers is making is much closer to the ID argument that he critiques, than the argument I was making. As I understand the ID argument, it picks up on small holes in the theory of evolution or questions around the edges of the theory, and then proceeds to infer that the entire theory is open to question. Similarly, I have enumerated a long list of core (not semi-random at all) evolutionary psychology ideas on which there seems to be a substantial degree of agreement. Indeed, from what I can tell, he does not disagree with my assessment that there is widespread agreement on these concepts, he simply dismisses this agreement as irrelevant under his particular definition of evolutionary psychology. His response, as I understand it, is that this scientific agreement on these many core principles of evolutionary psychology is irrelevant because there are some unsettled questions around the edges of the research program, and so that therefore the whole research program itself is questionable and that there is controversy about the entire field. This seems much more similar to the arguments that I have read by ID theorists critiquing Darwinian theory, rather than the arguments that I was making. For the record, I don't know whether adherents to intelligent design theory also think that Pinker (or Darwin, for that matter) "is full of shit."

And so on.

Blighter and his Leftist friends are so unsure of their grasp of truth -- or so afraid of the truth -- that they simply stoop to scurrilous prose. Dismissiveness is the last refuge of an ignoramus (one of blighter's favorite terms for those who challenge his pointy-headed blatherings).

P.S. I'm purposely being scurrilous here and in my other posts about blighter because he endorses abusive and offensive blogging. If he says it's all right, it must be -- he knows all.