*Wild Life: Adventures of an Evolutionary Biologist*

by on January 7, 2016 at 7:39 am in Books, Science | Permalink

That is the new Robert Trivers memoir, I just ordered my copy, sure to be outstanding.

Here is a new profile of Trivers, based on the book, recommended.

1 rayward January 7, 2016 at 8:17 am

What’s the difference between an evolutionary biologist and an evolutionary psychologist? Trivers considers psychology “a joke”. He’s been diagnosed bi-polar; his specialty is self-deception. “Today, Trivers retains vitriol for those who don’t see the legitimacy in his work and the research it’s spawned. According to von Hippel, people reject evolutionary psychology for ideological reasons. Those on the right fear that it absolves us of responsibility, while those on the left fear that accepting inherited differences hinders the goal of social equality. Trivers says that many feminists and cultural anthropologists regard him as “the devil.” In return, he calls them “feebleminded” and “stone nuts.” More genes are expressed in the brain than in any other tissue, he notes, and to ignore the partnering of nurture with nature is “ludicrous, if you have any serious interest in reality or science.” Whatever, Trivers is a fascinating man. Read Cowen’s first link.

2 rayward January 7, 2016 at 9:10 am

Cowen’s second link, not first. A long profile but definitely interesting. Trivers is another John Forbes Nash Jr. Why does genius border on insanity? Does the ability to see things as they truly are cause insanity, or is it the effect rather than the cause?

3 Nathan W January 7, 2016 at 10:19 am

I think it’s most often just that they’re radically different, and end up being so different that people label them “insane” or “crazy”.

Much different to be highly eccentric and doing many “crazy” (different) things than, say, to be psychopathic and violent, or wildly hallucinating all the time.

4 chronomitch January 7, 2016 at 10:50 am

Evolutionary psychology is largely just-so stories relying on little more than plausibility for their truth-value.

5 Andrew Clough January 7, 2016 at 12:22 pm

It’s quite possible to evolutionary psychology scientifically. You have to spend some time in your armchair thinking, write down your predictions, then go out into the world and see if you’re predictions hold. But we do see the bad kind of evo-psych more frequently where someone observes a trait and then retires to their armchair to theorize about it.

6 chronomitch January 7, 2016 at 12:44 pm

It’s really hard for a third party to tell one from the other. All we have to gone on is their word, and we don’t even get that.

7 Brian Donohue January 7, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Depends on the third party.

8 Thor January 7, 2016 at 12:22 pm

This is a ridiculously broad and sweeping statement, right out of the 1970s playbook of two Marxists: Gould and Lewontin. (Whose accusation, moreover, was levelled at Sociobiology.) Do you not realize that Evolutionary Psychology has progressed both empirically (in terms of confirmation) and theoretically?

9 chronomitch January 7, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Liberally and ignorantly throwing around the word Marxist discredits you, not the people you are attempting to dismiss.

10 Too Late January 7, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Gould and Lewontin were Marxists. That should discredit them or at least make you suspicious.

There is nothing wrong in wondering about someone’s motivation. Both Gould and Lewontin have shown themselves to be untrustworthy.

11 So Much For Subtlety January 7, 2016 at 7:25 pm

Not only were Gould and Lewontin Marxists but their Marxism informed their critique of real scientists like E. O. Wilson.

The alternative to liberally and ignorantly throwing around these words exists. I think Lenin called them Useful Idiots.

12 Brian Donohue January 7, 2016 at 12:31 pm

Social science is largely just-so stories relying on little more than plausibility for their truth-value.

Largely, of course, does not mean entirely, in either case.

13 chronomitch January 7, 2016 at 1:03 pm

At least from the others we get stamp collecting, which is valuable in and of itself. Evolutionary psychology collects no stamps.

14 Brian Donohue January 7, 2016 at 1:14 pm

Testable hypotheses are a possibility in either case.

15 So Much For Subtlety January 7, 2016 at 7:32 pm

Social science collects no stamps either. Nothing they do is reproducible. Commonly held prejudices are more likely to be true that commonly believed theories in the social sciences. And the only robust finding they have found is the link between race and IQ.

Evo-psych is, at least, an attempt to bring rigor to the field

16 Nathan W January 7, 2016 at 11:25 pm

SMFS – well fed and well educated people who live in a culture that values academic achievement get high scores on standardized tests.

Wow. Let’s attribute the different to genes, none of which we know anything about. Because we’re so much smarter than those inferior others.

17 So Much For Subtlety January 8, 2016 at 5:10 am

Nathan W January 7, 2016 at 11:25 pm

That well fed line is hardly going to work. African Americans have always been well fed. African American slaves got something like 150% of the meat every year that Hungarians – one of the better fed captive peoples – did in 1956. You want to make a bet on the relative IQ results?

Nor is the well educated. As that is simply a tautology. Of course people with high IQs are going to have high IQs and a lot of education.

I attributed nothing to genetics. I don’t even think it is all down to genetics. I simply pointed out the correlation. Mendel did not have to know about genes to know how inheritance in peas worked. Nor did Darwin to come up with his theories.

18 The Anti-Gnostic January 7, 2016 at 1:54 pm

Right. Because Mind has nothing to do with Brain and hominids never selected for behavior or intelligence in breeding partners.

19 joe January 7, 2016 at 8:38 am

I guess it’s okay to be a “nurture fundamentalist” in today’s society.

20 T. Shaw January 7, 2016 at 8:58 am

Sounds like a thug with credentials.

21 jim jones January 7, 2016 at 10:14 am

Differences between humans are caused by “Magic Dirt”


22 The Anti-Gnostic January 7, 2016 at 1:09 pm

LOL. Evolution brings out the mace from the #IEffingLoveScience! crowd.

23 cp January 7, 2016 at 3:04 pm

What an insightful comment. ROFL.

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