Monday, December 10, 2018

When Science and Social Justice Collide

Science loses. Do social psychologists have an ideological aversion to evolutionary psychology? The short answer is yes.
A new survey of beliefs held by social psychologists (335 mostly US-based members of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology) has confirmed previous reports that the field is overwhelmingly populated by researchers of a left-wing, liberal bent. What’s more, David Buss and William von Hippel – the evolutionary social psychologists who conducted and analysed the survey – say their findings, published open-access in Archives of Scientific Psychology, suggest that some social psychologists may be opposed, for ideological reasons, to insights rooted in evolutionary psychology.

Buss and von Hippel add that compounding matters is an irony – the desire of some researchers to signal their ideological stance and commitment to others who share their political views, which is a manifestation of the evolved human adaptation to form coalitions. “Part of this virtue signalling entails rejecting a caricature of evolutionary psychology that no scientist actually holds,” they write.

In terms of the political bias among social psychologists, Buss and von Hippel found that 95 per cent were mostly liberal and left-wing in their views (also, among the US respondents, only 4 had voted Republican in the prior Presidential election while 305 had voted Democrat).
Only 95% ? How did 5% sneak through graduate school? Or did they come to realize the error of their ways subsequent to getting their degrees?
Quizzing the social psychologists on their views of evolutionary theory, Buss and von Hippel found that they overwhelmingly accepted the principles of Darwinian evolution and also that it applied to humans, but when it came to whether evolutionary theory applies to human psychology and behaviour, the sample was split, with many social psychologists rejecting this notion.

Digging deeper into the survey results, there was no evidence that the social psychologists were averse to evolutionary psychology for religious reasons, but many did reject the idea that humans might be inherently violent (in certain situations) or that some people are widely considered more physically attractive than others due to universal evolved standards of attractiveness – perhaps, Buss and von Hippel suggested, this is because “they dislike the implications regarding the dark side of human nature.”

Next, Buss and von Hippel asked the social psychologists about their views on the truth of five hot button statements related to the biological basis of average sex differences, such as whether such differences are primarily genetic rather than environmental, whether sex-differentiated hormones play a role, and whether it might be more difficult for men than women to stay faithful in long-term romantic relationships.

Answers to three of these five hot-button questions accounted for a small but statistically significant amount of the variance in the social psychologists’ position on whether evolutionary theory applies to human psychology and their self-reported political ideology. This pattern is consistent with the idea that, while the relation between political ideology and scientific beliefs is complex, some social psychologists are inclined to reject evolutionary psychology findings on ideological grounds (in keeping with this interpretation, a substantial portion of the sample said it would be bad if the hot-button findings were widely reported).
So, don't report findings that contradict the holdings of the progressive activists? There lies the future death of science, or at least this field. It won't be missed.

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