Singer's A Darwinian Left

ermadog at ermadog at
Sun Dec 9 13:36:29 MST 2001

On Sun, 9 Dec 2001 nemonemini at wrote:
> To: evolutionary-psychology at
> Sent from the Internet (Details)
> The Yale Review if Books
> Volume 4 No. 2
> Can Darwin Replace Marx?

Hi John:

One can't read everything. I'm not planning to read this unless I see a
reason to invest my time in it. All I need to understand for the purpose
of combatting Creationism is how to establish the fact of evolution, a
point on which you and I both agree. I will let more knowledgable people
discuss Darwin with you.

There was some considerable discussion of evolutionary psychology over the
period of a year and a half during which I was subbed to the Humanism
list. Over the course of this discussion, I believe I gained a fair
understanding of Dawkins. Here are my impressions.

1. Dawkins makes a fundamental error common to evolutionary psychology's
forebears, sociobiology and eugenics. That is, he doesn't seem to
understand the complexity of human nature. He therefore ends up making
mechanistic, determinist, and reductionist connections between aspects of
human nature and aspects of concrete realty which grab his fancy. He is
unable to define key terms such as altruism; how, then, can he possibly
expect to be able to prove its cause?

We see this type of error in the pride of the eugenics movement, the I.Q.
test. Claims that such tests measure intelligence beg the question of how
to define intelligence, something these tests were never designed to do in
the first place. If you can't define it, how can you measure it?

No matter what his original intentions, this type of argumentation always
ends up bolstering reactionary notions of human nature. Crude examples can
be found in the Nazi doctrine of "blood and soil". First, following
Nietsche, they reduce all of human nature to an idealized concept - the
will to power. Then, since this ideal is empty of substance, they make an
arbitrary and unprovable connection to the land. To cemment this
relationship, they sanctify it with talk of the "holy virtue of the soil".

2. Outside his area of specialty, he makes errors in fact and omission. If
a general reader such as myself can spot errors in his data from
anthropology and primatology, he's obviously not doing his homework.

3. List members reported that Dawkins is not, in fact, a working
scientist. That is to say, he has not published anything in peer review
journals in decades. Peer review is an essential self-correcting mechanism
in scientific process. If he is not publishing, we don't know if he is
keeping up with new research in his field.

I don't plan to study Darwin unless I see a need to.

Joan Cameron

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