To operationalize the methodological assessment of evolutionary psychology, three requirements are proposed that, if satisfied, would show that a hypothesis is not a just-so story: (1) theoretical entrenchment (i.e., that the hypothesis under consideration is a consequence of a more fundamental theory that is empirically well-confirmed across a very wide range of phenomena), (2) predictive success (i.e., that the hypothesis generates concrete predictions that make it testable and eventually to a certain extent corroborated), and (3) failure of rival explanations (i.e., (...) that crucial and successful predictions attributed to the hypothesis in question cannot be derived from alternative hypotheses). The author argues that the hypothesis about evolutionary sex differences in human jealousy satisfies all three requirements. (shrink)
Does the concept of “race” ﬁnd support in contemporary science, particularly in biology? No, says Naomi Zack, together with so many others who nowadays argue that human races lack biological reality. This claim is widely accepted in a number of ﬁelds (philosophy, biology, anthropology, and psychology), and Zack’s book represents only the latest defense of social constructivism in this context. There are several reasons why she fails to make a convincing case. Zack starts by arbitrarily ascribing an anachronistically essentialist connotation (...) to the concept of race. After having made that everyday notion semantically so crude and outdated there is no wonder that she ﬁnds it quite easy to conclude that such an awkward category has no place in science. Her main rationale for seeing our race distinctions as being poorly matched to biological characteristics (e.g., population differences in gene frequencies) is that these biological characteristics do not fall into discrete and mutually exclusive categories as “required” by the common-sense taxonomy. This opposition between the continuity of variation found in biology and the alleged discreteness of common-sense “races” is repeated throughout the book, and it is presented as creating an unbridgeable gap between biology and the colloquial concept of race. Contrary to what Zack says, however, today’s common-sense ideas about race are not so radically disconnected from contemporary science. Rather, “race” in ordinary usage is informed by biological knowledge to a considerable extent. Most people no longer think about race in terms of pre-Darwinian racial “essences” and “mutually exclusive” ideal types. In fact, as pointed out by Anthony Appiah (whom Zack quotes on this matter but without taking him seriously enough), the discourse on race has long been characterized by a practice of “semantic deference,” according to which people tend to use the word “race” assuming that the biologists could say more precisely than they could what it meant.. (shrink)
philosophers of science have in succession defended and, indeed, taken seriously the following claims on the issue: (a) that reductionism is a pri- ori true, (b) that it is contingently true, (c) that it is contingently false, and (d) that it is a priori false. Of these, (a) is now completely abandoned, (b) is moribund, (c) is presently a dominant view, and (d) is an influential and controversial position (see D. Davidson, 1970), but largely restricted..
Today the idea that an evolutionary approach may be fruitful for research in the social sciences is being passionately defended by some and no less passionately contested by others. The resistance to Darwinism comes mainly in two distinct varieties. The first type of criticism is based on empirical or methodological objections against the current attempts to use evolutionary considerations to throw some light on social science explananda. The other line of opposition, however, is much harder to pin down and discuss (...) because it is fueled more by rhetoric than by argument. It defines itself, rather vaguely, as a fight against “biological reductionism” and “genetic determinism” and is often accompanied by slight (or not so slight) ideological overtones. In this chapter, I will deal only with the former (methodological) kind of criticism. But since I don’t want to leave the latter, hazily antireductionist source of opposition to biology without comments, and since I don’t know how to approach it in a serious way, let me wiggle out by presenting to you a rhymed parody, “Gene-mania,” that captures some of the more ideological criticism’s characteristic flavor. (shrink)
Imagine that you are on an intercontinental flight and that immediately after take‐off the pilot makes the following announcement: ‘Dear passengers, I hope you will join me in celebrating a wonderful achievement of one of our navigators. His name is Vincent. Vincent’s childhood dream was to become an airplane navigator but unfortunately he was declared unfit for the job because of his serious heart condition. True, he does occasionally have symptoms of heart disease like shortness of breath and chest pain, (...) yet he is certainly not the kind of person to be deterred from pursuing his dream so easily. Being quite convinced that he is up to the task and that everything would be fine Vincent decided to falsify his medical records. And indeed, with the clean bill of health readily forged and attached to his application, he smoothly managed to get the plum job and is very proud to take care of your safety today. Can we please get some applause for Vincent’s accomplishment and perseverance in the face of adversity? And, by the way, keep your seat belts tightly fastened during the entire flight.’. (shrink)
Political imputations in science are notoriously a tricky business. I addressed this issue in the context of the nature–nurture debate in the penultimate chapter of my book Making Sense of Heritability (Cambridge U. P. 2005). Although the book mainly dealt with the logic of how one should think about heritability of psychological differences, it also discussed the role of politics in our efforts to understand the dynamics of that controversy. I first argued that if a scholar publicly defends a certain (...) view (say, hereditarianism) in the debate about IQ, race and genetics this fact alone cannot justify attributing a political motivation to that person. But then later I suggested that the pressure of political correctness could explain some peculiarities of the contemporary controversy about the heritability of group differences in IQ. Several reviewers of my book raised a tu quoque objection. Am I not doing here the same thing that I condemn others for? (shrink)
It is nowadays a dominant opinion in a number of disciplines (anthropology, genetics, psychology, philosophy of science) that the taxonomy of human races does not make much biological sense. My aim is to challenge the arguments that are usually thought to invalidate the biological concept of race. I will try to show that the way “race” was defined by biologists several decades ago (by Dobzhansky and others) is in no way discredited by conceptual criticisms that are now fashionable and widely (...) regarded as cogent. These criticisms often arbitrarily burden the biological category of race with some implausible connotations, which then opens the path for a quick eliminative move. However, when properly understood, the biological notion of race proves remarkably resistant to these deconstructive attempts. Moreover, by analyzing statements of some leading contemporary scholars who support social constructivism about race, I hope to demonstrate that their eliminativist views are actually in conflict with what the best contemporary science tells us about human genetic variation. (shrink)
In this article I criticize the recommendations of some prominent statisticians about how to estimate and compare probabilities of the repeated sudden infant death and repeated murder. The issue has drawn considerable public attention in connection with several recent court cases in the UK. I try to show that when the three components of the Bayesian inference are carefully analyzed in this context, the advice of the statisticians turns out to be problematic in each of the steps.
Does the concept of “race” find support in contemporary science, particularly in biology? No, says Naomi Zack, together with so many others who nowadays argue that human races lack biological reality. This claim is widely accepted in a number of fields (philosophy, biology, anthropology, and psychology), and Zack’s book represents only the latest defense of social constructivism in this context. There are several reasons why she fails to make a convincing case.
More attention perhaps could have been given to the implications of Aristotle’s repeated insistence that education should be relevant to the constitution, that democrats should be educated democratically and oligarchs oligarchically. Curren claims (p. 101) that, because education to preserve any constitution must aim to moderate the constitution, education for both oligarchs and democrats will be essentially the same. Certainly, Aristotle believes that oligarchies and democracies will be more secure if they tend toward the moderate, “middle” constitution (‘polity’). Nonetheless, if (...) education were always to be the same, why does Aristotle stress the need for relativism (as well as insisting on the difference between the good person and the good citizen [Politics 3.5])? Interesting modern questions suggest themselves. For instance, how should public education differ in relation to the differing political cultures of different countries? What needs to be taught to “preserve the constitution”? Should the British be brought up to respect monarchy? Should Americans be educated to be suspicious of government? What of education in, say, South Africa or Russia? (shrink)
To operationalize the methodological assessment of evolutionary psychology, three requirements are proposed that, if satisfied, would show that a hypothesis is not a just-so story: (1) theoretical entrenchment (i.e., that the hypothesis under consideration is a consequence of a more fundamental theory that is empirically well-confirmed across a very wide range of phenomena), (2) predictive success (i.e., that the hypothesis generates concrete predictions that make it testable and eventually to a certain extent corroborated), and (3) failure of rival explanations (i.e., (...) that crucial and successful predictions attributed to the hypothesis in question cannot be derived from alternative hypotheses). The author argues that the hypothesis about evolutionary sex differences in human jealousy satisfies all three requirements. Key Words: evolutionary psychology adaptationism philosophy of science testability. (shrink)
Genetic differences can lead to phenotypic differences either directly or indirectly (via causing differences in external environments, which then affect phenotype). This possibility of genetic effects being mediated by environmental influences is often used by scientists and philosophers to argue that heritability is not a very helpful causal or explanatory notion. In this paper it is shown that these criticisms are based on serious misconceptions about methods of behavior genetics.
Philosophers of science widely believe that the hereditarian theory about racial differences in IQ is based on methodological mistakes and confusions involving the concept of heritability. I argue that this "received view" is wrong: methodological criticisms popular among philosophers are seriously misconceived, and the discussion in philosophy of science about these matters is largely disconnected from the real, empirically complex issues debated in science.
My aim in this paper is to take a closer look at an influential argument that purports to prove that the existence of cultural prohibitions could never be explained by biological inhibitions. The argument is two-pronged. The first prong reduces to the claim: inhibitions cannot cause prohibitions simply because inhibitions undermine the raison dêtre of prohibitions. The second strategy consists in arguing that inhibitions cannot cause prohibitions because the two differ importantly in their contents. I try to show that both (...) claims fail. (shrink)
The critics of "hereditarianism" often claim that any attempt to explain human behavior by invoking genes is confronted with insurmountable methodological difficulties. They reject the idea that heritability estimates could lead to genetic explanations by pointing out that these estimates are strictly valid only for a given population and that they are exposed to the irremovable confounding effects of genotype-environment interaction and genotype-environment correlation. I argue that these difficulties are greatly exaggerated, and that we would be wrong to regard them (...) as presenting a fundamental obstacle to the search for genetic explanations. I also show that, to the extent they are cogent, these objections may prove to be even more damaging to the "environmentalist" standpoint. (shrink)
In contrast to the opinion of numerous authors (e.g. R. Rudner, P. Kitcher, L. R. Graham, M. Dummett, N. Chomsky, R. Lewontin, etc.) it is argued here that the formation of opinion in science should be greatly insulated from political considerations. Special attention is devoted to the view that methodological standards for evaluation of scientific theories ought to vary according to the envisaged political uses of these theories.
This article presents a criticism of the widespread assumption that the programme of the Vienna Circle has been proven to be unrealizable and, therefore, that it is today quite uninteresting and to be entirely abandoned. The basic aim of logical positivists was to raise philosophy to the rigour and high standards of contemporary science. It must be admitted that they were unsuccessful in their attempts to eliminate old-fashioned and conservative philosophy by proving it to be senseless. There is in fact (...) no clearcut formal procedure to distinguish scientific philosophy from metaphysics. Nevertheless, the Vienna Cirlcle established its aimin a rather unusual, roundabout way. Its method of dealing with various concrete problems gave a picture of what scientific philosophy should be like. Two main features of its method were first, logical precision and clarity in thinking, and second, sticking to facts regardless of our emotional attitude towards them. Thiswas a major turning point in philosophy representing a break with its tradition of irrationalism and sentimentalism. (shrink)