Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Kanazawa Question. Part III.

This is the final part in the series, I hope, and it is about the biases I have noted in Satoshi Kanazawa's blog posts at Psychology Today. (Part I of the series is here and Part II here.)

I spot at least four types of bias in Kanazawa's writings. The first one concerns which data are picked as evidence and which data are completely ignored. I have given an example of that in the first post of this series.

The second one is about the types of issues within Evolutionary Psychology Kanazawa chooses to analyze. His predominant focus is on sexual selection, as if the other kinds of selection pressures somehow mattered much less. And even within that narrower field he chooses to ignore certain topics, such as female infidelity, now established to exist among chimpanzees (if infidelity even has a meaning in that context) and also among humans. But Kanazawa only discusses this as an aside while striving to explain to married women why they should be pleased with their spouse's infidelity:

The more desirable a man is (the more resourceful, the higher his social status, the physically more attractive), the larger the number of other women who would want to have sex with him regardless of whether he is married, either in an attempt to steal him away from his current mate (mate poaching) or in an attempt to be impregnated by him so that their child will have his superior genes but then to turn around and pass off the child as their current long-term mates' genetic offspring (cuckoldry)

That this aside suggests a kind of polygamy practiced by women (in the sense of having sex with more than one man) is not something Kanazawa wants to pursue.

That's because of his third bias, which is the desire to mostly view women as passive objects of male lust except for the fact that they are also in control of everything. Honest.

To see what I mean, note that Kanazawa has written nine posts on the Barbie doll as the evolutionary ideal. But why spend so much time discussing the characteristics of the gender which does all the sexual selecting? That doesn't seem to make much sense, especially given this statement by Kanazawa:

The power of female choice becomes quite apparent in a simple thought experiment. Imagine for a moment a society where sex and mating were entirely a male choice; individuals have sex whenever and with whomever men want, not whenever and with whomever women want. What would happen in such a society? Absolutely nothing, because people would never stop having sex! There would be no civilization in such a society, because people would not do anything besides have sex. This, incidentally, is the reason why gay men never stop having sex: there are no women in their relationships to say no. Sexually active straight men on average have had 16.5 sex partners since age 18; gay men have had 42.8.

In reality, however, women do often say no to men. (In my experience, they always do.) This is why men throughout history have had to conquer foreign lands, win battles and wars, compose symphonies, author books, write sonnets, paint portraits and cathedral ceilings, make scientific discoveries, play in rock bands, and write new computer software, in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them. There would be no civilization, no art, no literature, no music, no Beatles, no Microsoft, if sex and mating were a male choice. Men have built (and destroyed) civilizations in order to impress women so that they might say yes. Women are the reason men do everything.

OK. Let's take this argument seriously (and ignore the insults in it, too). If men indeed are willing and able to have sex 24/7, why would they ever have bothered to check out which babes are the most fertile? Each act of sex takes only a few minutes, after all, and the prehistoric day on the savanna is a long one. It doesn't seem to make sense for such men to be so choosy about women. They have plenty of sperm and plenty of stamina and they can go on all day long. Never mind if they happen to have sex with a few tree trunks or whatever, there's plenty more left for all the babes, right?

That whole quote is pretty nasty to us women, because it implies that all civilization is created by men alone. But that's what comes from ahistoricity, I guess. Note also that there are other ways of explaining the benefits of civilization than the use of sexual spurs.

It is hard to avoid the feeling that Satoshi Kanazawa really doesn't like women very much. Just try reading through his blog posts on Psychology Today without getting that feeling. Then try to think of reasons why Psychology Today lets him post without even comments. Makes a girl scratch her blond head, it does.

Here is the best example of the way he shows us how much he loves us*:

Another fallacy on which modern feminism is based is that men have more power than women. Among mammals, the female always has more power than the male, and humans are no exception. It is true that, in all human societies, men largely control all the money, politics, and prestige. They do, because they have to, in order to impress women. Women don't control these resources, because they don't have to. What do women control? Men. As I mention in an earlier post, any reasonably attractive young woman exercises as much power over men as the male ruler of the world does over women.

Funny, isn't it? Let's pass by that zoological blunder and move straight to the meat of the argument, the one I have bolded for you. So women are actually in power, even though they don't control the resources, because any reasonably attractive young woman has as much power over men as the male ruler of the world does over women?

Yup. Any seventeen-year old blond babe has power over the richest man on earth! Well, at least for a few minutes. Even half an hour. And she needs no laws to hold onto those resources that she now controls. For a few minutes, at least.

I'm looking at the cheese sandwich by my computer, waiting to be eaten. It's kinda blond, you know, and very attractive to me. If it could negotiate, it might ask for all my resources in exchange for a few bites.

But then I'd just go downstairs and make another cheese sandwich. Sigh. Remember that this man is the scientific fundamentalist who has the hard facts on evolution.

That whole post on feminism is really very nasty. According to Kanazawa the women with the most power on this earth would be found in places like Afghanistan.

The fourth bias Kanazawa has is a very odd one, given his desire to grab all objective science (mineMINEmine) into his own hands. It's an anti-science bias of the weirdest sort. Wait for this. It's worth it:

As an aside, Mr. Lal was trained in mechanical engineering and currently works as a software engineer. He does not have any background in psychology, let alone evolutionary psychology, and has not taken any biology class since high school. (But then again, neither have I.) The fact that someone like Mr. Lal can offer a very insightful explanation of a puzzling phenomenon from an evolutionary psychological perspective suggests that Robert Wright's words in his 1994 book The Moral Animal are still true today: "For now, this is the state of evolutionary psychology: so much fertile terrain, so few farmers." The field of evolutionary psychology is still wide open. Anyone who is interested in the topic and has bright ideas, like Mr. Lal, can make a contribution to the field.

Bolds mine.


That was fun, wasn't it? Now I'm going to eat that sandwich.
*This is actually supposed to be from a review of Susan Pinker's book.
If you are interested in an actual critique of it, read this excellent series at Slate. It also takes apart Louise Brizandine's pot-boiler.