Monday, July 09, 2007

Can Biological Essentialism Die Already

Come on people. I thought we got beyond this decades ago.


Rainbow Girl said...

I didn't even need to click the link to know what you were referring to. It's absolutely brutal.

And what gets me is all this biological determinism is used to support social power structures and behaviors that coincidentally, need to be defended in this age of criticism. They had to focus their psuedo-science on male sexist behavior towards women, beauty standards, and other behaviors under fire.

They don't write biological determinist arguments about totally random things, for example the equally plausible argument that people who wear glasses are smarter (because in genetics people with poor eyesight would need to compensate with extra intelligence and hard work to survive). Why? Because there's no worldwide coalition of spectacled people oppressing the non-specacled people, and desperately looking to legitimize their four-eyed domination over the world.

Frank Partisan said...

Are you aware of the studies of what is beauty, and beauty and symetry etc.

I wonder if these studies are subsidized by plastic surgeons or cosmetic companies.

Red Jenny said...

I have to wonder if men want blonde and blue eyed women, how did the populations in Asia and Africa get so large compared to, say, Scandinavia.

Chris Benjamin said...

"Why most suicide bombers are Muslim, beautiful people have more daughters, humans are naturally polygamous, sexual harassment isn't sexist, and blonds are more attractive."

That's as far as I got before wretching all over my bagel.

Anonymous said...

my eyes rolled so often reading that article that I have a bit of a headache now.

patently ridiculous.

KC said...

Wait. So are you saying biology has NOTHING to do with our behaviours? We're not summarily dismissing arguments because they doesnt jive with our ideology again are we RJ?

The authors arent saying that biology is the sole driver of behaviour or we are doomed to certain patterns of behaviour based on our biological traits. They choose to focus on biology because--according to them--"most social scientists explain human behavior as if evolution stops at the neck and as if our behavior is a product almost entirely of environment and socialization" and they want to advance another perspecctive. Seems eminently reasonable to me. Doesnt mean I accept all of the numbered hypotheses but rejecting the article without presenting a compelling argument that biology is irrelevant to behaviour is a bit suspect dont you think?

Red Jenny said...

KC, the article is highly ideological and makes conclusions not justified by the available research. Each of their points is highly debated - how can they claim them as "truths"?

Mike said...

Newbie to your blog here. I just gotta say I agree with your hope that the sort of piffle in the Psych Today article would just wither away. But not because I find it offensive. It's just that it all seems so tedious and pointless.

KC said...

RJ - Its not uncommon to assert that things that are debatable are "truths". You assert that white male privilege is a 'truth' while others have pointed out that it is illusion when other factors are taken into account. You, I and everyone else all assert that things we believe and which others dont are 'truths', 'facts' or whatever.

Maybe you're right, maybe you're wrong about what the research says with regards to biological influences of behaviour. I'm really not equipped to answer that. My meager life experience suggests that there are inherent biological differences between men and women that affect (but dont determine) behaviour (I should note that I am NOT saying that this somehow justifies discriminatory treatment against one or the other).

To be fair though, at least the authors of the piece in Psych Today (which as I understand is a popular magazine and not a journal I might add) offers some reasoned explanation for why they believe that these particular biological factors are influencing behaviour. The "ideological" argument is dismissing all "biological essentialism" without systematically debunking various pieces of evidence that purports to prove it. I dont see anything particularly ideological about the piece.

I realize you probably did a quick post because of time constraints and that is perfectly reasonable and understandable. But with all due respect I just hope you don't expect your readers to take your word for it.

TomCat said...

I read it, and although I don't consider myself expert in the field, I found it ludicrous. To me, this is scientism masquerading as science.

two crows said...

people in Scandinavia evolved blonde hair and blue eyes because they needed to fool people into mating with them because they wore more clothes???
uh, excuse me, mightn't the amount of sunlight they were exposed to have a little something to do with it?

gimme a break.
according to this thang, blonde hair and blue eyes should be the dominant genes -- and they're just _not_.

Red Jenny said...

KC, I don't have time to go into this in detail right now, but there's lots of good stuff out there already, so I'll link you over to some commentary. here, here, here, and the comments here. For an article that is more generally focused on evolutionary psychology, go here.