Thursday, September 04, 2008

Evolution vs. The Implications of Evolution

In a blog that is mostly political in nature, David Friedman asks some uncomfortable questions about two different groups of people, the right, who don't want the teaching of evolution, and the left, who don't understand the implications of it. He writes:

Consider the most striking case, the question of whether there are differences between men and women with regard to the distribution of intellectual abilities or behavioral patterns. That no such differences exist, or if that if they exist they are insignificant, is a matter of faith for many on the left. The faith is so strongly held that when the president of Harvard, himself a prominent academic, merely raised the possibility that one reason why there were fewer women than men in certain fields might be such differences, he was ferociously attacked and eventually driven to resign.

Yet the claim that such differences must be insignificant is one that nobody who took the implications of evolution seriously could maintain. We are, after all, the product of selection for reproductive success. Males and females play quite different roles in reproduction. It would be a striking coincidence if the distribution of abilities and behavioral patterns that was optimal for one sex turned out to also be optimal for the other, rather like two entirely different math problems just happening to have the same answer.

This spills over to physical constitution as well. Men expend energy differently than women do. Also, although there is tolerance in society for transsexuals and homosexuals, nature does not see it that way and they wind up being evolutionary dead-ends. Yet, no one speaks of this in academic circles. Read the whole thing.


  1. From someone who enjoys a bit of evolutionary psychology, I think it is clear there are differences between men and women and the way we think. Can this spill over into math abilities. Maybe, but then who cares. Even if we could do controlled experiments to determine some objective math measure peaks on the bell curve further to the right for men than women (or vice versa), that would say little about any given person. And as Dawkins made clear in his opening of the "Extended Phenotype", we need to drop the idea of genetic determinism. Having less math amplitude doesn't mean it can't be overcome with education or practice. Surely that there are less women in math in this day is a product of some other cultural dynamics and not raw mathematical ability as determined by xy genes.

    As for homosexuality, the recent twin studies would suggest homosexuality is affected by both nature and nurture. But that any of it is affected by nature, ie actual genetics would suggest it is somehow being reproduced in our populations. Though when expressed, it doesn't actively lead to reproduction, its non expressed form might have some selective advantage or piggy back off some other gene. I think it was Dawkins once again who pointed out a possible correlation that the sisters of gay men tend to have more children on average then the population at large.

    As a Christian, I am not sure what to make of homosexuality. I might bring this up in an email I send you.

    Also, you got some great entries on this site, I haven't visited here in a long time. Forgive me if I need to throw down some comments on some pretty old posts.

  2. You go right ahead. Glad to have you back.

  3. Anonymous9:59 PM

    Thanks for this excellent blog.

    What implications does evolution have for christianity?

    Or how about science in general? Why doesn't God ever give useful knowledge like how to prevent child birth deaths, rather than punishing women as a result of the fall by making it painful. I mean, why make it even possible to relieve pain?