I have been an ethologist (or evolutionary psychologist) for thirty years. Yet somehow I have never learned of our "determined campaign to reduce human beings and their accomplishments to insignificance," in Alan Wolfe's words. I have known only dedicated scientists trying their best to elucidate human nature. As Wolfe acknowledges, most of us are liberals who are not trying to use science to promote some ideology--but appaently we are being duped into gathering data to support some illiberal agenda.
I don't know where to begin, to refute such nonsense. Evidently Wolfe does not understand that science is supposed to avoid subordinating its findings to its ideology--remember Galileo? If instead science were to subserve ideology, it would cease to be science. This is what the Nazis did.
George Scialabba grasps this point, writing: "If science really and truly discredited liberalism, then the only honest reponse would be: so much the worse for liberalism." In other words, if science were to reveal that a particular ideology was based on incorrect beliefs about human nature, then the ideology ought to be revised. The science could only be refuted by contrary evidence, not by ideological assertions or attacks on science.
Since we Darwinians are often assailed by the right as well as the left, we must be doing something significant, an encouraging thought for us. The evolutionary perspective on human behavior is growing, thanks to people more open-minded than Alan Wolfe.
May 11 2009 - 11:32am