You Can Tell Evolutionary Psychology Isn't True Because It's Not True


I don’t want to hate evolutionary psychology, but I do. I hate it. It’s a field of study that could be legitimately interesting, if it weren’t constantly being twisted into a justification for backward (and, frankly, un-evolved) anti-feminist bullshit. Like, sure, maybe a part of me does want a dude who could kick a rogue triceratops to death, because that would be pretty hot (plus, hella triceratops meat!). But a waaaaay bigger part of me wants a dude who laughs at my jokes and cooks the best chicken wings (so good it’s fucked up!!!) and will listen to Game of Thrones audiobooks with me in the car on the way to see Ginuwine perform at a local casino. Or, sure, evo psych dudes—maybe I’m just looking for territorial urination and robust thatches of body hair. Whatever. You’re probably righter about me than I am. Pesky lady-brain!

So that’s why this Slate article made my day. Researchers cross-referenced people’s self-professed desires in a mate with the social egalitarianism in their home countries:

Marcel Zentner and Klaudia Mitura of the University of York, U.K., asked more than 3,000 people in 10 countries what they valued in a mate. On a four-point scale, people rated the importance of various qualities: chastity, ambition, financial prospects, good looks, etc.-all identified by Buss and his likeminded peers as being qualities that only men or only women are evolutionarily predisposed to seek out.
The researchers used a World Economic Forum measure of gender equality to rank the 10 countries as (a) relatively gender-equal, (b) backwards but improving, or (c) screamingly sexist (my terms, not theirs). And the results were clear: The more egalitarian the country, the less likely men and women were to value traditional qualities that Buss and co. believe to be innate. In Germany, women said they’d very much like a man who is a good housekeeper. In Finland, men were more likely than women to prefer a mate a bit smarter than themselves. In the United States, women ranked chastity as more important than men did. At the other end of the scale, in Turkey and South Korea, women wanted mates with good financial prospects and men valued good cooks.

Ha ha, ding-dongs. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the most socially evolved countries are the farthest away from our primeval evolutionary priorities. That’s what progress means—and that’s why conservatives who scoff at progressives and stifle progressive legislation are fundamentally opposed to freedom and equality. That’s why those dudes suck. Laura Helmuth in Slate sums it up:

None of this is especially surprising, but there’s something so satisfying about having a chart with a straight line and a steep slope showing that the more egalitarian the country, the less constrained people are by stereotyped sex roles. That is progress.

People who cite evolutionary psychology talk about evolution in the past tense—like we evolved up to this point and then we stopped. But you can’t hold something up as a static, iron-clad piece of evidence (like, “See? Evolution says so!”), when that thing, by its very nature, is always changing. Evolution isn’t over! We’re not some flawless being that achieved perfection sometime around 1953 (that’s what the creationists want you to think—but we’re talking about evolution here, right?…Right?) and now we’re just going to hang tight for all eternity with women making $0.70 to a man’s dollar and politicians making up crazy rumors about vagina witchcraft.

And beyond that, you’re not going to convince me that it’s biologically impossible for me to feel the way that I feel, WHEN THAT’S THE WAY THAT I FEEL. Even if I am, deep down, attracted to dino-killers, the thick strata of personality and pragmatism and modern life piled above that bit of evo psych speculation basically render it irrelevant. Telling people that they’re wrong about their own experiences is one of the patriarchy’s greatest hits. To claim that a theory is universally, fundamentally, exclusively true—directly in the face of people’s expressed experiences— is to basically call everyone I know a liar.

Here’s a super easy and quick test that you can do (at home!) to determine whether or not a tenet of evo psych is true:

1. Is it true?

2. No? Okay, then.

Is this thing actually happening? Are modern men only chasing subservient virgins? Do all women bond sexually with one man for life and attempt to trap him into a loveless mating contract? If a man can’t defeat a rival in battle with his bare hands, is he doomed to a life of forced celibacy and/or getting picked off by a pack of dire wolves?


Okay, then. Your thing is not true. Goodbye.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin