I’m making a list of the ways that biology—and evolutionary biology in particular—has been distorted, censored, or even affected these days by ideology. Here’s a short list of ten examples that struck me, and I invite readers to add others. I will be using some of this material in the future, but now I’m just gathering thoughts and crowdsourcing any that I haven’t had. I’m not going to argue in detail about these claims here (though I will comment); I’m just making a list. There are many readers who are biologists, but I think most people are aware of some incursions of ideology into biology.
A.) The denial of animal “sexes” in biology, particularly denying the claim that biological sex in humans is about as binary as it gets.
B.) The denigration of evolutionary psychology as a discipline, mainly the claim that it’s a worthless enterprise. This amounts to admitting that while our bodies bear traces of our ancestry, our minds and behaviors don’t. (Yes, I admit that the field has been sloppy, but that’s not the same thing as saying it’s worthless.)
C.) The claim that “race” (I prefer “ethnicity”) is purely a social construct with no biological value and containing no biological information. I don’t believe in “races” as they were classically conceived of by Carleton Coon and others, but humans are genetically different from place to place, and those differences contain information of value in tracing our ancestry and our movement around the globe from Africa.
D.) The insistence by some anthropologists that we shouldn’t even try to determine the sex of ancient bones, much less their “ethnicity”. (I discussed this the other day.)
E.) The notion that indigenous “ways of knowing” (while they may contain practical knowledge) are not only superior to scientific (i.e. “colonialist”) “ways of knowing” but also contain claims about ideology, morality, legends, and word of mouth that are as reliable as modern science. My main example of this has been Mātauranga Māori.
F.) The denigration of famous evolutionary biologists of the past for failure to conform to modern ethics or beliefs (Fisher, Galton, Darwin, etc.) Some of these claims carry weight, but most, I think, don’t, unless most people of those eras were already more morally enlightened than the demonized biologist.
G.) “Blank slateism”: the view that human variation isn’t much influenced by variation in our genes (this is not the same thing as evolutionary psychology, which itself is a kind of blank slate-ism involving the past). Blank slateism is coupled to the view that humans are almost infinitely malleable simply by changing their environments.
H.) DARWIN WAS WRONG. Of course he was, about many things, but as I said in a comment this morning, it’s amazing how much he got right. We hear a lot about what he got wrong these days, but have you seen any articles saying that “DARWIN WAS RIGHT”, and noting what he did get right?
I.) The field of biology, and especially evolutionary biology, is at present structurally racist—that is, there are built-in features of the field that have been put there to hold down minorities. (This is different from asserting that there are racist biologists.)
J.) The attempt to minimize or censor data showing differences between biological sexes in athletic performance, and the claim that there are no genetically-based behavioral differences between men and women on average.
That’ll do for now. Thoughts?