Graphs on the rise of scientific approaches to humanity

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Well, with the first post and a response to criticisms out of the way, I’ll conclude with the graphs on some ideas that are gaining in popularity in the study of mankind. Where it says “social sciences,” I’ve only searched JSTOR for the following journal categories: anthropology, economics, education, political science, psychology, and sociology. The social sciences, basically. (And I’ve used appropriate neutral comparisons as before.) The reason is that if “heritability” increases in usage, that could be due to its use in genetics — I want to see how popular it is when talking about humans. (As before, graphs have simple titles, while the full search terms are listed in an Appendix.)

Contrary to what you might think, since about 1950 academics have become increasingly interested in the genetic influence on human nature, reversing a period of decline from roughly 1930 to 1950. There is also an apparent cyclical pattern on top of the increasing trend. Just make sure you refer to the heritability of “cognitive ability” rather than of “IQ” (see below).

I’ve broken up the graphs on Darwin in the social sciences to make the trends clearer. There is an early phase in Victorian times when Darwin’s thoughts were everywhere, especially in discussing human beings. Around the turn of the century, his ideas become less popular, as mentioned above. Around 1940, when his ideas come back due to the modern synthesis in biology, they become more popular in the social sciences as well. Indeed, since the mid-1940s, his ideas have only become more important to social scientists — whether they like it or not.

Notice that while “IQ” goes through cycles about an increasing trend, its synonym “cognitive ability” shows exponential increase. I assume that this is because “cognitive ability” is not a politicized term, while “IQ” is, resulting in outbreaks of hysteria where many more people of any ideological background begin talking a lot about it.

The same is true of “sociobiology,” which Leftist academics such as the Sociobiology Study Group tainted with negative political associations, compared to its synonym “evolutionary psychology.” Now, someone will say that evolutionary psychology is different — that it studies the mental, psychological processes rather than just observed behavior. But that’s nonsense — if you’ve read one of the many evolutionary psychology articles about digit ratios, waist-to-hip ratios, whether the female orgasm is adaptive, and so on, you know that mental processes and cognitive science models rarely come up, except in the study of vision.

Indeed, “evolutionary psychology” increases at just the time when “sociobiology” decreases, in the mid-1980s, showing that the former is simply replacing the latter as the preferred term.

As further evidence that a decline in usage means a decline in popularity, “evolutionary psychology” gets lots of hits in the 1890s when pioneers of psychology like William James were obsessed with integrating evolution and the study of the human mind, and takes a nosedive and lies dead once behaviorism takes over in psychology around the 1920s.

Because “evolutionary psychology” and “cognitive ability” are safe terms politically, these are the obvious choices for people who don’t want to have water poured over their head at a conference — and the data show this rational choice. Interest has continued to skyrocket, although people use different codewords. Nothing like this turned up in the first post because it is not political suicide to talk about postmodernism or Marxism in academia — but just try bringing up “IQ”. It is fascinating that academics can adhere to the ideas of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, or Stalin and be taken seriously, while anyone who would do so for the ideas of Mussolini or Hitler would be made a total pariah. I wouldn’t take either numbskull seriously, but most educated people will, perhaps grudgingly, give a free pass to those who revere the ideological or political figures associated with The Other Great Dictatorships and Mass Murders.

I’ve already made general observations in the first post, and they carry over here, especially the fact that the history of ideas seems so unaffected by the history of the entire outside world — one more idea that Marx got wrong. There is clearly change, struggle between groups, and so on, but they are largely internal to academia. The future — or the near-future anyway — looks pretty bright for those interested in the biological approach to studying humans and their ways, and who believe things like IQ are important. Any students who are still considering the social constructionist, Marxist, feminist, or Whateverist approach should at least learn the new theories, if for no other reason than to be employable in 5 to 10 years. Hell, you might even consider it a kind of Pascal’s Wager.

APPENDIX

Here are the search terms I used, once again searching the full text of articles and reviews:

“cognitive ability” OR “cognitive abilities”

“darwin*” NOT “social darwinism” NOT “social darwinist” NOT “social darwinists”

“evolutionary psychology” OR “evolutionary psychologist” OR “evolutionary psychologists”

“heritability” OR “heritable”

“IQ”

“sociobiolog*”

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11 Comments

  1. Now I want to see the graphs for these terms used in the humanities. While you’re at it, include such terms as “chaos theory,” “strange attractors,” etc. I’d be curious to see how my approach to the arts and humanities is faring.

  2. When agnostic says “the near-future looks pretty bright for those interested in the biological approach to studying humans and their ways”, what he really should be saying is “this approach has a certain amount of fashionable interest at the moment”, and I will add that it, too, will go the way of post-modernism and other fashions as time passes. 
     
    Agnostic says “Notice that while “IQ” goes through cycles about an increasing trend, its synonym “cognitive ability” shows exponential increase.” But agnostic’s own graphs show that the counts for “IQ” and “congnitive ability” combined in the most recent data is less than the counts for “IQ” alone back in the 1970s. Thus he is misinterpreting his data. 
     
    Agnostic says “”evolutionary psychology” is a safe term politically”. I say evolutionary psychology is an unmitigated crock of you-know-what, and I’m totally uninterested in listening to anybody who’s got something to say about it. Evolutionary psychology is as rubbishy as freudianism, and ain’t the least bit scientific. Because a whole lot of other people agree with me, it’s actually a politically dangerous term in many quarters.

  3. what he really should be saying is “this approach has a certain amount of fashionable interest at the moment”, and I will add that it, too, will go the way of post-modernism and other fashions as time passes. 
     
    Hopefully not, in the deep sense (obviously in the shallow sense, all theories are improved upon). Then again, maybe it will — until then, though, it will be nice to enjoy the enlightenment before civilization collapses under the weight of barbarian hordes once more. 
     
    I wonder what Peter Turchin or Ibn Khaldun would say about the rise and fall of big theories and the rise and fall of agrarian states — like, maybe the triumphant Darwinian people will begin to in-fight too much, fall apart as a group, and be taken over by a Marxist mob whose solidarity had grown due to their position on the frontier of academia. 
     
    We’ll just have to wait and see!

  4. “Evolutionary psychology is as rubbishy as freudianism, and ain’t the least bit scientific.” 
     
    What’s not scientific about it?

  5. It is fascinating that academics can adhere to the ideas of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, or Stalin and be taken seriously, while anyone who would do so for the ideas of Mussolini or Hitler would be made a total pariah. 
     
    I think the equation of Marx to Hitler (Stalin is fine, but I don’t think the academics are exactly falling over themselves in praise) is facile. It took intellects like Hayek’s to refute socialism back in the day. Anyone with more than shit for brains can refute Hitler.  
     
    The destructiveness of an idea simply isn’t the same thing as its stupidity, nor is either directly related to the malevolence / moral depravity of the people who thought them up. I don’t see what is gained by conflating obviously different concepts.


  6.  
    Self-identified “Marxist” governments were generally at their most popular in Western leftist circles precisely when they were at their most vile. The Webbs’ “Soviet Communism: A new civilization?” (1935) writes approvingly of Stalin’s regime at its moment of maximum evil. Similarly, the moment when Western leftists like Jean-Luc Godard were most likely to self-identify as “Maoist” was during the Cultural Revolution. 
     
    You need to watch this: 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sn_L3fcZXL8&feature=PlayList&p=86D7333B88EE60F7&index=0

  7. Insofar as evolutionary psychology is scientific, it can be verified and/or falsified. And, insofar as biological approaches to literature involve testable hypotheses, it will have more longevity than mere fashions such as Marxism and deconstruction. For example, I developed a theory that meaningful words in literary texts will have a fractal distribution through the text. I tested that theory on Thomas Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure,” and was able to show that there did seem to be a fractal distribution of theme words such as “friend,” but not of non-theme words such as “love.” One could prove or disprove this by showing that literary texts do or do not have fractal (and I would also include biotic) patterns of word distributions across texts throughout time, and in different languages. So these scientific approaches are not in fact anything like the fads of the past any more than Newtonian physics or Darwinian theory of evolution are fads.

  8. What about Executive Function (EF)?

  9. http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/06/25/winner-4/

  10. Nice try georges, but here’s one time when the comparison is apt, since lots of academics *did* support the communist counterparts of Hitler and Mussolini.

  11. one should read Wolin’s “The Seduction of Unreason” to see that the postmodernists’ ideas are primarily founded in a combination of fascist and Marxist ideas. Heidegger, for example, was an unrepentant Nazi, and one simply cannot have pomo without him.

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