13 March 2011

The evolution of homophobia, continued

On Twitter, hectocotyli just pointed me to another discussion of the problems with Gordon Gallup's case for an adaptive function to homophobia (and linked to my take in connection, for which, thanks). Jon Wilkins goes into more detail on the general problem that evolutionary psychology too often accepts plausibility as the standard of proof for adaptive hypotheses.
In fact, it is trivially easy to come up with a plausible-sounding evolutionary argument to describe the origin of almost any trait. More importantly, it is often just as easy to come up with an equally plausible-sounding argument to describe the origin of a hypothetical scenario involving the exact opposite trait.
I think Wilkins is a little too polite in some regards; Gallup's hypothesis doesn't even qualify as "plausible" in the context of what we know today about its ugly component assumptions. (And what, by the way, Jesse Bering should have known before dredging up Gallup's articles from well-deserved obscurity.) Nevertheless, Wilkins broadens the discussion to address scientific reasoning more generally, and the post is worth reading in its entirety.

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