June 18, 2014

If you really believe faces evolved to absorb punches

I'm sure a number of my science minded friends saw the story last week about two University of Utah professors who claim, in the worst Pop Ev Psych idea since Randy Thornill claimed that rape was evolutionarily adaptive, that australopithecine faces evolved their heavy brow ridges to better absorb punches. (Here's a good, straight-up takedown by  Brian Switek.)

First, given the last prior stupidity to come out of the University of Utah, my first counterargument is that, in that case, our eyes evolved to see the certainty of room-temperature cold fusion.

Second, instead of pressures for intelligence, did Australopithecine brains start getting bigger to act as shock absorbers for their faces that allegedly evolved to absorb punches better?  Ergo, our neocortex is then that word that Pop Ev Psychers hate ... a SPANDREL!

So, I should thank my Australopithecine ancestry and lucky stars that a crude version of self-protection made me brilliant!

Third, does this explain the stereotypical beetle-browed look of modern violent criminals? Does it especially explain modern black criminality? Yes, I went there. Obviously, they kept the brow ridges that enlightened Caucasians lost when they moved out of Africa. And, of course, racialists like to take Pop Ev Psych just one step further.

Fourth, per a Tweet from Massimo Pigliucci, if you believe this trait extended unto modern homo sapiens, have you done rigorous testing on modern homo sapiens? Like, er, yourselves? No fair volunteering your fists for an old claim that the human hand evolved to punch. We're just talking about faces, so your volunteerism in the name of scientific research will be limited to that. I can work on finding volunteer fists for the other end  of the test myself. Maybe I'll start with some of those stereotypical beetle-browed African types, you know?

And, per my "second," above, the smarter you are on a good old IQ test, that means the better your brain is as a shock absorber, theoretically. In turn, that means your face must be punched harder and more often to test this extension of your theory.

We do know, or "know," per Steve Pinker, that we were Hobbesian brutes until recently, after all. So, surely, this arms race increased until some benighted, presumably Caucasian turning point.

One of the more laughable defenses of the pair I found was from someone on Facebook who claimed this didn't involved psychology. Really? Alleged increases in violence don't involve psychology? And, they don't involve evolutionary psychology when tied to claims about evolutionary biology? And, they don't involve Pop Ev Psych when stupidly tied together?

Alex, I'll take "Totally wrong British Facebook commenters" for $1,000, please!

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