The rise of the evolutionary psychology douchebag

[Apologies for the use of term "douchebag". I know, it's horrible and offensive for a whole host of other reasons.]

They believe that certain groups of people are inherently smarter than others. They write books about how rape is a natural part of human evolution. And now, with another scandal rocking the world of evolutionary psychology, we can officially welcome a new breed of mad scientist into the spotlight: evopsych douchebags.

Evolutionary psychology has often been a field whose most prominent practitioners get embroiled in controversy — witness the 2010 case of Harvard professor Marc Hauser, whose graduate students came forward to say he’d been faking evidence for years. Then there was the case of Diederik Stapel, whose social psychology work shared a lot of territory with evopsych. He came forward in late 2011 to admit that most of his data was sheer invention.

And the latest example of douchebaggery comes from University of New Mexico evopsych professor Geoffrey Miller. Back in early June, Miller decided to share some of his feelings about fat people with the world:

The rise of the evolutionary psychology douchebag

This isn’t just the usual trolling from a jerk on Twitter. This is a guy who is supposedly an expert on human psychology, which includes willpower, so he’s putting the weight of his profession behind this assertion. More importantly he is somebody who actually has the power to reject potential Ph.D. students from the University of New Mexico, based on his spurious and unfounded theories about fat. As anthropology professor Jason DeCaro said in response, Miller’s tweet could actually provide evidence in a discrimination suit:

Dear rejected UNM psychology applicants: save now-deleted tweet for potential lawsuit. Jerk. @matingmind pic.twitter.com/FxN4rpmRRD

— Jason DeCaro (@jason_decaro) June 2, 2013

Miller was immediately inundated with other angry tweets, including from NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen (who called Miller’s comment “astonishing” and “fat-shaming”).
Miller was immediately inundated with other angry tweets, including from NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen (who called Miller’s comment “astonishing” and “fat-shaming”). Within minutes, Miller deleted the tweet and issued an apology for his words. But then he went further, claiming that the tweet wasn’t his own opinion but was part of a research project he was conducting. And that’s when things got really weird.

Last week, the University of New Mexico issued a statement saying that it had conducted an investigation and that the tweet had nothing to do with Miller’s research at all. Instead, it was “self-promotional,” a raw, unvarnished opinion from a guy who still has tenure at a major research institution and is about to finish up a fancy, one-year appointment at NYU’s business school.

Rest: io9.com.

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