On the Irrational Instincts of Psychologists and Anthropologists

William Morton Wheeler was, like E. O. Wilson, an expert on social insects. In his book, “Social Life Among the Insects,” published in 1924, he wrote,

The whole trend of modern thought is toward a greater recognition of the very important and determining role of the irrational and the instinctive, not only in our social but also in our individual lives.

Oddly enough, the same statement would be as accurate today as it was then. Somehow, in the intervening years, we were derailed by the absurd behaviorist psychology of Skinner, Montagu, et.al., and the equally ridiculous “Not in our Genes” anthropology of Lewontin and Levins. Their work never really made any sense. For the most part, they were political ideologues, and their “science” was whatever was necessary to fit their narratives. For a time, and a long time, at that, politics trumped science in psychology and anthropology. For decades, it looked like Trofim Lysenko was winning.

Now, thanks to some remarkable advances, notably in neuroscience, but in many other scientific bailiwicks as well, the Montagus and Lewontins find themselves in a niche with such other variants of their species as the creation “scientists” where they have always belonged.

Since we have now come full circle, perhaps it would be well if the psychologists and anthropologists would leave off chasing the latest scientific trends for a time, and look back over their shoulders. They really owe us an explanation. How is it that people who claim to respect scientific truth were capable of deluding themselves and the rest of us for so long? What are the irrational aspects of our nature as human beings that made it possible for major branches of the sciences to be hijacked by political ideologues over a period of decades? Let them explain themselves. It would go a long way towards restoring their credibility.

Author: Helian

I am Doug Drake, and I live in Maryland, not far from Washington, DC. I am a graduate of West Point, and I hold a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin. My blog reflects my enduring fascination with human nature and human morality.

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