I don't really need to do my own take down at this point. The basic problem that everyone had was that the studies were poorly designed and didn't really support the conclusion that they claimed to. The authors correlate grip strength increases during ovulation with being able to over power an attacker. They also correlate avoidance of rapists with ovulation by doing surveys about how likely women are to go into dangerous situations, and also how racist they are. The studies and the original article construct rape as the black-dude-in-the-bushes type of attack that make up a minority of rapes, and they examine rape avoidance as a strategy to avoid pregnancy only- as if there is not any advantage to not being traumatized.
This is pretty standard at this point. It is the same old stuff that has been plaguing evolutionary psychology research for a long time now. There is an extra element of sillyness in the "research" of rape avoidance that was put together in the original article though, check out this experiment:
the original study used dildos inserted into “realistic latex vagina[s] sold as a masturbation pal for lonely straight men” that had been filled with an artificial substance cooked up to mimic sperm.
that supposedly supports the theory that human penises are shaped in such a way to remove competing sperm. I have a feeling, now more than ever, that evolutionary psychologists who do this kind of shit watch a lot of porn. A lot of it. It colors their world view in a way that is hilarious and sad to normal people. Once again a huge fucking gap appears when one realizes that this doesn't really show any evidence that removing someone elses sperm with that method would actually have an effect on whose sperm ends up impregnating the hypothetical woman. Many people pointed out how especially bad this experiment was because of the existence of foreskins, and the lack of foreskin available on dildos.
PZ Myers took a lot of offense at how shitty that experiment was, and the evolutionary psychologist responsible (Jesse Bering) wrote a really whiny response that I cannot quite wrap my head around:
In his post, Myers uses my discussion of the evolution of the human penis as a prime example of the sloppy work being done in the study of evolution and human behavior. He pillories psychologist Gordon Gallup's famous "dildo study," which suggests that the distinctive mushroom-capped shape of the penis might serve to scoop a competitor's semen out of the vagina. (I described this work at long, intimate length in two prior articles in Scientific American.) Myers calls this penis study "tripe" because Gallup and his colleagues failed to show how variations in penis shape within a population--and variations in how the penis is used for coital thrusting--directly affect fertilization rates. Instead, the researchers relied on dildos of different designs, surveys of college students' detailing their sexual behaviors, and a batch of artificial semen.
Now, I can only assume that Myers has not had to face a university human-research ethics committee in the past several decades. If he had, he would realize that his suggested empirical approach would be unilaterally rejected by these conservative bureaucratic gatekeepers. Does Myers really believe that these seasoned investigators wouldn't rather have done the full experiment he describes--if only they lived in a less prudish and libellous university world? The fact of the matter is that research psychologists studying human sexuality are hamstrung by necessary ethical constraints when designing their studies. Perhaps Myers would be happy enough to allow investigators into his bedroom to examine the precise depth and vigor to which he plunges into his wife's vaginal canal after they've been separated for a week, but most couples would be a tad more reticent. Gallup's dildo study, and his related work on penis evolution, offered an ingenious--ingenious--way to get around some very real practical and ethical limitations. Is it perfect? No. Again, the perfect study, conceptually speaking, is often the least ethical one, at least as deemed by research ethics committees. But was it driven by clear, testable, evolutionary hypotheses? Yes. And it offered useful information that was otherwise unknown.
Several of the other points are exactly the same as this one; he whines about how he can't do the experiments needed to actually prove anything, so we are supposed to not be so mean when he conducts experiments that are kind of what is needed to answer the questions, but cannot possibly do so. He doesn't actually get around to arguing against the criticism itself- like saying that the experiment did prove something, just how he is doing the best he can folks- can't you cut him some slack already? I am sure that these things come up a lot during peer review in every kind of science, right? Other evolutionary psychologists flock to the criticisms to defend what they do as being real science, and as always it is hard to take em seriously. I haven't seen any actually condemn the attitude of Bering, which is directly opposed to the idea of valuing truth. You cannot value truth and behave this way. These dudes aren't interested in finding real answers, just feeling like they are right and that the world is how they think it is. Fuck them.
I can expect this kind of whining out of a lay person trying to prove something to a friend, but not from someone who has some kind of training in doing real science.
Even regular psychological studies don't pull this shit, and they have the same ethical limitations that Bering is complaining about in his response.
I picture myself as a scientist, trying to answer the questions that Bering attempted to with his dildo study, and coming up against the limitations of what can be done, I am left with two options:
1. Try to do something anyway, publish the results as support despite the serious problems
2. Don't do the fucking experiment because it doesn't really prove anything and is therefore an enormous waste of time
I picture myself as going with option 2 when faced with such a dilemma. The fact that Bering went with option 1, then proceeds to whine about it as though anyone should feel sorry that he acted so foolishly, makes me wonder if he has even a basic understanding of the scientific method. Harsh criticism is what makes for progress and improvement. If anything was allowed through and called science because, gee golly you guys, he really was trying and all, and they did do this horribly designed and meaningless study inside a real actual lab...then what the fuck would science be for anymore? If you can't provide some kind of meaningful evidence of some sort then don't do it. If you do go through with it don't get mad at people for finding a problem with the research.
The thing that really pisses me off about defenders of this bullshit is that they don't seem to understand that making public statements about the nature of rape isn't a politically neutral act-it has the potential to hurt rape victims, supports rapists, and make people who aren't perpetrators or victims care less about rape. I don't think that science is anywhere near being able to work out the origins of complex psychological behavior, because the mechanisms of it aren't even understood. In the mean time shutting the fuck up or giving support to rape victims seems like a much better goal for these dudes.