"Science Vs." Science

2017-09-12

I listen to a few too many podcasts. One of them is Science Vs. It seems right up my alley. I'm a believer of science. I think the show probably mostly preaches to the choir but I still enjoy it. Wendy Zukerman sounds a lot like my sister, fun, likes dumb jokes, puns, fart noises, etc. It sounds like we'd get along great.

There was an episode a few months ago entitled True Love. Their own description:

What is love? With half of first time American marriages ending in divorce by the 20th anniversary, and infidelity being widespread, Science Vs asks: have we been lied to by our love songs?

On today’s episode we explore: What happens to the brain when we fall in love? Is the compulsion to stay together biological? And, is monogamy really unnatural? We talk to Dr. Helen Fisher, Professor Larry Young, and Dr. Dieter Lukas about their labors of love.

I'd probably have to listen to it again but from what I remember much of the show Wendy kept bringing up cheating vs monogamy and it really bugged me because those are not opposites. The opposite of cheating is being honest. The opposite of monogany is polyamory or open relationships or maybe even serial monogamy depending on your definition.

Wendy though seemed to be trying to defend cheating as normal, okay, expected. Maybe it is but then by they definition murder is normal. Murder has always existed so therefore ... we should be okay with it? Cheating has always existed so we should be okay with it?

The issue is cheating = dishonesty and it doesn't seem like we should value dishonesty. If you're in a relationship you have many more options than cheating. You can get out of the relationship for one. You can try to negociate an open relationship (not that I expect success there). My point is your options are not limited to "I want to sleep with someone else therefore I must lie". No, you don't have to lie. It doesn't seem like we should encourage lying.

She also never brought up the argument that monogamy could have evolved to protect children which might be a winning genetic adaptation. Long term raising of children until they're adults means more sharing of knowledge which means offspring can build on parent's experience, something no other animal I'm aware of really does. In other words I'm saying that humans have technology that advances over time, something other animals do not or at least not to the same extent so it's possible we're at genetically dispositioned for family units to share that learing? I'm not saying it is this way and maybe it's been disproven but she never brought it up. She instead just assumed that spreading your genes by having as many partners as possible is the winning strategy and never considered her logic might be wrong in a broader scope.

And that's really my problem with the show.

I'm old (52) and when I started college back in 1983 I was given a book to read. I don't remember the name of the book but it was about writing college papers and it said you should bring up all the counter arguments to your point and discredit each one of them so show why your conclusion is best. I'm paraphrasing, maybe that's not quite how it put it but that's my shortened memory of it.

Well, Wendy never does that. She picks one scientist that shares her P.O.V., presents their opinion/theory and then says "See! Science says X!"

I wrote the show about this episode. Here's my message

Hello Gimlet and Wendy,

I love your shows and especially Science VS

The latest episode, True Love, seemed a little less researched than many though.

First of all cheating is not the opposite of monogamy. Cheating in relationship means doing something behind someone's back without their permission and/or knowledge. You promised to be with only them and then "cheated". You can also break up "I love you but we're no longer a match". You can have an open relationship. It was a little frustrating Wendy kept framing it as cheating being the only alternative.

She also never brought up the argument that monogamy could have evolved to protect children which might be a winning genetic adaptation. Long term raising of children until they're adults means more sharing of knowledge which means offspring can build on parent's experience, something no other animal I'm aware of really does. In other words I'm saying that humans have technology that advances over time, something other animals do not or at least not to the same extent so it's possible we're at genetically dispositioned for family units. I'm not saying it is this way and maybe it's been disproven but she never brought it up. She instead just assumed that spreading your genes by having as many partners as possible is the winning genetic strategy and never considered her logic might be wrong.

Here's a recent article from Scientific American on that topic

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/human-monogamy-has-deep-roots/

Here's another with different reasons

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/02/science/monogamys-boost-to-human-evolution.html

Finally what we do genetically and what we do for society are different. Genetically pretty much all animals commit murder of others of their same species. So is therefore murder something we should sanction? Personally I would say "Cheating" (as in lying to someone or breaking a promise) is something people should avoid in general as it's better for society at large. We do actually have laws against cheating in certain circumstances. We have contracts to prevent cheating in business. We have laws against insider trading, a form of cheating. Laws against lying and fraud. We don't have laws against cheating on relationships but most people would argue that cheating is still a "bad behavior" and one that we try to teach people not to do just like we teach them not to murder and steal. People of all societies have murder, stealing, even slavery has existed forever and still exists today and yet we don't just say "that's human nature, oh well"

That doesn't meant people should be monogamous. Rather it suggests rather than "cheat" they should decide what they want and then behave ethically toward others while that pursuing their wants. That can mean open relationships. It can mean serial monogamy. Whatever, but doesn't have to mean lying and cheating. Cheating is a distinct behavior, separate from having multiple partners serially or in parallel.

Hoping Wendy will do a future show with a little more balance and actual science rather than the "well, all animals and cheat therefore science says cheating is normal". Again, not a very useful conclusion since the same is true of many behaviors we consider not good for society at large.

It was sent in a frame of honestly trying to be constructive. Like the college book suggested if you don't discredit the wrong ideas then you're only leaving me to bring up all the objections. Your program isn't really "Science Vs". It's "Wendy's Opinion Vs.". I want to know why the other ideas are wrong.

Anyway, that would have been it and I wouldn't have given it a second thought, that is until the latest episode.

After the main topic is over there's a conversion between Wendy and a few other podcasters talking about how they deal with comments. I'm probaby being unchartiable here but if I was to summerize what I took away it's that if you disagree with Wendy than you're evil. If you suggest maybe she should be a little more balanced it's coming from a place of misogyny. That you believe because she's a woman she can't do the research herself and can't be trusted.

Now I doubt her comments were about my email specifically but I couldn't help but be massively disappointed in what I percieved to be her attitude. Basically it appears she doesn't think like a scientist. Instead she thinks she's always right and anyone who disagrees is a woman hater. Really? Is that really what she thinks?

I guess I just find this new world really really scary. You can't question anything or your considered an evil right wing fox news watching gamegate racist misogynist. I've written to plenty of other programs. This American Life, Radiolab. They never suggested because I didn't agree or because I felt they didn't present and/or discredit other ideas that therefore I was an evil hateful person. I really want do want to know what counter ideas are wrong or less likely.

Oh well, I guess that format wasn't for me anyway. Unsubscribed.

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