The Naked Classroom: The Evolutionary Psychology of Your Time at School
Jolly Heretic Publications, 2023
As a schoolboy, Ed Dutton decided he was a “humanities person.” He felt an immediate interest in the lives of his ancestors and the people around him, and so enjoyed learning about history and literature, which spoke to him of such things. Memories of eighth-grade lessons on stamens and pistils, on the other hand, still summon up feelings of “ennui and despair.” He couldn’t wait to turn sixteen so he would never have to take another science lesson again. How did such a child morph into a dissident evolutionary psychologist?
By discovering the relevance of science to all the things he was already interested in. History, for example, can be understood as Darwinian evolution in action:
Individuals and groups compete for power and resources under harsh Darwinian conditions and those who are best adapted to their environment survive. Computer models have shown that groups highest in “positive ethnocentrism” (in-group cooperation) and “negative ethnocentrism” (out-group hostility) dominate all other groups, all else being equal. Not only that, but people can pass on their genes indirectly and tend to favour people the more genetically similar they are to themselves. [This] makes sense of soldiers dying for their country or one ethnic group persecuting another. Why didn‘t we learn about this when we learnt about World War II?
Come to think of it, I have a pretty good notion why White British schoolchildren are not taught how outgroup hostility can help them prevail in the struggle for survival. But Dutton is certainly correct that teaching such things would make science lessons a whole lot more interesting—for all concerned.
Religion was another matter that excited the young Dutton’s curiosity. Churches were all over the place, and students prayed and sang hymns at school assemblies.
“Why are people religious?” I recall wondering, aged about 11. “Why do they tell us that Father Christmas isn‘t real, yet believe in a kind of invisible Father Christmas, who created the world?” Yes, I was that kind of child. Science classes could have explained to me that, in Darwinian terms, something is an adaptation if it is partly genetic, found in all cultures, [and] associated with mental and physical health and fertility. Religion is, therefore, an adaptation, and that is why otherwise perfectly rational people will believe it and engage in it. It is, in effect, an instinct, whereby a number of other instincts — following the leader, over-detecting agency [and] causation, the feeling of being watched (which makes you more pro-social), the feeling of being looked after (which guards against anxiety and despair) — are all selected for and, so, become bundled together.
Even math has aspects that make it relevant to the practicalities of our lives today; it teaches the student
to think logically, and this is vital to understanding the world and as a force against those who value power over reason. If somebody is forced to assert as true something which they know to be wrong — if they must assert that 2 + 2 = 5, for example — then they are humiliated; they have submitted to someone else‘s power. If Algebra and Trigonometry had been taught with these factors in mind, I would have had far more time for them.
In short, “Science is badly taught because it is not taught in a ‘based’ way, [i.e.,] with reference to fascinating, controversial yet accurate knowledge of the world, the kind of knowledge certain influential figures try to suppress.”
Dutton sees these powerful antiscientific authorities as driven by four psycho-social forces which amount to a version of Francis Bacon’s Four Idols of the Mind updated for the age of social media:
- Low Decoupling Ability, or the inability to distinguish questions of fact from questions about what ought to be. A recent illustration is the furor which ensued when Richard Dawkins made the elementary point that practical objections to eugenic breeding do not mean such breeding would be ineffective.
- Motivated Social Cognition, or the adoption of beliefs because they satisfy a psychological need.
- Concept Creep, such as the expansion of the idea of what is harmful or violent (“silence is violence”). Also applies to the expansion of a concept such as “racism” to encompass the entire universe.
- Catastrophization, or the extrapolation of disastrous conclusions from limited observations: e.g., the Third Reich will be reborn if “antiracist” activists suffer the slightest setback. (For some amusing recent examples of catastrophization in American politics, see here: link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjYOddl-CCA)
It does not matter how “progressive” the political preferences of a scientist may be: he will be viciously attacked by the anti-science brigade if he reports a finding contrary to their cherished world view. A recent illustration is the attack on
left-wing behavioural geneticist Kathryn Paige Harden who, in 2021, published The Genetic Lottery (Harden, 2021), a book that denounced all the “right” people, such as Charles Murray, and insisted that there was “zero evidence” for hereditarianism. Yet merely for talking about mainstream behavioural genetics, Harden was described in the Daily Beast as legitimizing “crypto-race science.” Behavioural genetics was described as “ethically abhorrent,” with the author suggesting that publishers “should refuse to participate” and need to recognize that the field is “actively harming people.”
But back to the classroom: every schoolboy notices that most of his teachers, especially in primary school, are women (in Dutton’s native Britain the figure is 85%). Evolutionary psychology could explain to them that
boys are attracted to jobs that involve systems and the manipulation of objects, and also status, because — being higher in testosterone — they are highly competitive: car mechanic, pilot, computer programmer and scientist. Girls massively migrate towards caring professions: general practitioners, social workers, nurses and, of course, primary school teachers. Even with academic subjects, you find this divide. Male doctors will be attracted by surgery; female doctors by psychiatry and paediatrics, in other words, caring about children or helping people talk through their psychological problems. When a profession becomes dominated by females, as has occurred with teaching [like academic psychology these days], it starts to be regarded as “women’s work” and, thus, of low status. This further repels men and the profession’s wages start to fall, making it even less prestigious.
In secondary school, the imbalance in favor of women teachers diminishes somewhat (27% of secondary teachers in Britain are men), but male teachers are heavily concentrated in certain subject areas such as math and science. Here, an evolutionary psychologist could explain to curious pupils that “the essence of science is systematizing and this is more attractive to the male mind,” and that “males are higher in spatial and mathematical intelligence,” which is necessary to the successful pursuit of science. Females, presumably because they are the ones who teach their children to speak, are higher in verbal intelligence.
And, of course, science had plenty to say (where permitted) about why East Asian students do so well in math, while Black students rarely excel outside of Phys Ed.
Even social class dynamics visible in the schoolroom can be illuminated, since there is an extent to which social classes are genetic clusters: “Experiments have found that people can correctly assess other people’s social class from facial clues to a greater degree than would be possible by chance.” The tendency for friendships to form within social classes rather than across them is an expression of inclusive fitness.
Playground bullying is a type of behavior that “can be found among non-human animals and in all human societies, and it is highly resistant to attempts to stamp it out. Accordingly, [it] may be an adaptation.” If so, “bullying must be partly heritable, it must elevate fertility and it must be associated with health.”
If bullying aided survival (and thus fertility) it would be elevated at times of want and this has been found in anthropological accounts of hunter-gatherer societies. Bullies are less likely to be picked on, less likely to be stressed and more likely to be healthy, and studies note direct evidence that bullies are healthier than those who are bullied, both physically and mentally.
Moreover, chicks dig bullies: male bullying implies status and dominance, physical prowess, social skill (not being the outcast oneself) and even intelligence (in the context of verbal bullying). For such reasons, Dutton is contemptuous of today’s anti-bullying campaigns, which are most likely to elevate the campaigners themselves into bullies over the rest of us.
Decades of pro-homosexualist propaganda seems to have had no effect on male adolescents, among whom “gay” remains the worst of insults: even math can be “gay” if a boy dislikes it enough. Might it not interest such youngsters to know why they have such strong negative feelings about homosexuality? Once again, evolutionary psychology has explanations. Here are just a few: homosexuality is maladaptive because no amount of homosexual behavior can ever have a reproductive payoff; it is an expression of developmental instability, indicating high mutational load and increased risk of mental instability; effeminate males may well be unreliable as defenders of the tribe; and homosexuals may be vectors of disease due to risky sexual practices.
Evolutionary psychology can also explain differences in male and female social behavior that are obvious even to children:
Males develop friendships in the context of a male band which fights other bands, and as a means of alliances to ascend the hierarchy of their own band. Female friendships are based around finding potential “alloparents” for their children or potential children. Such relationships must be close, as you are trusting these women with your babies; so females will cultivate a small number of intense, one-to-one friendships. The result of this system is that “new women on the scene” are not novel and interesting alliances in a large band that fights another band. They are dangerous rivals that may poach one’s carefully cultivated alloparent. As such, there is a degree to which all females that are not one of your potential alloparents are rivals and enemies, which can explain why bullying can be so nasty and spiteful among females.
While nasty, female bullying is less overt and physical than male bullying since females are both weaker and higher in anxiety. This is also why girls “play for status via covert methods. They virtue-signal, or attack the virtue of others, stressing their interest in ‘equality’ and ‘harm avoidance.’”
These are, of course, precisely the tactics of today’s “woke” left. If it has ever occurred to you that its methods are unmanly, you are onto something: the female (or effeminate male) bully avoids direct confrontation, engaging instead in “the adult equivalent of ‘telling the teacher’: complaining about a video online, calling the police, or some other act of brazen cowardice.” Dutton shares an illustrative personal anecdote:
In November 2021, I was in a bar in northern Finland [with some] members of Finland’s “Young Green League.” One was manifestly a man dressed as a woman. He hadn’t even made that much effort: he had stubble and extremely hairy arms. Nevertheless, he confidently used the women’s loo. Eventually, as he seemed quite friendly, I explained that my experience of people like them — the Greens, the Woke — was that they were unreasonable, aggressive, dogmatic, and could never brook any kind of disagreement.
“No, we’re not like that,” he chirpily replied.
“You mean you can have a calm, reasonable conversation about anything?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Okay, let’s talk about your autogynophilous transsexuality . . .”
At this, he recoiled, like a vampire presented with a crucifix, and hissed with a barely-suppressed glint of animal rage. I was then physically mobbed. They brought over their fat, tall, bearded friend to intimidate me into leaving the dance floor I was on.
“You have to go!” he declared.
No, I don’t,” I said. “This is a public bar.”
So he “told the teacher” – the landlord. I knew the landlord personally and he calmly appealed to me to please just stop talking to these people.
Of course, these are (disproportionately) the sort of people in charge of educating the rising generation in the West today, and making science class more interesting to the young Ed Duttons of the world is far down their list of priorities. If they do not adopt the program he suggests in The Naked Classroom, it is not for pedagogical reasons, but because they know they would soon have a revolution on their hands.