Cereal Box Textbooks

Last Updated on: 5th March 2023, 03:50 pm

Ok, I’m pissed off. I was writing this beautiful post, and then my computer decided to take a big cack of doom, and the post died with it. So I’m going to try and recreate the coolness that was that post.

The other day I was reading my Evolutionary Psychology textbook. Basically the premise of Evolutionary Psych is that, just as our bodies have evolved features to survive in the environment, so have our brains. but since the vast majority of human history in the big picture was spent in the stone age, a lot of our behaviour still fits that time. And there are some cases where that makes sense. They showed that we are a lot better at dealing with problems where you ask, “How many times in a given day is this likely to happen?” than we are when it’s asked, “What are the odds…?” because the ability to do probabilities was only realized a few hundred years ago, but we’ve always needed to count how many berries there are, how many times the big ugly beast with teeth and claws comes hunting, etc. Yep, I follow. That makes sense.

But then there are some cases where there seems to be no logical root to what they’re saying. It seems like science has gone straight out the window, and if we’re lucky, mad science has taken its place, and if not, some idiotic philosophy is all you get.

I was reading some of this shit the other day, and it made me so unbelievably mad that I could envision myself hurling things at the textbook. The chapter was on the evolution of abnormal psychology, or mental illness. First it tried to say that depression was a natural defense that kicked in when you’re losing a battle, you feel like the resources you’re spending are already too much, and it’s better to cut your losses. Hello, that’s not the way depressed people work. Instead of deciding to give up on one battle, they give up on *all* battles, except for the absolute bare essentials, and sometimes not even that much. How is that a beneficial trait? A defense? Choosing not to shower is not adaptive. Choosing to give up all your commitments and isolating yourself from family and friends is not adaptive. Ok ok ok, too modern for you? Choosing not to hunt for food is not adaptive. Not getting up to fend off predators is certainly not adaptive. How can they possibly even remotely think that they can explain depression this way? Just admit that you don’t know, shut up, and don’t give me this non-scientific what-if bullshit.

But the part that really got me mad was where they tried to say that suicide was adaptive, and evolved so that people who knew that they were a drain on resources and weren’t making babies would just kill themselves. Apparently this would also make their family members have more children because more resources would be available to them, so their genes would live on in their absence and they’d be the great glorious martyrs. First they tried to say that the elderly were most likely to commit suicide. I don’t know, but last time I checked stats, youth suicide rates were pretty damn high. I think the only thing that kills more young people are car crashes. Then they tried to say that homosexuals, people in hospitals and people in nursing homes and mental hospitals were high in suicidal thoughts. This was, in their opinion, because these people knew they couldn’t be sexually successful, so why not cash it in? Ok, wait a minute. How about the way they’re being treated? How about the fact that, at least gays and those in mental hospitals are shunned and treated badly by a lot of people. That has no effect at all? No no no. It’s because they can’t pop out a miniature collection of their genes and continue on the line! Ok, isn’t this a little unfair? After raling against psychology for saying that the environment is all-important and genes mean nothing for so many years, aren’t you just doing the exact same in reverse?

And finally, what in the good god damn gives these textbook authors the right to condone suicide as a possibly adaptive behaviour? Who the hell is ever a complete drain on resources? I don’t think there are many. And it pisses me right off that someone would even theorize that this is possible, and then back it up with flimsy scientific research! If you don’t know damn well about a statement like that, don’t! even! bother! publishing! it! It just makes you look bad, wastes precious paper, wastes our time, and could possibly give some suicidal people some dangerous ideas. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk about suicide. I’m just saying don’t say “Well, in some cases, maybe it’s a good idea.” That is never what anyone needs to hear, and shouldn’t have been published in the first place.

Ok I think I’m done. I just couldn’t believe I was reading what I was reading. I’ve seen horrible errors in textbooks before, but this was just unbelievably over the top, and I was absolutely appalled that it made it into the final draft without someone catching it and going, “Woe I don’t think that should get published.” I don’t believe in censorship, but I believe in the publishing of a good book!

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