If you read blog comments or follow discussions on Facebook or Twitter, you probably know by now that a few people are relatively desperate for everyone to know about this interview that Rebecca Watson did with Swedish Skepchick back when she was in Europe for the Berlin World Skeptics Congress. There are various parts of it they would like you to pay attention to, but, well, we’ve already discussed priming once this go ’round.
Still, since this is apparently now an important interview, it will be good if everyone has full access to the whole thing. In order to facilitate that, and to keep the utility of quote mining to a minimum, I’ve produced a transcript.
You will find the occasional [?], which indicates this is my best guess at what was said. You will also find the occasional number in brackets. That refers to text that follows the transcript. However, I still suggest you read the entire thing (or listen to the full interview) before reading any of my take on things.
[Interview begins with about a minute of introduction and joking about minions needing to bring Rebecca drinks.]
Technicolor: You have been talking about evolutionary psychology and the problems with this. So maybe you can summarize a little bit what you have been talking about.
Rebecca: Yeah. Basically I used my talk as an opportunity to slam evolutionary psychology for half an hour, [laughs] cause– 
T: Good thing. [?]
R: Yeah, well, it’s been building up for a while. I just get so tired of seeing. “Women evolved to shop”, “Women evolved to like the color pink”, “Women evolved to be terrible at math and logic.”
T: Oh, yeah. And “Men are evolved to rape”.
R: Yeah. “Men evolved to rape.” Uh, yeah. I mean, the thing is, once you look past the headlines and actually look at the studies, what you see over and over and over again is pseudoscience being passed off as science.  You know, they have tons of assumptions that they don’t support with the evidence, and they make up Just-So stories that seem to fit the facts. And it only ends up reinforcing stereotypes, which does harm to all of us.
T: Can you tell us a little bit more about evolutionary psychology, what the field actually is?
R: Yeah. Well, evolutionary psychology is the idea that humans evolved during the Pleistocene epoch, which we did. But also that our brains evolved, which they did. But that our brains stopped evolving then, so that we currently have Pleistocene brains inside modern bodies. And they…. This isn’t necessarily supported by any evidence, but what they do is look to our Pleistocene ancestors in order to explain present-day behaviors.  And what I and a lot of scientists find is that those behaviors are often better explained by certain cultural influences and not as something that’s necessarily innate in the brain or in the genes.
T: Also, it seems that they are basically guessing a lot.
R: Yeah, a lot of it does seem to be. Like one of the examples I give in my talk is this “women evolved to shop” idea, in which a researcher says that women gathered while men hunted, so shopping is like gathering and visiting cultural institutions is like hunting. And so he relates all those things together without actually giving any more thought or evidence.
T: I have a hard time seeing why visiting cultural things is hunting?
R: Yeah. Yeah. And why, you know, in English, we use phrases like “bargain hunting” to explain shopping, so why can’t shopping be related to hunting? Why doesn’t this explain why men evolved to shop? And add on top of that the fact that scientists just don’t know what we were up to during the Pleistocene. You know, we have no fossilized brains, for starters, and it’s very difficult to piece together what a culture looked like that long ago. So what a lot of researchers do is they look to current-day, hunter-gatherer cultures. However, a lot of evolutionary psychologists pick and choose what they learn from those cultures. For instance, the assumption that women were gatherers and men were hunters. That’s not necessarily borne out by what we see in a lot of hunter-gatherer cultures. A lot of them have the women doing a fair amount of hunting and the men helping gathering, but this is conveniently ignored by evo psych. And I’ll also mention that there are a lot of researchers who think that we can’t even look at current-day hunter-gatherer cultures because they’ve been so influenced by agrarian cultures that they’re no longer an accurate portrayal of what was happening in the Pleistocene. 
T: Why do you think there is such a need to interpret these…made-up findings, I guess you can say, to support that women are this and that? Because it seems like it’s a very common theme in evolutionary psychology.
R: It’s women and it’s minorities. There are also a lot of “People of color have lower IQ”, “Africans have lower IQ, and that’s how they evolved”. You know, there’s a lot of pseudoscience about them as well, and I do think it’s a product of our culture, our culture which…. I think there are people who hold misogynist, racist, bigoted ideas, but they value science, and so they will seek out what they consider science in order to support their prejudice. And it’s been happening since the beginning of time. I mentioned during my Q&A that evolutionary psychology is not a new thing. It’s becoming more and more popular in the last few years, but it’s actually evolved from other things, like Social Darwinism, which, you know, got into a lot of trouble over eugenics and things like that. You know, so they change names and they slightly change their viewpoints. So, it’s not a new thing, and I do think it’s a result of people simply trying to use science to call their prejudice natural. 
T: You think there are any evolutionary psychology findings that are actually supported by science?
R: I’m sure there are. I’m sure that there are–there must be–evolutionary psychologists out there who are very careful with their work and who don’t make large pronouncements like one I mentioned in my talk: “This proves conclusively that men value sex and women don’t.” You know, something like along those lines. I’m sure there are researchers who come to a conclusion more like “It’s inconclusive whether such and such occurred.” There may even be people who are actually searching out biological evidence for the idea that our behaviors are evolved from the Pleistocene, but, you know, they’re not the ones who are making the headlines because that’s not what the mainstream media wants.  And they’re not even the ones who are making the headlines in publications like Psychology Today, for instance, where we saw things like why black women are rated as less attractive than white women, why black women basically evolved to be less attractive. I mean just pure racist claptrap in Psychology Today.  You know, these are the stories that get thrown[?]. These are the ones we need to stand up and rebut. 
[Interview ends with general talk about Skepchick.]
Now for my takes:
 Despite the laughter, this has been pointed to as evidence that Rebecca was looking to bash the entire field of evolutionary psychology. Me? I think the laughter makes it impossible to tell which part of this she meant seriously, if any.
 I consider this a pretty clear indication that the science behind the media portrayals is Rebecca’s topic.
 This is the first of the descriptions that Ed Clint calls “misleading”. His rebuttal, however, is more along the lines of, “Well, basically yes, but here’s why.”
 This is the fifth of Ed’s point, labeled (if I’m reading the colors correctly) as “false” based on the claim that evolutionary psychologists “only lean heavily on non-controversial facts about the past”. This, of course, is a claim that can be falsified by a single controversial claim from an evolutionary psychologist about the past.
 There are two ways to read this. The first is that Rebecca is claiming that evolutionary psychology makes claims about minorities and is a scientific descendent of Social Darwinism. This would mean that Rebecca has come completely adrift from reality. The second is that Rebecca is talking about the cultural role that evolutionary psychology is playing, in response to a question to that effect, and is saying that the motivated research involved is a cultural descendent of Social Darwinism. That would mean she’s answering the question, but not being nearly as clear as she could be. Which is more likely?
 This is a significantly clearer answer to the question than she gave in her Q&A at Skepticon. It is also a good description of being appropriately cautious in describing results and points out a real weakness of evolutionary psychology as a whole. Some of this research is indeed being done, but far too much relies on survey data.
 This was actually a post in the Psychology Today blog network, where Kanazawa has a blog. It was taken down quite some time ago, however, and there are multiple sources that refer to it as a Psychology Today article or column. Some confusion is understandable.
 That’s a very good description of what many of us took from Rebecca’s talk at Skepticon.