Confessions of a Saad Clown

“Evolutionary principle X is applied to study the salamander’s mating behavior. When the exact same principle & epistemology is used to study human mating behavior, clowns scream ‘just-so storytelling.’ The attacks on evolutionary psychology are largely rooted in ideological resistance and/or scientific ignorance.”—Gad Saad, Professor of Marketing @ The John Molson School of Business, Concordia University (Montreal, Quebec)

Fullscreen capture 2015-05-25 113934 PMI find the theory of evolution by natural selection quite convincing. It explains so much, and it does so elegantly. What’s more, I happen to be interested in the mating behavior of salamanders (truth be told, I’ve always been something of a wannabe herpetologist, much to my wife’s chagrin). Regardless, comparing the mating habits of humans and salamanders is absurd. Most salamanders come together (pun not intended) only during the mating season, and only for the purpose of procreation. They live out most of their solitary lives alone. The same cannot be said of human beings. We’re intensely social creatures, and, as a consequence, our mating behavior is (of necessity) inextricably bound up with a web of relationships that make particular forms of human social life possible. So to claim, as many evolutionary psychologists do, that human sexuality can be studied in an ahistorical fashion, without reference to its particular social context, is at best naïve; at its worst, it’s pseudoscience. If saying that makes me a clown, according to Gad Saad, so be it.

The sociological (or anthropological) explanation for human sexuality is, to my mind, almost always more convincing than the one provided by evolutionary psychology precisely because it’s less ambitious. It’s the difference between a map of Montreal that’s based on actual landmarks, actual features of the local landscape (e.g., the St. Lawrence River, Rivière-des-Prairies, Mount Royal, the Lake of Two Mountains, etc.) and a map of Montreal that’s based completely on assumptions about where true north, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Rockies are. Even if the first map is wrong about where north, south, east, and west really are, it’ll still be useful to you, it’ll still help you to get from point A to point B in the city. By contrast, the second map is completely useless to you if its assumptions about the cardinal points are wrong. And the assumptions behind evolutionary psychology are probably wrong; regardless, at any rate, they aren’t nearly as tried, tested, and true as the assumptions behind evolutionary biology. Evolutionary psychology needs to be seen for what it is: a squishy, speculative field filled with little boys who like to talk tough and play dress-up in daddy’s ill-fitting clothes.

—John Faithful Hamer, Twilight of the Idlers (2016)

p.s. Although I find some of his ideas maddening, you should know that Gad Saad (The Gadfather) is a great prof, an outstanding public intellectual, and a thoroughly decent guy. Like me, he loves a good fight. But he always fights fair. I wish I could say the same about all of his critics. Regardless, I’m glad that (for now!) we live in the kind of Open Society that makes it possible for the two of us to fight in peace. Gad’s not my enemy. But if you’re one of those people who wants to silence him, you are.

p.p.s. I encourage you to watch Gad Saad’s interview with Joe Rogan and make up your own mind.

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

4 thoughts on “Confessions of a Saad Clown

  1. An entire article based on a complete misunderstanding!

    In the quote at the top of your article, Gaad Sad is not saying that studying salamanders can teach us about humans. He is saying that evolution can be used to form theories of human behaviour, just as it can for salamanders. In the case of salamanders nobody complains when this is done. When it is done for humans people object due for ideological reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If that’s Gad’s true intention, Alex, I’ll gladly recant what I’ve written. But that intention isn’t evident in what he’s written in this piece. More importantly, however, as a discipline, evolutionary psychology has a long history of conflations of this kind, which make my reading of his piece that much more plausible. It’s absolutely necessary to distinguish between sexuality in solitary animals (like salamanders) and sexuality in extremely social animals (like us). Failure to do so seems (almost inevitably) to lead to the worst kid of pseudoscience: to the dressing up of reactionary views about gender roles in the white lab coat of science.


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