Last weekend, Satoshi Kanazawa wrote in Psychology Today that black women are considered less attractive than other women but black men are considered more attractive than other men.   Being a good evolutionary psychologist, he set out to do a 'whatsupwiththat?' article and map some data to that topology and piece the whole thing together.

As you can imagine, it will involve sex and surveys of college students.  This is evolutionary psychology, after all.  As you can also imagine, Psychology Today was thrilled at the prospect of all those controversial pageviews but, apparently, some psychobabble kookiness is too much for even them - and they loved his claiming things like that pretty people have more daughters and liberals are more intelligent than conservatives so their boundaries are fairly broad.

The standard line for this kind of gibberish is that the writer is examining 'hard truths' and taboo subjects, where others fear to tread, etc., but really it is more like he thought 'that black woman is unattractive but I see a lot of attractive black men' and decided to science it up with a diagram.  So what?  It isn't even the goofiest thing to come out of evolutionary psychology this month, so why the hubbub?  Well, black men were not complaining about being better looking than white guys and hispanics, but black women couldn't have been all that pleased reading that they are uglier than everyone else but think they are much hotter.    Let's look into the mind of Kanazawa once again.   Bring goggles. 

Satoshi Kanazawa
See?  If it is has a chart, it must be good science.

This chart tells you what he was talking about but doesn't tell the whole story and Psychology Today has pulled the article so you need to rely on Google cache to giggle on the actual article.    This piece, and its legacy, has apparently taken on a life of its own among broad Internet webizens but barely got any notice here, aside from one blogger who used data even more sketchy than Kanazawa to validate he is a racist.

Since you can't read it, his article has all kinds of science-y sounding words so his conclusion had that element of truthiness Psychology Today readers usually like.  He's got 'factor analysis' which supposedly eliminated any random measurement errors - no, seriously, he said 'eliminate' - but what does that even mean?  It means correlation to him and that is all that mattered.

Basically, he asked people some questions and then had them rate the attractiveness of someone, but how many?  He doesn't say and to do even a modest factor analysis you need 10 subjects per variable and 100 minimum so this may have been junk right out of the gate.

And then there's the core issue of whether or not they are attractive at all.    Rating someone 0 to 5 sounds pretty arbitrary but blowing up your career at the London School of Economics over the conclusions he draws from that is downright crazy.   And believe me, he had the grudging support of progressives saying goofy stuff like that they are 'evolutionarily' more intelligent than conservatives, but he is not going to get away with this. Black woman have a higher BMI than average, he says, and that is bad for a variety of reasons, but is it really bad to the current generation?    Jessica Simpson, back when she was doing that "Dukes of Hazzard" movie, had to get butt implants because hers was not big enough.  In fact, girls are getting butt implants all over the place - some even die from it - so they can look more like black women.   

So, armed with barely circumstantial data he made an obvious (yet kind of silly) correlation and rationalized it with
The only thing I can think of that might potentially explain the lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women is testosterone. Africans on average have higher levels of testosterone than other races, and testosterone, being an androgen (male hormone), affects the physical attractiveness of men and women differently. Men with higher levels of testosterone have more masculine features and are therefore more physically attractive. In contrast, women with higher levels of testosterone also have more masculine features and are therefore less physically attractive.
"The only thing I can think of that might potentially " - that's three qualifiers in one sentence.   If that doesn't hit about 8.3 on your Bullshit Richter Scale, I don't know what will.

Now, I couldn't find anything to corroborate that Africans - much less the bulk of American black women, since the importation of slaves was outlawed by Thomas Jefferson in 1808 - have more testosterone 200 years of marriage later so it seems like he was just making up nonsense.  Do they?   Who measured that?   How big was that sample size?

In defense of the Psychology Today folks, and I do so despite the fact they have tried to poach practically every writer we have to give their network some credibility, they didn't read this thing first.    They knew who he was and invited him to write there and knew what they were getting but they don't have editorial control over him.  

I tried to look around for other perspectives, basically one that is not an old white guy like me or some shrill, lefty do-gooder reflexively saying how awesomely beautiful all women are, and found Chinonye O. at Purple Rain, and she was surprised at his maybe racism because he was Asian.   Her piece is pretty good, so give it a read, but the notion that anyone with an Asian name, much less a Japanese one - they are arguably the most xenophobic people on the planet - couldn't be racist was funny.

But the real problem is not Kanazawa.  Every discipline has someone who creates a goofy study.  Others criticize it, science moves on.    The problem is evolutionary psychology is chock full of this stuff and virtually no one inside the field is willing to police their own.   Marc Hauser just got suspended for questionable practices.  And now they have taken to fuzzy epigenetics to make the picture of the human condition even murkier.    

Here are other outstanding samples of evolutionary psychology studies.    What surprises me is that people are shocked by virtually anything that comes out of the field.  But if you like this stuff, here is more quality science you can enjoy.

Why We Love Evolutionary Psychology - People Assign Personalities To Cars, Says Study

Stop The Madness - Female Shopping Is Evolution And The Mall Is The Lab?

Nail Is To Sex As Hammer Is To Evolutionary Psychology?


Men Forgive Girlfriends Who Cheat - If It's With A Woman

Atheists And Liberals More Intelligent, Says Atheist, Liberal Psychologist

Chess, Psychoanalysis, Evolutionary Psychology And The Nature Of Pseudoscience

Evolutionary Psychologists Sex Up Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs

Is This Your Brain on Evolution?

There's Science To Dancing Also - bonus, Lady Gaga!

'Personality Gene' Makes For Great Tits

Evolutionary Psychology – The Good, The Bad Or The Ugly?

You Are Being Manipulated By Flowers

Does Selective Brain Damage Underpin Spirituality?

Bagpipes, The Sound Of Cheese And What Evolution Can Teach Us About Cowardice