Friday, February 15, 2008

Kilian Garvey, Super Genius

Some of my readers may remember an announcement I posted from August of 2006 regarding a talk by Kilian Garvey called "A Neuropsychological Explanation of Creationist and Evolutionary Beliefs", in which, along with, I suppose, creationist and evolutionary beliefs, we were to be treated to a discussion of such pressing explananda as handedness, "right-wing authoritarianism", toleration of ambiguity, the need for cognition, the need for cognitive closure, and the emotions, all to be explained, apparently, in a remarkably mechanistic and reductionist way via two neuropsychological attributes: the structure of the corpus callosum (well, in some people, anyway) and an "overactive sympathetic ("fight or flight") nervous system.

Well, the Wile E. Coyote of the New England Institute has struck again, this time with the following talk:
Vomit, Feces and Sin: Disgust Sensitivity and Social Cognition
Kilian Garvey, Ph.D.

St, Francis Room, Ketchum Library
University of New England
11 Hills Beach Road
Biddeford, Maine

Wednesday, February 6th at 6PM

While it is well established that avoidance of disgusting things (maggots, vomit, feces) is strongly correlated with avoidance of immoral thoughts or behaviors (pedophilia, slavery, dishonesty) the mechanism responsible for this connection is not immediately clear. Does a heightened sense of morality lead to a heightened sense of disgust, or do individual differences in disgust sensitivity result in differential perceptions of what is morally acceptable?

An evolutionary analysis of primary and complex disgusts suggests that the mechanisms used to avoid oral incorporation of pathogenic substances have been drafted to help societies avoid behaviors that unhealthy for the group and that political, social, religious, and artistic preferences are partially determined by evolutionarily selected biological dispositions.
I'm sorry to have missed that one but let me say right off the bat here that I'm sure it was every bit as interesting and informative as it looks. I don't want to be misunderstood on that point: not long after posting some rather skeptical remarks about Garvey's earlier talk I received numerous emails explaining to me that I was being unprofessional, including one that contained a thinly veiled threat to reveal my lack of collegiality to officials at Ohio University. If only some neuropsychologist would undertake to study the aetiology of academic insecurity among the self-styled "Brights", we might be able to make some real progress in the area of "reductive-materialist authoritarianism".


John Farrell said...

...the mechanism responsible for this connection is not immediately clear...

Oh, boy. I'm going to invoke Zippy's aphorism: "Real life: better than any parody."

Scott Carson said...

Hey, publish or perish, man. I've been there.

DimBulb said...

Hmm, I wonder if my aversion to listening to PH.D.'s deliver talks is the result of the disgust I feel when people spray me with spittle as they speak.

mrsdarwin said...

What about parents who not only can't avoid vomit or feces, but have to clean them up regularly? All pedophiles?

On the other hand, I will actively avoid maggots any time, any where.