It goes without saying that Thornhill and Palmer’s book does women an immense disservice. But even more depressing is the disservice these authors do to science. Over the past decade the once-golden image of science has been sorely tarnished, and there is a growing perception that scientists are an arrogant elite, many of whom are out of touch with ordinary people’s lives. When books like this offer up such a sloppy, illogical and downright lazy analysis of such a complex social problem, they only help to fuel that perception. If this is the kind of rubbish that “science” turns out, is it any wonder people are turning away?
Fortunately, the brand of Z-grade analysis that reigns in A Natural History of Rape is not indicative of the majority of scientific thinking, or of evolutionary thinking, and there are many scientists who find the current abuses of evolutionary psychology as irksome as I do. Those of us who love science and believe in its potential have an obligation to expose this nonsense for what it is. If we don’t, then who will?
A NATURAL HISTORY OF RAPE: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion By RANDY THORNHILL and CRAIG T. PALMER | MIT Press | 243 pages $29 hardcover
Margaret Wertheim is a regular contributor to theWeekly. This article first appeared inSalon magazine, at www.Salon.com. An online version remains in theSalon archives. Reprinted with permission.