Here is a deep truth:
Ideas are not responsible for the people who believe in them.
Very often in human societies, a repulsive idiot will latch onto an important idea.
The human herd will be naturally repelled by the idiot, and they will assume that his idea should not be discussed.
This is wrong.
A good idea can be babbled from the mouth of a fool. Disregard the fool and consider the idea.
Now, then, the idiot who is getting press lately is P. Z. Myers:
And his good idea is that Rollo’s “Sexual Market Value” chart is badly designed, even incoherent.
First, the SMV axis. What are the units? There aren’t any. Why? Because he doesn’t actually measure anything. Get that? All of the values in this chart are arbitrary inventions that he totally made up. The entire thing is a fiction.
Second, the whole concept of “Sexual Market Value”. What does that even mean? It’s dimensionless. He doesn’t have a way to look at any person and say, “Your market value is X”. It doesn’t even make sense to put this into a chart;
There are two good points in there.
1 – The chart is entirely arbitrary. It’s Rollo’s seat-of-the-pants impression based on Rollo’s entirely unsystematic observation of a phenomenon. It’s not even worthy of the term “empiricism.”
2 – The use of numbers on the chart makes the phenomena look much neater than they really are. “Value” isn’t a simple scalar, and even if it were, Rollo has no accurate way of measuring it.
What has happened is that Rollo has taken a huge, tangled mess of phenomena – namely the sexual marketplace – and abstracted away most of the details, leaving only the roughest outlines.
So, yeah, Rollo’s chart is crap, and if we had paid for it, we would demand our money back. If he tried to publish it in our science journal, we would send him back a very sharply worded rejection letter.
But guess what? Rollo didn’t charge us any money for his chart, and we’re not running a peer-reviewed academic journal. If we want to talk about this tangled mess of phenomena called the sexual marketplace, the onus is on us to collect better data than Rollo, to write a better analysis than Rollo, and generally to demonstrate that we are better at science than Rollo.
For example, Rollo, doesn’t measure market value – that doesn’t mean market value is unmeasurable – it means that we have to get a real psychologist with experience in measuring human behavior to write the experimental design proposal.
And what does Rollo himself say?
Whether it’s about refuting its accuracy or comparing how my instinctual understanding of SMP valuations gel with more scientific studies, that graph has become a benchmark, or at least the starting point, for a better understanding of comparative SMV over the course of a subjective lifetime.
It sounds to me like he doesn’t mind if a real scientist – e.g. a physician or anthropologist – goes ahead and collects data to blow his chart out of the water. He doesn’t mind if his theory gets trashed by a newer, better theory. That’s the attitude we expect from scholars – nullius in verba. Don’t take his word for it – do your own investigation.