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The Human Nature Review  2002 Volume 2: 118 ( 18 March )
URL of this document http://human-nature.com/nibbs/02/118.html


‘Alas poor evolutionary psychology’ by Robert Kurzban

From Dr. Matt Ridley


With reference to Robert Kurzban's excellent review of Alas Poor Darwin (Human Nature Review, 14th March), some insight into the methods employed to erect a straw man by the authors of that book can be gained from my experience.

In the first edition of the book, Hilary Rose stated (page 125) `Right-wing libertarian Matt Ridley sees Darwinian theory as pointing to the unnaturalness of the welfare benefits for lone mothers, which therefore should be abolished.' There was a footnote to my book ‘The Origins of Virtue'.

I wrote to Hilary Rose pointing out gently that neither in that book, nor anywhere else have I called for the abolition of welfare benefits for lone mothers. In fact I have not even mentioned lone mothers, let alone their welfare benefits. In reply, Hilary Rose huffed that it was the kind of thing I would believe (I don't) and therefore her remark was justified.

She did eventually agree to change it in the paperback edition. This now implies that I believe in the abolition of the National Health Service, which is news to me.

For the record, what I do argue in the book is that vesting too much power in a centralised state may not bring out the best in human nature compared with decentralised smaller-scale communitarianism. That may make me in one sense of the word libertarian, but it hardly makes me right wing.

Matt Ridley

© Matt Ridley


Ridley, M. (2002). 'Alas poor evolutionary psychology' by Robert Kurzban [letter to the editor]. Human Nature Review. 2: 118.

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