by Rae Paoletta
Originally published: August 7, 2017
On Saturday, Gizmodo published a 10-page-long screed written by Google software engineer James Damore blasting the company’s diversity policies. In the now-viral document entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” Damore asserts that women are biologically ill-equipped to handle the rigors of the tech industry. The encouraging news is that Damore has now been fired from Google, according to multiple news reports. Sadly, the ideas espoused in his letter echo the same pseudoscience peddled by eugenicists and white supremacists for decades—and they’re unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
Many ideas embraced by this ex-Google employee are based largely on the so-called conclusions of evolutionary psychology, a field premised on the idea that our psychological traits are the product of the same natural selection that shaped early human evolution. In practice, evolutionary psychology has been used to justify everything from rape to claims that certain groups of people are inherently more intelligent than others. It has also been criticized for shoddy methodology, ignoring cultural context, and “leaping to conclusions on inadequate evidence.” Evolutionary psychologists have tried to use their science to determine the best way to seduce women, which they think can be gamed out like Battleship.
The field’s fraught and controversial history didn’t stop Damore from espousing some evolutionary psych of his own, to justify the underrepresentation of women at an enormous technology company.