Actually, Megan, you are like a bonobo…

Wrong-way Megan McArdle continues to blaze new paths in her quest to prove how wrong she is about absolutely everything.  Recently this amusing little article was published in Psychology Today by Christopher Ryan, the co-author of a book called Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. It seems that Megan got her hands on a copy of the book, read the first few pages, and decided she would have none of it:

But still, every party has the red-faced, humorless, easily-offended type. Yesterday, at The Atlantic web site, Megan McArdle provided a stellar example. Her comments begin strangely, with the admission that she’s “in the middle” of the book. Note the urgency to condemn it publicly, even before reading the damned thing! And boy, does she lash out:

• “It reads like horsefeathers . . . like an undergraduate thesis,”
• “breathless rather than scientific”
• “cherry-picked evidence stretched far out of shape to support their theory,”
• “they don’t even attempt to paper over the enormous holes in their theory.”

Ouch! And that’s just the first paragraph. But wait, it gets worse. The second paragraph is worth quoting in full, as it’s really a perfect expression of the bug-eyed panic the book provokes in some people:

“For example, like a lot of evolutionary biology critiques, this one leans heavily on bonobos (at least so far). Here’s the thing: humans aren’t like bonobos. And do you know how I know that we are not like bonobos?Because we’re not like bonobos. There’s no way observed human societies grew out of a species organized along the lines of a bonobo tribe.” (emphasis in original)

Got that? Humans aren’t like bonobos because we’re not like bonobos. No way! So there! Case closed.

In addition to this impeccable display of logic, McMegan goes on to criticize other parts of the book she hasn’t read yet, and Ryan easily swats her complaints away with facts.  But Ryan is obviously new to the field of McArdle Studies:

I’m not familiar with Ms. McArdle’s work, but if she’s got a gig at The Atlantic, which is one of the most respected magazines in the country, presumably this is far below her usual intellectual standard.

Hah!  Fortunately his commenters are much more well-versed in McArdleism, and set the doctor straight:

Sadly, it is not. McArdle routinely writes about subjects she clearly has little or no knowledge about. Her writing is consistently lazy, pretentious, and very loose with facts. She rarely researches and most often argues by way of personal anecdotes. She’s a flaming, navel-gazing narcissist with no training in journalism and it regularly shows in her work. She’s one of the reasons the Atlantic has lost the respect you speak of. There’s an entire cottage blog industry that tears her apart on almost a daily basis. I wouldn’t take anything she writes seriously. Trust me, this is not the first time she’s written reviews about books she’s not read or comprehended entirely. Dismiss her. She’s not worth your slightest intellectual considerations.

Second this. Ms. McArdle is a mental midget at best. I’m not sure how she got and keeps her job. Perhaps she works for free? That is the only reason I could think of for the Atlantic to keep her on.

I’m a professional economist… she’s a notorious hack; her continuing role in the econo-blogosphere confounds the mind. But as pointed out, the upside is that there is a literal cottage industry of blogs devoted to poking fun at her.

She comments on things she knows nothing about on a daily basis. As far as I can tell, she’s slept through one or two Econ 101 classes, and has read the collected works of Ayn Rand. From there, she shoots from the hip with personal anecdotes, I’m-a-libertarian-look-at-me narcissism, and sloppy reasoning.

[Seriously, although I don’t think people with PhDs in Economics should be the only people allowed to opine on the economy, I do think it’s complex enough that some advanced training is wise. She has a Bachelor’s in English and an MBA. That’s it. My partner is in an MBA program – their training in economics goes not much beyond an introductory undergrad-level econ class.]

I don’t read the Atlantic anymore because they continue to give her a platform and a paycheck.

Anyway, there actually are similarities between a bonobo and Megan.  For example:

Two Bonobos at the Great Ape TrustKanzi and Panbanisha, have been taught how to communicate using a keyboard labeled with lexigrams (geometric symbols) and they can respond to spoken sentences.

See?  They can probably write posts every bit as good as Megan’s, given enough practice!

Oh…wait.  I take it back:

Bonobos are capable of passing the mirror-recognition test for self-awareness.

Well, never mind.  Self-awareness is the last thing that anyone would associate with Megan McArdle.  You’re right, Megs, you’re in no way like a bonobo.

"I don't get it...why does the Atlantic pay her to be wrong about everything?"

See also.

UPDATE:  Thanks to TBogg, we see that Megan has been called out by no less than Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman.  Hoo-boy.

TBogg also highlights a comment by the brilliant “aimai” at DeLong’s blog:

If McArdle understood this…

Look, after Megan has thrice attempted to explain her reasoning, and been slapped back so hard her face is now backwards on her shoulders, you have to grasp that the very phrase “If McCardle understood…” is a null, a void, a veritable black hole of meaning. It doesn’t exist in this universe. “If McArdle understood” cannot co-exist with the actual McArdle who is paid specifically to publicly obfuscate the issue. If the two were brought together the universe would explode in something like one of those Star Trekkian matter/anti matter episodes. At the very least Megan would die of shame. And that shows no sign of happening since she appears to lack the basic mechanism involved–morals.

Megan can’t afford to understand anything that would lead her to advocate the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. She is paid to advocate for policies that advantage the wealthy. That her preferred policies uniformly and invariably disadvantage the poor, the working class, and the middle class is probably just lagniappe. Think of her as a corporatist remora. She knows she’ll never be a shark, but the scraps, even those from other remoras, are just too good to pass up.

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