Are you fat? You can’t earn a PhD, according to one Evolutionary Psychologist

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Geoffrey Miller, author of The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature, has made a goof.

Miller is an evolutionary psychologist with an interested in IQ, the usual sex related things Evolutionary Psychologists are interested in, etc. etc.

On June 2nd he wrote this tweet:

Dear obese PhD applicants: if you didn’t have the willpower to stop eating carbsk, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation #truth

The number of way in which this is wrong is myriad.

Anyway, he’s in a heap of trouble. Here is a video from his university, the University of New Mexico, showing his department chair trying to do some damage control.

Good luck with that.

I’m guessing this … that if you are fat you are not PhD material … is not really a scientific assertion on the part of Professor Miller. Rather, it looks more like a bone-headed remark he made because of something personal that happened to him. Professor Miller may have demonstrated something useful, though. If you are X stay away from Twitter because you are a jerk. I’m not sure what X is. Maybe it is just being a jerk. If you are a jerk stay away from Twitter because you are a jerk. Hard to say.

Anyway, Professor Geoffrey Miller is digging in and/or backpedaling. As you can see in the video, and indicated on this UNM web page, Miller now claims that he is carrying out a research project in which he produces inflammatory tweets.

Do you think he’s telling the truth? What would you do if you were his department chair?

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14 thoughts on “Are you fat? You can’t earn a PhD, according to one Evolutionary Psychologist

  1. 1st define FAT!
    My daughter was defined as FAT but she rock climbs faster then the skinny ones, can pick up her 150lb dog and carry it around, can pick up her side of an aircraft bomb alone while it takes two guys to do the other end. She worked out with seals cuz normal navy drills where too wimpy. She has her masters and will soon have her PHD.
    So define FAT, and 3 PHDs I worked with in Bell Labs would be considered highly over weight.

  2. If it’s a brilliant research project in which he produces inflammatory tweets, then he’s ruined it after producing exactly one data point. Although, I’m sure his paper will be admirably lean.

    Abstract: Being an asshole pisses people off.

    Methodology: Drunk tweeting without warning my department head.

    Results: Would you like fries with that?

  3. Well what other inflammatory tweets has he produced?

    Also he should be able to produce evidence that he was planning such a thing. Unless he can show some kind of experiment design work he has just shown himself to be an even worse twit. I mean if you don’t have the will power to not say stupid stuff on twiter…

    He should have just said he was drunk. But then if you don’t have the will power to stop drinking…

  4. Haha! Having read a few PHD dissertations, I don’t agree it takes more self discipline than reducing carb intake.

  5. edit: The antecedent for the “he” in my second sentence above is Miller, not PZ, of course.

  6. If you don’t have the willpower to contain your inner douchebag, you probably don’t have the willpower to keep your job.

  7. The fat quote has gotten a lot of attention, but these quotes seem more incendiary:


    “In a nutshell: the new genetics will reveal much less than hoped about how to cure disease, and much more than feared about human evolution and inequality, including genetic differences between classes, ethnicities and races.”


    “We may need to find radical new ways to reconcile the empirical facts about human diversity with our classical liberal values of equality, meritocracy, democracy, and multiculturalism. In short, evolutionary genetics is undermining the old anthropological assumption about ‘the psychic unity of mankind’, and we better learn the scientific and moral sophistication to deal constructively with the consequences.”

  8. Miller now claims that he is carrying out a research project in which he produces inflammatory tweets.

    If this claim is true, then either (1) an Institutional Review Board approved this research or (2) he is doing unapproved research on human subjects. In the first case, he should be able to produce a copy of the IRB approval for his protocol, and he should be able to produce the detailed protocol that was approved (if he doesn’t have that, either he’s lying about IRB approval or the IRB is so toothless as to be of no value). I would bet on door #2, which only requires us to assume that the guy is a jerk (and the evidence so far, including what Frank @9 turned up, is consistent with that assumption).

  9. I bet on door #3: he’s making up a lame excuse in an attempt to cover his ass. In which case I’m not sure what’s more offensive, the lie or the assumption that we’re too stupid to notice.

  10. BS on the inflammatory tweet idea.

    You can apply his statement to numerous items. Someone already mentioned if you don’t have the willpower to stop drinking…

    Aside from that, there is the fallacy of the assumption that excess weight is strictly from excess carbs. And how “fat” is too “fat”? 10 pds, 25 pds–is this a “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it” idea?

    What about a skinny person who doesn’t exercise at all and at 25 has the arteries of a 65 year old? Are they not able to do a PhD because s/he lacks the willpower to exercise, improve his health and conditioning?

    My sis-in-law is still overweight and has been dieting and exercising for a couple of decades now, very consistently too. So she watches what she eats, she exercises, and has done this year after year despite seeing very slow results…yet this prof thinks she doesn’t have what it takes to get a PhD. With that kind of stick-to-it mentality, she’d probably complete 2 PhDs in the time it takes most people to do one.

  11. There is also the assumption that willpower is some kind of personality trait that you either have or don’t have.

    Whereas AFAIK there’s just as much evidence that willpower operates more like a muscle, in that you can build it by exercise but you can also tire it through overuse. Someone who is using all their willpower to control their eating may not have any left over to work on a PhD.

    My love handles are just evidence that I’m reserving my willpower for more important things than diet 😉

  12. I have been an engineer for quite some time and found that a PhD in anything besides science or medicine is usually psuedoscince…. Much of the findings or conclusions in social science cannot be verified by plaecebo double blind methods…iq and mmpi tests like the bell curve were shown to be racist …many of the leading nuclear physicists had average or low iqs..Richard Feynman abhorred this kind of nonsense… We should focus on more critical issues facing our world and stop funding such silly eugenic style tripe.Fat people ? Indeed…next you will start measuring cranial volumes again lol. Please put your good brain to a positive use. Shalom james ainoris

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