Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dr. Shackelford - expert witness for the Amicus Curiae

Men with multiple wives not the only ones who abuse: expert at polygamy trial

By Keith Fraser, The Province

A Michigan psychology professor on Wednesday told the polygamy trial that men with multiple wives have no corner on the market of violence against their spouses.

Dr. Todd Shackelford, a professor at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, made the comment while testifying for the forces that wish to decriminalize polygamy in Canada.

Under questioning from lawyer Tim Dickson, a so-called amicus curiae, or friend of the court, Shackelford told B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman that his specialty was evolutionary psychology.He said his research in the last 20 years has focussed on conflicts in monogamous relationships and in particular men’s aggression against their partners.

Shackelford told the judge that male sexual jealousy in monogamous relationships was a “very good predictor” of all sorts of consequences, including violence, psychological abuse and rape.

He said male jealousy was the “leading predictor” of men killing their partners.
He admitted he hadn’t done research into polygamy or polygyny, the latter of which is the practice of one man having multiple wives, but noted that all relationships have both conflict and cooperation.

“Polygyny doesn’t have the market cornered in the negative correlates and consequences” in relationships, he told the judge.Shackelford questioned some of the conclusions about the    social harms of polygamy drawn by a witness for the attorney-general of B.C., which wants to uphold the law.

The judge’s job is to decide whether the law, which has been in place for more than 100 years but seldom has been prosecuted, is constitutional.  The issue was referred to the court after two leaders in the fundamentalist Mormon community of Bountiful had polygamy charges against them stayed in 2009.

Dr. Shackelford teaches evolutionary psychology at Oakland University in Detroit. His c.v. is impressive, and he is recognized as a world expert on male aggression in monogamous relationships. 
He is the editor of the journal Evolutionary Psychology, and is member of the editorial boards of several other academic publications. He gave his evidence in a clear and authoritative manner, and challenged some of the evidence given a few days ago by Dr. Joseph Henrich.

When BCAG counsel Craig Jones stood to cross-examine the witness, a spirited give and take of exchanges took place. Jones suggested that one could extrapolate behavioural characteristics of men in monogamous situations to include those of polygamous men. Shackelford reiterated that he had never studied polygamous communities. After careful questioning by Jones, however, he began to accept that perhaps evolutionary concepts were valid in polygamous communities as well as in the monogamous world. 

By the end of the cross-examination, most of the responses offered by the professor were “Yes”, “Indeed” and “Yes indeed.”

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