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March 7, 2003
Add: July 27, 2008
I'm tremendously skeptical of
genetic determinism, though
that's largely a result of my When E. O. Wilson hit the scene back
upbringing. in the 70s with claims of founding a
new field called "sociobiology", the
When I was a teenager popular accounts I read of this
environmental determinism was material gave me the impression that
all the rage, and the genetic it was nonsense.
determinists were tarred
darkly with the racist brush. Looking back on it, I
no longer trust that
My high school social psych impression... when you
teacher insisted human get any where near
beings had no identifiable talking about this
biological instincts, with subject, the discussion
one exception: sucking in gets so politicized
infants. that it's difficult to
get the truth.
Currently, people seem
to *love* biological Consider Dawkins...
explanations for behavior.
Not long ago, Dawkins fans like
Myself, I make no there was a to quote Dawkins
claims to a deep cliche popular to his critics
knowledge of the among movie without revealing
current state of reviewers: the source.
the evidence in the describing
nature-nurture an actress as The critics are
debate. "hormonally generally
charged". surprised to
find that they
But if it's really Standards of physical agree.
true that there's all beauty have changed
this great evidence much too rapidly to
for the "nature" be explained by any
side, then I was sold kind of biological
a bill-of-goods by evolution, and they
seventies pop-science. vary considerably
from culture to
And if seventies culture, but these
pop-science led me two pieces of
astray, it could be information will
the current state of *not* sink into the
the art has similar popular consciousness.
The older cliche was to
call actresses "sex
More accurate, I think.
If you're going to talk
determined aspects of human
behavior, in order to have
any hope of making any sense
you have to limit your
claims to the inheritance of
fairly subtle, complex
attributes. (or less charitably:
"vague and ill-defined
We don't inherit a quality,
we inherit a capacity for a
quality. We don't have
determined behavior, we have
tendencies toward certain
types of behavior.
I was reading a recent article in "Science News" that
mentioned in passing that there were a number of twin
studies that showed inherited capacity for intelligence.
My first thought: "Whoa, they've
got twin studies data now? That
pretty much settles it."
My second thought: "What if a
bunch of the women putting twins
up for adoption have also been
doing drugs with an adverse
affect on fetal development? (July 27, 2008)
These twin studies could really Twins don't just
be measuring an inherited share genetics, Ah: they claim
stupidity, and not a genetically they share a womb. they've got a
inherited one at that." How is it possible statistical
to rule out difference
I would actually "developmental" between
need to look at explanations? fraternal and
the details of genetic twins.
these twin studies.
My theory can
You can't trust second still be rescued
hand information in this by positing a
field at all... side-effect of a
the formation of
(December 14-17, 2002)
If you happen to be a scientist you go that far,
with an interest in investigating it would be a
the biological component of human good idea to
behavior, I certainly hope you get review the claims
your AAAS grant, but it often of "statistical
strikes me that people exaggerate significance" and
how important the issue is. examine how they
claim to have
Some people want it measured
to be "nurture" "intelligence".)
human nature more
does it really?
From a practical point of
view you're stuck with
whatever nurture you've
got, and changing it just The nurture of the
isn't that easy. current generation
may have determined Consider the problem
the way the next you have if you've
On the other hand, generation will be decided that all
some people want it nurtured. you need to do to fix
to be "nature", some social problem
because that means is to change the
that it's fixed, way children are
and out of our raised.
All you have to
But even if there do is engage in
is a strong a massive public
"nature" component education
to human behavior, (And if it turns campaign,
it's pretty out that you convincing all
clearly not as didn't *really* the parents that
tightly wired and know better, then they don't know
rigid as say, bird you start over what they're
nest-building and try again, doing, and that
behavior. right?) you know better.
Richard Dawkins: Just because a cultural
"Anyone who is trait is "environmentally
capable of using a determined" is no reason to
condom is capable presume it's going to be
of going against easy to change.
the will of their
If it were demonstrated that
men are biologically inclined
to violence, would that mean
we should pre-emptively throw
all of them in jail? Any way you look at it,
Or would you be inclined is a nasty problem...
to something more like
the notion that we need Nature is not destiny,
to learn to rise above nurture is not freedom.
our natural tendencies?
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