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Unread March 16th, 2006, 12:18 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default Re: Two Cousins: Francis Galton Site

Just in case there's someone out there who hasn't been totally turned off by reading the posts to this thread - let me recap.

The moderator started the thread with a paean to Francis Galton. I had always considered Galton to exemplify racist thinking of the past - during those years when the Western world was eagerly co-opting natural selection as a way to justify its colonialism.

So I went to the Galton site and did some reading to reacquaint myself with his ideas. I quoted one Galton letter-to-the-editor that seemed to capture the essence of Galtonian enlightenment. I then asked the moderator to explain just what it was about Galton and his ideas that he found so attractive.

I hoped to get back something significant that I could think about. Instead I got an apologia for heredetary determinism embedded in some pretty insulting statements that even included allusions to the dangers of my kind of K-Mart thinking. That's was pretty good JimB. That launched a frenzy of ideological hand-wringing in the next dozen or so posts.

But, I did get this one statement from JimB:
"My personal view is that talent in our culture eventually compensates for opportunities whether in academics, professional sports, the performing arts, political leadership, education, or elsewhere. I would have it no other way."
It's this type of Rotary Club thinking that I'm most interested in. I'll recap my cultural determinism view below along with the reasons that it seems to make the most sense to me. I realize this is all a deeply ideological subject but I'm just an old hippy-chick asking dumb questions. So, please don't get so upset about the ideology. Can anyone tell me what is scientifically (not ideologically) wrong with this view?

I suspect that a person's identity-beliefs are an extremely important and little understood source of the emotions that contribute to their decision-making. It seems to me these work as a double edged sword. Kids not only copy the behavior of those whose identities they admire, they will avoid behavior that might identify them in opposite ways. When a student decides to join the math club instead of the basketball team they are not just following the path of least resistance - I believe they are expressing a belief about themselves that they hope to fulfill.

I have no problem with individual differences. I relish them. However, I suspect that they are more likely due to the energy we spend fulfilling our socially acquired identity-beliefs than they are due to the inherited talents you allude to. From an evolutionary perspective it also seems that any human would be better off adapting quickly to changing environmental conditions with such a cultural learning preference mechanism - than they would by following some inherited trait that could take many generations to modify.

According to my theory - these biases first appeared at age two or three (the age when copying behavior is strongest) and then grew to guide the millions of decisions they subsequently made about where to apply their mental focus and energy over the years as they matured. IMO these are more likely what molded their synapses and the organization of their minds to be better at some things and not so good at others.

Before I accept your view that different races and genders are born with such determinative traits, like a greater or lesser talent for science or math, I'd like to see some evidence that corrects for their identity-belief biases.
Please understand that I am not denying that we may inherit some brain characteristics that make it easier or harder to think about certain kinds of problems and information. I just don't see those as so deterministic.

I am proposing that a child's desire to fulfill an identity image of themselves - and thereby appy their mental energy to that purpose over many years - can cause their brain to organize itself to become good at processing that type of information. I am proposing that this identity-fulfilment process is how we become who we are in life - and that we are not so severely limited or endowed by what we inherit. At least, not so much so that with enough motivation and starting early enough, we could not mold our brains to be good at processing almost any kind of information.

I really want to know from an EP perspective why this is such an unreasonable view. How does EP account for all the cases where a highly motivated child applies themselves to fulfilling a dream (an identity image) and becomes an outstanding musician or scientist or astronaut or basketball player or artist - regardless of their hereditary background? IMO these are those outlyers on Bell's curve.

Wilson's ladder seems to set up a straw-man - social engineering. As if the failure to train any particular child to become an engineeer or a musician or an astronaut proves hereditary determininism. I believe children only teach themselves to be those things and that they have an immense amount of energy to spend on that - but only when that identity image is also their own self-image - and when they are motivated. Not when society tells them what to do with their minds and their lives.

Aside from all the ugly things that have been said so far, I do not hold any animosity toward anyone here. In fact, I have even developed some affection for each of you. I'm still hoping to see some reasonable comments on this topic appear on my screen. And, I think if you folks can't talk about these things without getting angry then you don't have much of a case.


Last edited by Margaret McGhee; March 16th, 2006 at 03:38 PM.
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