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  #11  
Unread April 12th, 2006, 10:43 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate & Doors

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
While we humans may “feel” that something is “real” we nevertheless are quite capable of knowing, cognitively, that it isn’t.
You are confusing Margaret's point, "we really don't believe even 'facts' until we feel that they're true" with "if we feel something it is obviously true". I don't know if this is on purpose.
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  #12  
Unread April 12th, 2006, 11:55 AM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Hi Tom, You said,
Quote:
My 'hearing what I want to hear' says that "complexity of neural development" is more about neural development itself being complex, without saying whether there are any genetic or cultural effects, much less their respective influences. In other words, I think you might be reading a bit more into the statement than the words convey to me.
You may be right. Perhaps I'm trying to find moderation in his position where it does not exist. If you are right, does that mean that he and JimB agree? That white males of European descent are the rightful rulers of civilization and therefore for the good of all, they should (continue to) get to decide how the earth's resources should be distributed?

So far, I have been resisting the notion that EP (or any scientific discipline) would have a purpose of justifying political ends. But maybe I am missing something important here.

When the disciples of EP finally overcome the weak sentimentality of other evolutionary scientists, who will finally accept the bitter truth about human nature, will we then get to live in a world that will be more properly ordered by group genetic differences? Will poor brown skinned children and all girls no longer have to grow up with the heartbreak of unreasonable expectations?

I'm not trying to be snarky. I may be wrong about what EP actually is. I'd really like to know where the line lies between science and politics in this field. What do you think the purpose of EP is? Where does the statistical analysis of IQ scores end and the genetic re-organization of society begin?


Margaret

Fred, Notice how Tom used a self-depracating statement to make his point? Instead of suggesting that I was being childish or something, he prefaced his point with a suggestion that he might be seeing something that was not there - but this is what he saw. That actually makes his point stronger, not weaker - both to me and to others who may be reading his post.

I like to use a method of argument that is both effective and polite. You provisionally accept your opponent's point and then ask him or her to justify whatever outcome it may reasonably lead to. That may not provide the emotional satisfaction of a sarcastic insult but it allows a rational discussion to proceed.

You seem to think Tom and I are allies against you. I think we both appreciate the others' attempt to argue politely - but we strongly disagree on fundamental ideas here. I really enjoy having a polite but purposeful discussion with people I disagree with. I find Amen choruses boring. That's why I'm here - and hoping to stay.

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; April 12th, 2006 at 12:14 PM.
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  #13  
Unread April 12th, 2006, 12:43 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Quote:
Originally Posted by Margaret McGhee
I'd really like to know where the line lies between science and politics in this field. What do you think the purpose of EP is?
We're getting pretty far afield when asking for my opinion, so I'll keep it short:

It would be best for everyone (except the elites) if everyone were able to reach their fullest potential. That requires equal opportunity, a valid goal which we're nowhere near. Science in general and EP along with it might be telling us that equal opportunity and equal results are mutually exclusive. That's all I see and wish we could follow the science as best we can, keeping the politics out of it, though I can see why you'd want to extrapolate that to eugenics to head off the extremists. I don't know that anyone here is an extremist.
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  #14  
Unread April 12th, 2006, 05:27 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Slate & WWJD?

Quote:
MM: I realize you must have a had a troubled childhood but using educated prose to insult people is not the best way to get back at those who picked on you so many years ago.

TomJ: I hope you'll consider staying on this site regardless of Fred's problems.
Tom & Margaret, you both might consider asking JimB if there’s any truth in your speculations here regarding my “troubled childhood” and/or alleged “problems,” since you both seem to find some sort of comfort in making them, having made similar charges multiple times now. And consider this: If your assertions in fact have any truth in them, then making such unnecessary and hurtful comments only reveal your own pettiness and cruelty; OTH, if your assertions are bogus, which, alas, they are, then they simply reveal your own pettiness and childishness—either way, it puts you in a bad light.

I’d suggest that, in the future, whenever you feel that you’ve been unfairly attacked, and feel a need to counterattack, ask yourself this question: “WWJD?”—i.e., “What would JimB do?”

Last edited by Fred H.; April 12th, 2006 at 07:52 PM.
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  #15  
Unread April 13th, 2006, 08:28 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Slate & WWJD?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
my “troubled childhood” and/or alleged “problems,”
Anyone who feels comfortable calling an adult "childish" has a problem, whether he knows it or not. You can call that a "bogus assertion" but I know better. And I notice that you didn't edit the term out.

But, you still defend a widely held opinion about "objective moral truth", and I value the opportunity to reply to it. I'm glad you're here.
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  #16  
Unread April 13th, 2006, 02:26 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Tom, Obviously I was correct in predicting the futility of appealing to Fred's sense of fairness and objectivity to stop enclosing his posts in personal attacks. At least, there is some value in having fresh evidence to support my premise - that people believe what feels good to them, and mostly use their brain to justify it.

This latest round prompts me to point out the extreme case of this hypothesis - what I call the ideological mind - that is so vividly on display here. As I previously stated, I believe that behavior choice is a process of emotional negotiation. Intellect can play a part when we emotionally choose to engage our intellect and then emotionally weight our intellectual conclusions so they can be considered along with instincts, emotions from past memories, emotions from our beliefs, etc.

I also stated previously my hypothesis that our beliefs are the primary source of our emotions in most voluntary behavior decisions. i.e. what we think of as reasoning is usually simply referencing the emotions from our existing beliefs about a particular topic.

For example, when considering something like Intelligent Design, creationists generally think it's a great idea. Almost none of the theists who are jumping on the ID bandwagon have any understanding of the intellectual / scientific argument being made on its behalf by Dembski, Behe, etc. They simply harbor a belief in God and understand that ID is a way to get God into the classrooom in public schools. So, it must be true. Whatever intellectual reasoning they apply to their conclusions will be applied in justification - not in examing the logical reasonableness of the argument - which they are largely incapable of in any case.

But, it would be wrong to say that this emotionally driven belief mechanism operates in everyone in the same way. There are large differences between people in how strongly their belief emotions influence their decision-making over the emotions that encourage them to engage their intellect and the weight they give to those conclusions. i.e. there's a characteristic difference between persons in where the emotions that most influence their voluntary behavior choices come from. Some persons are more willing to retest their beliefs for logical validity and are more willing to change them if necessary.

In some persons, especially those with very strong religious or philosophical beliefs, almost all of their mental energy in life can be focused on justifying and supporting their ideological beliefs. They can not have a conversation on any topic that does not end up supporting their beliefs. I am reminded of a seriously infected young Christian man I know who can't talk about the weather without ending each statement with a, "Thank you Jesus" or a "Praise Jesus". They see everyone in life as either allies who share their beliefs or enemies who must be despised. They have no interest in discussing any topic unless they percieve a way to use it to support their beliefs.

Another example, closer to home, is Fred's need to personally attack those who have opposed his most cherished beliefs. There is nothing I can say here that would not result in a personal attack from Fred, as these last few posts make abundantly clear.

If I didn't understand so well why he does this it might make me angry enough to retaliate in kind. As it is it just makes me weary. I love discussing these things but it just might not be possible to do it around persons whose minds are so heavily infected. It's like trying to reason with a drunk. If you've ever tried that then you know how hopeless I am feeling about remaining in this forum.

Strong ideology is an addiction. It is a chemical dependency. The only difference between ideologic belief and alcoholism for example, is the particular brain-affecting chemicals involved. Ideologues and their adreniline pumped relatives, zealots, are just as addicted to those brain chemicals as any alchoholic or any junkie. In fact, many people go through life simply trading one of those addictions for another. That's what AA is all about. Insulting immoral atheists is Fred's crack and he's not about to give that up for polite discussion.

Todd asked me previously if I thought there was a genetic basis for where somone lies on the psychological conservatism / liberalism spectrum. I replied possible but not probable - based on my suspicion that a cultural capacity for that determination would be more adaptive and more likely to have evolved through natural selection. I'm still not ready to categorically deny a direct hereditary component - but this study of children is interesting in that regard. http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/200...g_politics.php

The relevance here is that I suspect that there is a connection between psychological conservatism and strong ideology. Strong ideological systems like evangelical Christianity and today's version of political conservatism have the message "Here are all the answers to life's questions". They also say that those who don't agree with those answers are bad people who must be publicly exposed as immoral and punished. JimB and Fred's angry responses to my posts here have caused me to suspect that evolutionary psychology is more a strong ideology than it is a scientific discipline - at least for them.

I suspect that that may be why it is so impossible to discuss EP here objectively. Ideologues resent even the implication that their belief system would be subject to such questions - and I have been called intellectually and / or morally blind by each of them - for bringing it up. The emotional need to punish heretics will always trump their desire for intellectual discussion of a topic. That's a testable prediction of my hypothesis that seems to be valid for the time I have spent here anyway. Will their response to this post close the case in my favor or show me to be wrong?

I think your explanation of "Equal opportunity, not necessarily equal outcome" is a very reasonable statement that deserves a thoughtful response. Yesterday, I composed one but then decided that reasonable responses feel so futile and impotent knowing they will just provoke another personal attack. I guess I'll wait a while to see if I feel better about posting it. I'll hang in there for a while Tom, but it's getting pretty dreary.

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; April 13th, 2006 at 04:53 PM.
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  #17  
Unread April 13th, 2006, 04:34 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Quote:
Originally Posted by Margaret McGhee
Whatever intellectual reasoning they apply to their conclusions will be applied in justification - not in examing the logical reasonableness of the argument - which they are largely incapable of in any case.
Excellent point. I would go even further: the more their egos are invested in their beliefs, the more their brains will filter out any evidence to the contrary; they are completely incapable of incorporating any challenge to their beliefs.

Of course, they don't offer evidence either, and often even admit it all depends on 'faith'. Or they stand behind crowds of humans who are just as ignorant as us about this illusion of free will and ask why we're so different.

I'm getting pretty weary myself, perhaps JimB's site deserves the low headcount if he refuses to call off the person that has driven just about everyone else off the forum. And I was really surprised by JimB's first response to you, I thought there must have been some history between the two of you.

Regardless, I resolve to stay forever; I'm really very subborn. I hope you'll stick it out in the hopes that others find us more helpful.

PS Just in case I win a prize or something for noticing this, I've always been leery of Todd's AI folks concentrating on building a computer that can pass as a human in a forum. Just plug in an opinion and have it search the web for supporting text; no need to accept others' arguments or even understand them. It will certainly be the end of open forums when they succeed...

And feel free to send anything you'd like as a personal message if you don't feel good about posting it.
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  #18  
Unread April 13th, 2006, 05:10 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Hi Margaret,

Let me say that it's great to have consistently active and thoughtful members, such as yourself, in this forum. The purpose of this post to impart some advice, which I hope you will not find patronizing, about your rhetorical style and interaction with Fred that may allow future conversations to proceed a bit more smoothly. Granted, one should not expect to experience his rosy side (but I know you have one, Fred).

Your seed post on this thread began by stating that you were unconvinced by Steve Pinker's argument. Immediately thereafter, you describe a just-so story involving rocks that represent emotions. Later on in the post, you begin a paragraph with "I think . . ." and then reformulate Pinker's metaphor to your own liking. This kind of argumentative style will never fail to spike BS-o-meters, especially Fred's, which is hyper-sensitive. I am not saying that the content of your post is BS - but without reference to bona fide research of some kind to distinguish your hypothesis from Pinker's, you won't convince anyone who doesn't already agree with you.

Fred's penchant for insulting others is frustrating, sometimes even infuriating, but if you take it as an indication that your argument needs clarification (or maybe overhaul), then sometimes you can benefit from his feedback (though he won't acknowledge it).

Whatever you do, remember that Fred enjoys fights and fishes for them: don't take the bait.

Best,
Carey
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  #19  
Unread April 13th, 2006, 07:38 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Hi Carey, Thanks for the constructive criticism. I'll try to keep your points in mind.

I tried to make my seed post, not an argument against Pinker, but a request to JimB to help me see what his argument was. JimB had suggested that by reading this book I would understand (apparently why I was wrong about genetic determinism).

For that, I was accused of dishonestly using the forum as a resource for a book and told that I'd have to manage my own blindness. Then, Fred tells me
Quote:
Your inability and/or refusal to accept or acknowledge this reality, despite the overwhelming evidence that has been provided here and in the excellent resources you’ve recently been reading, suggests that your cognitive capability is less than optimal and/or or that you’re blinded by your emotions
I have to ask, instead of attacking my intelligence and honesty why did neither of them simply give me a one paragraph synopsis of Pinker's thesis in their own words - as I had asked? I suspect the reason they did not do this is that Pinker is not saying in The Blank Slate that culture is not part of the equation as JimB maintains. And therefore he can not restate that thesis because it does not exist.

I think what Pinker is saying is that the outmoded philosophical notion of the blank slate does not exist - at least among any serious psychologists. I agree with Pinker on that and I don't know any psychologists who disagree. I have not read any such things by Gould or Lewontin. They both assert however, that culture has an important part to play in behavior and ability - and they probably would disagree with Pinker over how large that part is. But that seems like a fair scientific question to ask - not necessarily an ideological question.

I could be wrong about that but no-one has yet offered to clarify this for me.

Another question would be why didn't Fred point out my supposed bullshit rather than calling me emotionally blind and stupid? If it was so obvious then it should have been easy enough to do and it could have even proven me wrong.

But, beyond all that - discussing my theory would be really interesting to me as I know there are people here (like you) who know much more about this stuff than I do. It seems to me that one of the strongest pieces of evidence for my theory is the story of Phinneas Gage - who I assume is known to all students of psychology these days.

When his prefrontal cortex was destroyed, what changed was not his basic intelligence or language ability - which was thoroughly tested. It was his ability to choose appropriate behavior. More modern science has determined that the prefrontal cortex is the part of the human brain associated with social emotions.

Toward the end of Damasio's The Feeling of What Happens he offers his Somatic Marker Hypothesis. Here he establishes that mental images are tagged with emotional markers - and describes the implications of that. Based on the story of Phinneas Gage I extended the Somatic Marker Hypothesis to what I call the Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis.

I'm not sure whether this is the laughable idea of an engineering/physics major trying to think about neuro-psychology - or if it may actually have some merit. I'd love to get into a discussion about that but so far I've been stuck defending a place for some level of cultural influence within the EP paradigm. Or, more accurately, defending my honesty and intelligence from attack because I suggested that cultural influences have some place within that paradigm.

I don't see how anyone could deny that evolution and genetics are the ultimate cause of human behavior. Our central nervous systems are obviously a product of evolution. It seems that the arguments are over the proximate causes of particular behavior choices. Are they direct genetic influences or indirect genetic influences by way of an inherited ability to adopt behavior provided by our culture.

If one sees behavior choice as the result of emotional negotiation, then the EP question becomes deciphering those direct and indirect genetic causes. Or, using my Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis, discovering the source of the particular emotions that are negotiated when we make behavior choices.

For example, the question of what motivates a young boy or girl to adopt an identity as a future scientist and then apply a huge amount of mental energy over the rest of their lives to fulfill that identity seems like a much more interesting question than whether males or females have a bigger range of IQ's scores and whether those are completely inherited or subject to developmental influences.

It seemed to me that an EP forum was a great place to discuss these questions perhaps because EP seemed like a more grounded form of psychology than most of the others. Unfortunately, I found myself in an ideological tempest defending questions that I wasn't that interested in.

In any case, I'd love to hear your opinion on any of the above (cringe). I'll accept your previous criticism as an indication of my poor communication skills. These are difficult concepts to discuss clearly but well worth the effort IMO. You must admit though, that discussing difficult concepts is easier when you're not defending yourself from personal attacks.

Margaret
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  #20  
Unread April 14th, 2006, 09:42 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Pinker & BS-o-meters

Quote:
Carey (to Margaret): Your seed post on this thread began by stating that you were unconvinced by Steve Pinker's argument. Immediately thereafter, you describe a just-so story involving rocks that represent emotions. Later on in the post, you begin a paragraph with "I think . . ." and then reformulate Pinker's metaphor to your own liking. This kind of argumentative style will never fail to spike BS-o-meters, especially Fred's, which is hyper-sensitive.
Thanks for the compliment Carey, but I think that JimB may have even less patience when it comes to Margaret’s type of BS.

FWIW, Margaret and I were having a reasonably civil dialogue until she was the first to “raise the stakes,” as it were, with me in her hissy-fit here, http://www.behavior.net/bolforums/sh...7&postcount=49 when she inappropriately personalized whatever it was she perceived I was “suggesting” (at which point Tom seemed to join in her attack); and it was Margaret who started playing the racist card with her hideous post, to JimB, here http://www.behavior.net/bolforums/sh...92&postcount=2 , revealing her self-righteous ideology using accusatory words/phrases directed at JimB, such as the “Full Monte” of a “famous racist,” his“attraction to this area” of general intelligence differences, “the attraction of some Evolutionary Biologists to what [she] had always considered to be the pseudo-science of Eugenics,” etc., etc.

That it was I who suggested LeDoux’s groundbreaking work/book on the biology of emotion to Margaret, and that I’ve really been the only one here to actually discuss, with some vigor, the implications of that biology, has apparently been completely discounted by Margaret b/c I dare to also expose her sanctimonious, preconceived ideology for what it is.

Also, note that I‘ve been the only one here to actually “empathizes with the emotional turmoil, and perhaps cognitive dissonance, that [Margaret’s] circumstances may have engendered [the gender identity thing]”; and appreciate, using her own characterization, that her “intellectual conclusions are first guided by [her] existing beliefs,” and then “weighted” by the “emotional strength [she] subconsciously grants them”—But when I then dare acknowledge that I also “find [her] predilection for projecting that MO onto everyone else to be childishly presumptuous,” her knee-jerk, snooty response is that I lack any “sense of fairness and objectivity to stop enclosing [my] posts in personal attacks.” (And yet is it not Margaret (and Tom) who persist in making gratuitous, not to mention laughable, assertions regarding my supposed “troubled childhood” and/or alleged “problems?”)

Quote:
Carey: Fred's penchant for insulting others is frustrating, sometimes even infuriating, but if you take it as an indication that your argument needs clarification (or maybe overhaul), then sometimes you can benefit from his feedback….
Again Carey, thanks for the compliment—if people like Margaret (and Tom) paid a little more attention to detail, and were perhaps a bit less insecure/hypersensitive, they’d see that I rarely, if ever, truly make “personal attacks,” but rather I expose (perhaps with too much relish/disdain?) the lack of consistency, rigor, or honesty in their own arguments/ideologies.

And Bravo, Carey—your above comment suggests that you yourself are beginning to realize what the Margarets and Toms have yet to grasp, and what another Fred once opined: “What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” (While I personally find Nietzsche’s sentiment less than spot on, I do find such an attitude to be somewhat more efficacious than the whine coming from the Margarets.)

How’s your love life?
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