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  #11  
Unread March 15th, 2006, 05:06 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Two Cousins: Francis Galton Site

Fred, Just as a matter of record, if, as you say, I
Quote:
. . was obviously convinced that Jim’s “attraction to this area”—the “writings of this famous racist” Galton—is something sinister, apparently b/c it doesn’t conform to whatever (I) deem is an appropriate ideology or whatever makes (me feel) sic good.
. . then I would have no reason to ask him to clarify his “attraction to this area” that keeps coming up as a recurrent theme in the threads that he initiates - as I politely did.

He seems to have some cause celebre but never states it directly. I'd much rather have him state it than try to impute it from his posts indirectly - which doesn't seem fair to him.

And JimB - You have obvious disdain for the socialist eugenicists of the past. It seems to me that those (socialist or not) who propose that heredity is determinative in human development are the ones who have historically supported sterilization for the feeble minded, repopulating lands with those of better genetic stock (as reflected in your Francis Galton link) - and things like that.

Those who support the notion that culture is highly determinative in human development (as I do) are the ones who like to claim that anyone, regardless of race or gender or family genetics, could potentially become the next great scientist or musical composer. I would never subscribe to eugenics.

You said,
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Second, I do not want done again to anyone what the socialists did on behalf of the public good to millions of rebels, deviants, and individualists called Jews (Grynberg, 2002). (The most recent episode was targeted at Ed Wilson in the '70s. Leaders: the Marxists Richard Lewontin & Steven Gould).
Are you suggesting that Gould had something to do with the holocaust? What evidence can you point me to that Gould was a Marxist? The next time you look under the counter for that bottle of patience you might check the label more carefully.

Margaret
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  #12  
Unread March 15th, 2006, 06:39 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Two Cousins: Francis Galton Site

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MM: Are you suggesting that Gould had something to do with the holocaust?
Yuk Margaret, you can sure be a tad nasty at times—ever wonder why you display such obscenities? . . . oh, that’s right, it’s your lack of free will and moral responsibility. Regarding Gould’s Marxism, if you Google it you’ll get thousands of hits; but in the meantime, here’s a blip from Wikipedia:
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. . . Gould did not formally practice any organized religion, and preferred to be called an agnostic. He was a committed progressive, once stating "I learned my Marx at my father's knee," co-founding with Lewontin and their allies the movement and magazine Science for the People, and serving on the advisory board of the journal Rethinking Marxism and of the Brecht Forum, sponsor of the New York Marxist School.
Hope that helps you understand that "cause celebre" you referred to. Have a lovely day Margaret.
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  #13  
Unread March 15th, 2006, 08:00 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Two Cousins: Francis Galton Site

Fred, Thanks for the links. I'll admit that I have read several of his books and I never thought that he was more political than simply left-leaning and progressive in his politics. Being on the board of the journal Rethinking Marxism and the Brecht Forum says otherwise. However, I found these mitigating quotes:

Quote:
http://www.isreview.org/issues/24/gould.shtml - Gould also shared Engels’ enthusiasm for understanding the natural world dialectically--in other words, consisting of complex and dynamic interactive processes. "Dialectical thinking should be taken more seriously by Western scholars, not discarded because some nations of the second world [the former Soviet Bloc] have constructed a cardboard version as an official political doctrine," Gould wrote.
It seems here that while he sees value in applying dialecticism to science - he is certainly not endorsing it for politics. From the same source,

Quote:
"When presented as guidelines for a philosophy of change, not as dogmatic precepts true by fiat, the…classical laws of dialectics [formulated by Engels] embody a holistic vision that views change as interaction among components of complete systems, and sees the components themselves…as both products and inputs to the system."
This seems quite sensible to me and apolitical. I'd say that this hardly qualifies him as a Marxist. Although he may have said other things that Wikipedia and a few other sources I queried have missed. Stating that he learned his Marx at his father's knee does not mean that he is a Marxist. He also stated flatly once that he did not share his father's (Marxist) politics - whatever that means.

Still, I see now that he was a much more political person than I thought just from reading his books - and I'll modify my pov accordingly. I would say that he was more ideological than I previously thought - and that his (dialectical philosophical) ideology certainly affected his views of science. My statement was
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What evidence can you point me to that Gould was a Marxist?
I don't think I've seen proof yet that Gould was a Marxist. However, I have seen evidence that some, like you and JimB perhaps, might interpret that way. But I asked for evidence (in a way that implied it did not exist). I did not ask for proof. I therefore stand corrected. Please pass that bottle of patience.

Margaret
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  #14  
Unread March 15th, 2006, 10:14 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Two Cousins: Francis Galton Site

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JimB: I, therefore, look deep under my counter for the sweet bottle called patience whenever a standard mind enters my door. I use those sandwich board carriers as displays of the standard confusions to be found in our society and eventually refer them to Steve Pinker. I also distrust the estrogen-guided who infest churches, universities, and public schools. My reasons? First, they preach kindness but seek conformity. Second, I do not want done again to anyone what the socialists did on behalf of the public good to millions of rebels, deviants, and individualists called Jews (Grynberg, 2002). (The most recent episode was targeted at Ed Wilson in the '70s. Leaders: the Marxists Richard Lewontin & Steven Gould).

Gould: "I learned my Marx at my father's knee,"

MM: I don't think I've seen proof yet that Gould was a Marxist.
Jim, Jim, Jim,
Screw the bottled patience Gunga Jim.
Tho' I've belted you an' flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Jim.
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  #15  
Unread March 16th, 2006, 12:18 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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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:
Quote:
"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?

Quote:
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.

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; March 16th, 2006 at 03:38 PM.
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  #16  
Unread March 16th, 2006, 01:36 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Two Cousins: Francis Galton Site

Quote:
Originally Posted by Margaret McGhee
I'm still hoping to see some reasonable comments on this topic appear on my screen.
Margaret
I just don't think this is a subject yet that we can objectively discuss; we don't have enough facts. You can say that most people can be anything and point to some examples of white basketball players and black PhDs, others would call them expected outlyers. They would point out distributions of test scores and NBA players and you would say culture and environment. I would say it's a mixture of genes and environment. But only one side can be discussed without getting into PC trouble, maybe that's where Jim's sensitivity comes from.

But here goes, please keep your yelling to a minimum: I look for mechanisms for perceived differences; you found culture for your POV. For Jim's POV, I see differing environments based on geology; the closer to the poles a race evolved, the more planning was necessary for survival through the winter. Shelter had to be built and food had to be stored (and you can't play basketball while huddled in your igloo). Closer to the equator, there were at least these fewer pressures. Plus, if women can sustain themselves, they're more apt to breed better dancers than better savers.

So, I guess I'm saying that there is a possible mechanism for both POVs. Plus, we can't perform experiments on humans. The jury's still out and may be forever. But your POV seems more all-or-nothing than Jim's.
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  #17  
Unread March 16th, 2006, 03:18 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Two Cousins: Francis Galton Site

Tom, a very reasonable reply.

You said,
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I just don't think this is a subject yet that we can objectively discuss; we don't have enough facts.
But then why have a forum like this on EP? Isn't that the point? IMO this discussion is another version of the nature-nurture dichotomy that has dogged the natural sciences for 200 years. As more is discovered about the brain and human nature it changes the views that we get when we re-examine the question. That's what I find fascinating about this question and it's what I'm interested in exploring.

Quote:
You can say that most people can be anything and point to some examples of white basketball players and black PhDs, others would call them expected outlyers. They would point out distributions of test scores and NBA players and you would say culture and environment. I would say it's a mixture of genes and environment.
I agree with you that it must be some mixture of genes and environment. As I see it, the question is, just what part each of those takes in determining who we are. I think Gould's statement on dialecticism expresses it very well -
Quote:
"When presented as guidelines for a philosophy of change, not as dogmatic precepts true by fiat, the…classical laws of dialectics [formulated by Engels] embody a holistic vision that views change as interaction among components of complete systems, and sees the components themselves…as both products and inputs to the system."
I think that's what makes it so difficult to unravel just where nature and nurture have their effects. Different components can be both inputs and outputs, and probably on several different levels simultaneously. I love those kinds of puzzles.

You add,
Quote:
But only one side can be discussed without getting into PC trouble, maybe that's where Jim's sensitivity comes from.
It seems that since this is his forum, he's the only one who can't get in trouble here. That genetic differences can affect who we are or who we become is a perfectly valid idea and many parts of that concept are useful in the discussion. The problem is that ever since Spencer coined the metaphor, "Survival of the fittest" those who had accumulated the most power in society or in the world, have used it to justify that power - often by using the latest science to instituitionalize that power and making it inaccessible to others. Now, when JimB starts thread after thread that mocks efforts to distribute that power more equitably (anti-PC) as violations of the natural order, I have to wonder if he is more interested in protecting the status quo or unravelling the nurture-nature puzzle.

That's why I have challenged him to make that clear. And so far, considering his mostly ideological, in-your-face responses, it seems that it's the former. Still, I'm willing to accept that maybe he had some bad experiences with nurturites - and now, anyone who doesn't see things his way scientifically is his ideological enemy. Kind of like Fred. But, that's all cool by me. I don't see him as my enemy. There are definitely some strong emotions happening there - and I can accept those things to a point before I decide that my online time would be more profitably spent elsewhere.

Note: I hereby claim authorship of the terms nurturites and naturites for all time - as the ideologically obsessed proponents of each side of this supposedly scientific debate. Except that anything that good has probably already been coined by someone else.

But, I'm learning a lot about this stuff, especially the ideological side. I do wish we could get past that though because that is not resolvable. I'm liberal and JimB is not and we'll always see the distribution of power in society in different ways. But the science is available to discuss if we try.

One thing you said puzzles me,
Quote:
Closer to the equator, there were at least these fewer pressures. Plus, if women can sustain themselves, they're more apt to breed better dancers than better savers.
I don't understand that statement. Can you explain it in a different way?

Margaret
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  #18  
Unread March 16th, 2006, 03:51 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: back to the future . .

I said in a previous post,
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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.
This opens up other questions:

What causes a child to adopt a particular identity-image (or parts of an identity image) and pursue it over the years? I was certain that I would become a cowgirl - after attending a particular Saturday afternoon movie when I was about eight. My bicycle was my trusty horse for weeks after that. Of course, I didn't, literally become a cowgirl. But I'll bet I did internalize some of the independence and Western toughness that I saw in that gal on the screen.

What causes some children to attach themselves to their identity image with all their energy - and others to not really care that much? Are those environrmental or inherited factors? Do we inherit genes for copying behavior that make some of us really go for it and others not willing to put out that much energy? Or, do we all pretty much start as strong copiers but a crappy environment eventually takes the spirit out of some of us?

Margaret
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  #19  
Unread March 16th, 2006, 03:53 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Two Cousins: Francis Galton Site

Quote:
Originally Posted by Margaret McGhee
But then why have a forum like this on EP? Isn't that the point?
I should have stressed the "objectively", we can still discuss it but objectivity is hard to come by.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Margaret McGhee
One thing you said puzzles me,
I don't understand that statement. Can you explain it in a different way?
So, you want me to get into more PC trouble, huh? OK: I was pointing out that I think blacks are better dancers and whites are better at saving for a rainy (or snowy) day. And I think that follows from latitude since women can take care of themselves when the environment allows.

That was a gross generalization, which is why I preferred to leave it rather cryptic .
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  #20  
Unread March 16th, 2006, 04:51 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Who's got rhythm and where did they get it?

OK Tom, get ready for it - just kidding.

What you are talking about is something that I have also spent a lot of time wondering about. I mentioned previously that I am a musician. I have always been fascinated by both African and S. American rhythm which is very much associated with black culture and originated in Africa.

Rhythm is the foundation of all music. I sometimes see tone and timbre and voice, melody and harmony, as just embellishments, ways to decorate a really cool rhythm. Some of my students have had the problem of approaching music tonally - and never seeing the rhythm under that music. Until they can start over - and first develop a sense of rhythm - and then lay their melodies on top of that - they'll be stuck in the rut of only making sounds and not music.

My theory on this (that has no real reason to be correct other than my intuition) is that rhythm is closely associated with speech in our brains. Some languages are more rhythmic than others and people that speak more rhythmic languages constantly exercise their sense of rhythm when the speak. So from an early age they will tend to have music (and dance) that is more complex rhythmically and where rhythm is a more significant component.

An aside: For many years scholars tried to analyze the drum message codes of some African tribes. Finally they discovered that the drums were replicating the rhythm of common spoken phrases in their languages. For people who speak rhythmically, the drums are almost as good a standing next to the speaker.

When African slaves came to America they didn't just learn English - they naturally put it to the rhythm that they used to speak their native language. That speaking rhythm has persisted in black American culture except for those blacks who have consciously suppressed it or were raised without it. As you know, today hip-hop and rap is a very popular form of black rhythmic/verbal musical communication (that turns off most older whites - but kids are picking up on it).

Another aside: I used to work with a black man who I sensed wanted to succeed in white culture. He claimed not to have any sense of rhythm and said that it was a cultural myth that blacks had more rhythm than whites.

So, here's the question:

Do blacks typically have more rhythm than you and I do (I'm guessing you're not black) and if so, is this cultural or genetic? If it is genetic, then I wonder what happened in those successive waves of homo-sapien northern and eastern migrations that caused the loss of that genetic rhythmic influence.

Or, is it just cultural and any non-black exposed to rhythmic speech patterns (and music) from an early age can do it. From all the white folks I know who do bluegrass and old-time fiddle tunes (very much white music) I'd say that a strong case can be made for culture. (Mark O'Conner, Jerry Douglas, Russ Barenburg, Edger Meyer, Mike Marshall, Laurie Lewis, Alyson Kraus, Alison Brown, etc. - these folks all have what I'd call an extremely well developed sense for complex rhythm.)

Then there's the old-time music of the likes of the Carter family. They'd purposely add a beat here or take one out there to make a tune crooked. That way when you were listening to it on the radio you'd be a bit startled - like, what was that? And you'd remember to listen to them again when the Grand Ole Opry was on. But it takes a very good sense of rhythm to pull that off and not crash - which I often do when I try to emulate them

Or, is it simply environmental? Do hot climates just make better dancers?

What do you think?

Margaret

PS - I just happened to think about Norwegian folk music. That's some of the most rhythmically complex stuff I have ever heard - and it developed over the centuries in the far north. On second thought, maybe it's not so complex just wierd. Anyway, I can't follow it.

PPS - It would seem to me that if this was genetic, then black children might show some difficulty learning to speak non-rhythmically when raised in that language environment. Or at least they might try to impose rhythm of some type on whatever non-rhythmic language they might learn. The opposite might be true for white children raised in a rhythmic speaking environment. I have never heard of anything like this happening (except for Steve Martin in the Jerk .

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; March 16th, 2006 at 09:26 PM.
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