Unchanging Essence

John Shea is a professor of anthropology at Stony Brook, specializing in ancient archaeology. He’s been making the argument that ‘behavioral modernity’ is a flawed concept, which it is. Naturally, he wants to replace it with something even worse. Not only are all existing human populations intellectually equal, as most anthropologists affirm – all are ‘behaviorally modern’ – all past populations of anatomically modern humans were too! The idea that our ancestors circa 150,000 B.C. might not be quite as sharp as people today is just like the now-discredited concept of race. And you know, he’s right. They’re both perfectly natural consequences of neodarwinism.

Behavioral modernity is a silly concept. As he says, it’s a typological concept: hominids are either behaviorally modern or they’re not. Now why would this make sense? Surely people vary in smarts, for example: it’s silly to say that they are either smart or not smart. We can usefully make much finer distinctions. We could think in terms of distributions – we might say that you score in the top quarter of intelligence for your population. We could analyze smarts in terms of thresholds: what is the most complex task that a given individual can perform? What fraction of the population can perform tasks of that complexity or greater? Etc. That would be a more reasonable way of looking at smarts, and this is of course what psychometrics does.

It’s also a group property. If even a few members of a population do something that anthropologists consider a sign of behavioral modernity – like making beads – everyone in that population must be behaviorally modern. By the the same argument, if anyone can reach the top shelf, we are all tall.

The notion of behavioral modernity has two roots. The first is that if you go back far enough, it’s obvious that our distant ancestors were pretty dim. Look at Oldowan tools – they’re not much more than broken rocks. And they stayed that way for a million years – change was inhumanly slow back then. That’s evidence. The second is not. Anthropologists want to say that all living populations are intellectually equal – which is not what the psychometric evidence shows. Or what population differences in brain size suggest. So they conjured up a quality – behavioral modernity – that all living people possess, but that homo erectus did not, rather than talk about quantitative differences.

The idea of behavioral modernity (as usually stated) makes no sense. Ongoing adaptive evolution changed people. Upon expansion out of Africa, admixture with archaics added quite a bit of new adaptive variation. That changed people – some of them. Anatomically modern Africans mixed with other archaic populations inside Africa, populations that were more different than Neanderthals, having diverged something like a million years ago – and that changed them. New tools, new cultural innovations – above all agriculture – changed the selective pressures, and people changed again. Culture influenced mutation rates as well. You don’t expect to see sameness in either space or time – and we don’t.

Shea seems to think that a species – in particular, anatomically modern humans – is some kind of Platonic type and has an unchanging essence. So if all humans are ‘behaviorally modern’ today (they have to be, whether they are or not), surely they were 200,000 years ago as well. Those Australians are just pretending to have 15% smaller brains, while the Ashkenazi Jews are just pretending to be smart. S. J. Gould seems to have thought along these same lines, to the point where he would argue with someone (Reznick) who found that a few generations of different selective pressures (no predators above waterfalls) caused heritable changes in guppy behavior. Gould disliked anything that suggested that selective pressures could result in human behavioral differences. Since everything suggests that, he kept busy. But archaeologists often get their evolutionary theory from Gould, not knowing that he was a lying jackass.

If the inner nature of a species stays always the same, where did anatomically modern humans come from in the first place? Were they found under a cabbage leaf?

Does Shea think that canines have an unchanging essence, so that Pekingese and border collies and timber wolves are all really the same? They really are different. I will stick my hand into a Labrador’s mouth if Shea puts his hand into a pit bull’s mouth. Take a look at canine venereal sarcoma (yuck!) – once a dog, now an infectious cancer. Where’s the essence?

Shea says that no anthropologist in his right mind would think that existing cultural variation among humans had anything to do with genetic differences between existing populations. It will be interesting to discover the alleles that made him say that.

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73 Responses to Unchanging Essence

  1. JayMan says:

    “Shea says that no anthropologist in his right mind would think that existing cultural variation among humans had anything to do with genetic differences between existing populations. It will be interesting to discover the alleles that made him say that.”

    It would.

  2. JamesG says:

    I agree that Gould was a lying jackass but occasionally he spoke the truth as in an article he wrote for The New York Review of Books (March 29, 1984 issue):

    ” I am hopeless at deductive sequencing … I never scored particularly well on so-called objective tests of intelligence because they stress logical reasoning …”

    • Drive-By Poster says:

      And there you have it. The OTHER reason Gould agitated against intelligence testing: it put him in a bad light, and he just couldn’t stomach that. Him, stupid? Like those dumb rednecks and those villainous conservatives? Then what separates him from them? Still, an insecurity is a far more sympathetic motivation for lying and deceiving than serving ethnic and political interests. I suspect this same insecurity motivates many in the humanities and softer sciences.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        “I suspect this same insecurity motivates many in the humanities and softer sciences.”

        Interesting thought.

  3. Florida resident says:

    The author of the book
    “Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count”
    Richard E. Nisbett,

    which I actually read in full, starts Capter One with this:
    “I began having trougle with arithmetic in fifth grade, after I missed school for a week just when my class took up fractions. For the rest of elementary school I never quite recovered from that setback. My parents were sympathetic, telling me that people in our family had never been very good at math. They viewed math as something that you either had or mot, for reasons having mostly to do with heredity.”
    Compare this to the title of the book.

    • Florida resident says:

      “trougle” —> “trouble”. Flying fingrers, sorry for that.

      • Florida resident says:

        “mot” —> “not”.
        The flap of hardcover edition has the title
        “A bold refutation of the belief that genes determine intellegence.”

    • Elijah Armstrong says:

      At least Nisbett is not an idiot, like Gould was. Nisbett has made some decent contributions to the field.

  4. melykin says:

    It is discouraging that this sort of nonsense is being taught at universities.

  5. Toolbeing says:

    What gets me (not having read his argument) is, what about at the transition between Not Us and Us; was it one-generation step up? Obviously not, so how can anyone entertain the idea? Why are we so goddam afraid of inequality?

    • dave chamberlin says:

      “why are we so goddamned afraid of inequality?”

      I used to be a delusional liberal so I know how they think. We were a pack of dipshits back in the seventies and eighties. We did things like hold hands across America to make the world a better place. How retarded is that? We would give our toddler boys a doll and a truck and be suprised that the boy rejected the doll and grabbed the truck. We were going to make the world a better place through equality. My friends are still wishing upon a star that we are all equal. If I try to argue with them well then I’m just arrogant or worse racist. They will die with their silly beliefs but evidence based science will start giving us real answers as to why there is such a large variability in inherited intelligence. I’ll be following blogs like this one because not only is it an interesting question, it may be the most important question. Because after we find that out, and assuming genetic engineering makes considerable advances, then and only then will prospective parents have an equal opportunity to raise a child as smart as Ginny Cochran. And the funny/sad thing is the poor dumbshits will fight tooth and nail to prevent this equal opportunity….in the name of equality.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        “And the funny/sad thing is the poor dumbshits will fight tooth and nail to prevent this equal opportunity….in the name of equality.”

        Exactly. This is the only way egalitarians can get what they want.

    • fred-m says:

      I believe we are afraid of inequality because the consequences of officially acknowledging it will be quite dire. We are sitting on a powder keg.

  6. Anonymous says:

    If it were indeed the case that the statistical average of any biological trait were identical for all human groups with their very different evolutionary histories then the only way to explain that would be some kind of magic like intelligent design. A incrediblly complex natural process like evolution has zero chance of producing that kind of pattern. The fact that so many people seem to believe that all ethnic groups must have exactly the same distribution of IQ because otherwise it wouldn’t be fair shows that today, centuries after the scientific revolution, most people including many scientists have an essentially animistic view of reality.

  7. While I do not want to get into an argument here, allow me to note that cultural evolution of the kind you discuss is about 20,000 years old or so, while humans are at least 200,000 years old as a separate species (if indeed they are, as I am still unconvinced we aren’t H erectus anyway). So “behavioural modernity” in evolutionary terms might have arisen 10 times longer than the cultural variations you mention. No need for “essence”; just the notion that the species stablised about a suite of cognitive phenotypes 200,000 years ago, as species tend to do whether human or not.

    Nobody expects that species are monomorphic. Geographical variation is ubiquitous, of course, and this includes variation in brain morphology, but it is not clear that makes much difference to behavioural capacities. That said, there is a tendency in physical anthropology to idealise and overinterpret behaviours based upon the slightest of evidence. Whenever someone says that humans had a certain capacity in the past, the question of how we know this must always be raised. Little behaviour fossilises (some evidence of fire making, and stone tools). What we do know is that most of what we have of early Paleolithic humans is not that much different from the evidence we have of older hominid species. So a definition of “modernity” is perhaps due.

    You are too harsh on Gould. His arguments against adaptive cognitive capacities are not good, in my view, but in its context he was not lying, but responding to ideas that were, and remain, very objectionable (like using IQ, devised to measure bourgeois Americans, as a measure of racial averages). He and Lewontin took antiadaptationism too far, but we have moved on. It is a pity if archeologists and anthropologists have adopted him as an authority, but it really isn’t necessary. Nor is race realism necessary despite the reality of geographical phenotypical variation, on the other hand.

    • teageegeepea says:

      Gould’s take on Morton has struck folks as dishonest now that the skulls have been re-analyzed.

      I had never heard of Reznick and the guppies before. What I’ve found with google has Gould citing Reznick’s work as bolstering Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibrium.

    • gcochran9 says:

      There is, in effect, only one civilization. IQ tells you something about how well people do in that civilization. It works equally well on people from different populations: anyone who scores 80 is going to have trouble with calculus.

      it is a mistake to assume that individuals (or groups) who do poorly on one measure must automatically do better on another that has similar practical value. That, sir, is the equivalent of looking for a Coup de Ville at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.

      Gould lied repeatedly, but mixed in simpleminded mistakes to keep people guessing.

    • JL says:

      You are too harsh on Gould. His arguments against adaptive cognitive capacities are not good, in my view, but in its context he was not lying, but responding to ideas that were, and remain, very objectionable (like using IQ, devised to measure bourgeois Americans, as a measure of racial averages).

      Lots of things were designed to measure “bourgeois” Americans. Tons of medical equipment, for example. Do you think that MRI scanners should therefore not be used to examine African Americans?

      Whether IQ tests are reliable and valid when used to compare members of different races is an empirical question. Lots of research has been done on this question with respect to minorities in America, and the answer is that they are. In fact, IQ tests tend to be biased in favor of African Americans and other relatively low-performing groups when used in selection situations with racially diverse applicant populations — this has been known for a long time, yet you never hear the usual suspects complain that this is unfair, which tells a lot about what they actually mean when they blabber about fairness and justice and equality.

      • Sandgroper says:

        I doubt very much that John Wilkins was thinking of African Americans when he made that comment. I think it is far more likely he was thinking of Australian Aborigines – those are the people I automatically think of when discussions of this kind come up; I have known a lot of people of 100% Aboriginal ancestry during my life, whereas I could count on my fingers the number of African Americans I have interacted with at a personal level.

        On the face of it, it does seem an odd thing to do, to put an essentially late Pleistocene person through a modern IQ test and conclude he would have difficulty coping with modern civilisation, when that fact is already blindingly obvious.The same man might have better spatial skills, spatial memory and very acute distance vision, which may well serve him better in a much more harsh featureless environment, but I see that those things could have developed as adaptive traits rather than any kind of compensatory cognitive abilities to offset the trouble with calculus.

      • JL says:

        Sandgroper, Wilkins was defending Gould’s arguments against using IQ to measure racial differences. AFAIK, Gould never wrote about Australian Aborigines (in the context of IQ at least). Gould was attacking the views of Arthur Jensen and others who studied the white-black IQ gap in America. If Wilkins was not talking about African Americans, he should have said so, because that’s what Gould was talking about.

      • Sandgroper says:

        TL, yeah, fair enough, and I shouldn’t infer. I was just thinking that, when considering behavioural modernity, Australians are an informative group to look at. They were undoubtedly ‘behaviourally modern’ more than 40,000 years ago.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “allow me to note that cultural evolution of the kind you discuss is about 20,000 years old or so, while humans are at least 200,000 years old as a separate species”

      Seems to me cultural evolution would or at least could have started the second humans moved into different habitats. For example if humans started out in an environment where females could feed their offspring themselves without any assistance then if they moved into an environment where that was no longer possible they would have to adapt one way or the other (or both).

      or put another way are Bushmen monogamous because they had to be?

    • md says:

      Nor is race realism necessary despite the reality of geographical phenotypical variation, on the other hand.

      The acknowledgement of the reality of geographical phenotypical variation is not necessary despite the reality of geographical phenotypical variation? Say again?

      Race realism: “A race realist is a proponent of the biological reality of race, as opposed to them being social constructs.” You surely know that geographical races exist in humans just like they do in virtually all other species, do you?

  8. Steve Sailer says:

    The funny thing is that Gould made a big deal about how natural selection could _quickly_ change animals (punctuated equilibrium). He loved to complain about about how the word “evolution” is misleading because it implies that change always comes slowly. But it never seemed to occur to him (or his fans) to apply punctuated equilibrium to humans.

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      I used to read a lot of Gould before I came to an opinion of him that is similar to Greg’s, and I got the impression that Gould (and Lewontin) were arguing that the appearance of quick change punctuating long periods of stasis were an artifact of the imperfect fossil record and things like allopatric speciation, etc.

      Perhaps I am wrong.

  9. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    As someone who does not understand what a Hamiltonian is, I wonder whether or not we should regard skill with languages (as in being able to pick up multiple languages) as not being a component of intelligence, but rather a capability that we all need (language) that some have more of than others?

    I have often argued with a math teacher that some students will never be able to handle algebra, while other will never be able to handle calculus, and so forth. This teacher points to the fact that pretty much everyone can drive and claims that that capability suggests that all students can be taught to differentiate and integrate. However, my claim is that driving is actually an activity that reuses physical skills that we all have anyway while math requires an ability to conceptualize things that have not been selected for.

  10. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    Heh, someone thinks you can raise your IQ simply by not believing in IQ.

    Would that it were so easy, then I could understand Hamiltonians.

    • misdreavus says:

      Even if _all_ of the cognitive abilities necessary for higher civilization were not intimately correlated — even if first principal component captured very little of the total variance in cognitive abilities — Johnny could be smarter than Billy in all respects, not just a few.

      Egalitarians who relentlessly push the notion of multiple intelligences surely have bats in the belfry. True, Sandra can’t interpret complex literature, or do calculus, or write eloquently, but she paint with all the colors of the wind? (Howard Gardner’s “interpersonal intelligence” [sic].) If you ever wondered why doctoral students in education score lower on standardized tests than college students as a _whole_, look no further. People this stupid are allowed to influence who gets admitted to places like MIT and who doesn’t. (And in the case of Marilee Jones, they flat out make up their credentials.)

      Peter Schöneman (noted critic of Arthur Jensen) was notorious for repeating the canard that the existence of a large principal component does not prove the existence of Spearman’s g (and more recently, Cosma Shalizi has argued along the same lines), but I’m not sure why this matters one bit. G or no g, IQ tests have immense predictive value, and that’s all that really matters.

      If it turns out that people with high IQ are better at learning everything from physical chemistry to legal theory than the average, and if some people simply have more of this mysterious quality than others, then that’s just too bad. The denial of reality in service of a political delusion does nothing to help anyone, and especially not the poor and “persyns of colour”.

    • misdreavus says:

      Heh, someone thinks you can raise your IQ simply by not believing in IQ.

      Would that it were so easy, then I could understand Hamiltonians.

      Even worse. Stanislas Dehaene believes that just about anybody can turn into Carl Friedrich Gauss through rigorous amounts of practice. Now _that_ requires some radical self-delusion.

      David Shenk (author of The Genius in All of Us) argues more or less among the same lines, but he’s just a moron. Chicanery like this from a respected neuropsychologist and researcher of the neural basis for mathematical ability is downright painful. Is there a supermarket in Guyana where all of these raisin-heads buy the same kool-aid?

    • D.H. says:

      Would that it were so easy, then I could understand Egalitarians.

    • Florida resident says:

      Dear “doorman”:
      Repeat incessantly

      “Hamilton’s function is just Legendre transform of Lagrange’s function with respect to velocities. And sure your interlocutor must agree with you that Legendre transform is _refreshingly_dissimilar_ from Fourier or Laplace transforms: Legendre transform is nonlinear.”

      Everybody will be assured that you understand Hamiltonians in a deepest way.
      Your F.r.

      • Cloudswrest says:

        It’s just an application of the Euler-Lagrange equations (Calculus of variations) to minimizing energy.

      • Florida resident says:

        Dear Cloudwest:
        To the best of my understanding, Euler-Lagrange equations are minimizing the time-integral of Lagrange function, _not_ energy at any particular moment of time. This time-integral is called “Action”. Action has the same physical dimensions, as Planck’s constant (Joule*seconds, in SI system of units.) Hence, “least action principle”.
        Energy is neither minimized, not maximized in the actual motion. If the system is “autonomous”, i.e. its properties do not depend on time explicitly, and there is no dissipation, then energy
        (e.g. kinetic energy + potential energy) is just conserved, without being minimized or maximized.
        My previous comment was intended to be a joke.
        Your truly, F.r.

  11. MathMan says:

    The thing that always bothers me about this non-sense is how can anyone imagine a model in which groups vary on traits we don’t care about and are completely equal in all traits for which we are concerned. How can anybody believe that?

    Any traits that vary by individual should also vary in groups, under two conditions. One, the fitness of those traits are affected by the environment, and the environment differs for groups. Natural selection will change that groups’ average genetic variation over time. However it will be hard to tell how much is due to genes because the culture will also shift in response to the environmental stimuli.

    If there is no variation for a trait in the larger group, it will only vary between smaller groups if a new mutation pops -up and is advantageous.

    Imagine a purely genetic trait, like number of fingers. If the founder group of humans had their number of digits distributed normally. So most people averaged 10 fingers but a third of people had greater than 13, and another third less than 7. If we split everyone up in smaller groups, that were even, and we varied the environment, such that the fitness of the group were affected by average member digits, we should expect group variation.

    So we have some traits the stay the same between groups, these are traits the didn’t vary individually. Some traits vary by group, because they are affected by the environment and vary individually.

    The killer twist is, if the variations to the environment are normally distributed, then the variation between groups should be normally distributed as well. The reason this topic is taboo is that environmental variation wasn’t normally distributed, so the averages between groups cluster which makes everyone suspect.

  12. bruce says:

    >if you go back far enough, it’s obvious that our ancestors were pretty dim. Look at olduwan tools- they’re not much more than broken rocks.

    There’s got to be a big, long-term overlap between broken rocks and pointed sticks used by smart animals with grasping paws and the stuff used by early man. If you went to visit Pleistocene Park, wouldn’t you pay extra to see giant beavers with pointy sticks hunting mammoths who throw rocks?

  13. Matt says:

    I got the impression behavioral modernity existed as a concept, and gained its impetus, as a sort of explanation (I use that in the loosest sense) for expansion of the anatomically modern phenotype (which is mostly a set of cranial traits?), more than a way to impose uniformity on all extant human populations (although of course, as you say, people use it for that).

    Behavioral modernity seems to be treated qualitatively rather than quantitatively also because of limitations in the evidence – it is easier for them to measure that these fossils are associated with this evidence (and thus an evidence producing behavior) than it is to try and measure how much of some behavioral quality is associated with a set of fossils, on a scale. So archaeologists do that.

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  16. I am noticing a continuing tendency of HBD-deniers to start their arguments by showing that the originators of IQ tests and general intelligence theories were bad people, culture-bound and close-minded. And that this will all come back again, with forced sterilisation and discrimination, if we don’t kill this HBD-reemergence in its cradle. The argument beneath the other arguments is that only bad people believe this. “This is not socially acceptable.”

    I would listen more to some writer who could forgo that tone. BTW Greg, are anthropologists just nastier and snippier than others? As here: http://assistantvillageidiot.blogspot.com/2013/02/1491.html

  17. Jim says:

    To misdreavus –

    Speaking of Gauss – In Hanover at the time there was a public education system. Children of various ages were all taught together in the same class. On the first day in his life attending school the teacher asked the children to calculate the sum ofthe numbers from one to 100. This was Gauss’ first school assignment. He immediately wrote down the answer – 5050. This easy if you
    know the trick, for example, it is 100 times the average of the numbers from one to hundred which is halfway between one and one hundred so 100 times 50.5 which is 5050 or alternatively group one with one hundred, two with 99 etc to get 50 pairs adding to 101 so the answer is 50 times 101. But Gauss who was ayoung kid who had never had even one day of formal schooling saw this immediately.
    Gauss came from a fairly humble background, his father was a supervisor of manual laborers and his mother was illiterate. There was nothing special about his early upbringing to explain his abilities. He excelled also in learning languages, mastering classical Greek and Latin as a young boy. In fact it was his liguistic ability that first brought attention to him as a prodigy. Very quickly the
    school system in Hanover ran out of anybody who could keep up with him.

    Gauss ability to quickly learn languages continued all his life. When he was fairly old he took up the study of Russian. Not long after doing so he had a conversation with the Russian ambassador to Prussia who just took him for a native speaker. He could read Sanskrit, Persian, whatever.
    He learned new languages throughout his life almost effortlessly.

    Gauss’ famous treatise on the differential geometry of surfaces was published about 1830 when Gauss was about fifty years. Many mathematicians before Gauss had developed a huge amount of material in this subject but before Gauss nobody had seen the Gaussian curvature even though it is present everywhere in this subject. The Gaussian curvature appears in a myriad of guises in the work of differential geometers before Gauss but nobody before him could see it. Gauss was the first to see the Gaussian curvature and with this concept he made the subject transparent.

    • misdreavus says:

      Again, as Stanislas Dehaene opined, that amounts to nothing but hearsay and circumstantial evidence. How can we be sure that young Carl didn’t have a wealthy benefactor who secretly held his hand from birth to adolescence, tirelessly guiding him from novel invention to discovery, urging him to surpass the magical threshold of 10,000 hours of practice that can assemble a titan of innovation from feeblest of mediocrities? What if his mother were only pretending to be barefoot and illiterate? How can you be so sure, given the trenchant reality of Eurocentric bias in what we call the historical record?

      Aren’t you aware of the latest discoveries in epigenetics and neuroplasticity that have laid waste to the tired old paradigm of nature v. nurture? Don’t you know that the human mind, the most magnificent of social constructs, is infinitely malleable, and can be no more constrained by its molecular scaffolding than the loftiest of mountain peaks?

      I suggest that you cast aside your reductionist blinkers and drink from the fountain of wisdom that has inspired giants among men such as Foucault and Baudrillard — we dwell in a universe of infinite possibilities and limitless ideas, not concrete facts.

  18. ben says:

    “Aren’t you aware of the latest discoveries in epigenetics and neuroplasticity ”

    Governments spend billions of dollars in an attempt to raise test scores. Why don’t they just make Judaism the national religion?

  19. szopeno says:

    Recently in a discussion with a friend I realised that despite reading a lot about genetics, I lack the understanding of some of the most fundamental subjects and even definitions. I tried to search for something like “genetics for a dummies” but failed. Could you please recommend some simple, preferably free, introductions into genetics, explaining fundamental and basic concepts, in a way which does not require one to finish major in biology and chemistry first?

  20. Bill says:

    But archaeologists often get their evolutionary theory from Gould, not knowing that he was a lying jackass.

    Did they also not know Mead was a lying jackass? Just how dumb are they? Or maybe they are pretending . . .

    • misdreavus says:

      Mead was merely naive, and the anthropological community as a whole deserves opprobrium for its readiness to believe in politically convenient falsehoods.

      But a blank slater, she was not. Margaret Mead personally attributed her daughter’s higher intelligence to genetics, and she defended E.O. Wilson during the academic brouhaha over sociobiology.

  21. Behavioral modernity is perhaps not a false dichotomy in the almost tautological sense that all modern humans are modern humans, and are behaviorally modern in some universal respects. However, being intelligent or unintelligent is obviously a false dichtomy, since IQ is distributed along continuums rather than fixed categories. One often hears that mean and stupid people – “racists” in particular – tend to think in black and white, dualistic ways – but ironic as it may seem it is actually the good guys who have to pretend that these things are either-or in order to justify their own “research” positions.

    I think Robert. A Gordon made these very simple points pretty clear back in 1997:
    http://lesacreduprintemps19.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/gordon-1997-everyday-life-as-an-intelligence-test-effects-of-intelligence-and-intelligence-context.pdf

  22. baloocartoons says:

    All of science seems to be twisted into the service of egalitarianism. BTW, is there a better term for that? Egalitarianism and equalitarianism both seem to be about equal rights, not mental/psychological equality. At any rate, I’ve reposted this below:
    http://ex-army.blogspot.com/2013/02/behavioral-modernity.html

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  24. misdreavus says:

    From an Intelligence Squared debate on the merits of a nationwide ban on genetic engineering (You can guess which side the interlocutor supports! Of course, he is a bioethicist and a public intellectual.):

    Sheldon Krimsky: Sharon [A women who successfully prevented a hereditary disorder in her children through mitochondrial transfer] was mentioned. I don’t know her personally. And I’m so happy that she had a successful pregnancy. But she had choices. One of her choices was to adopt someone else’s egg and have a baby. She — it wouldn’t be her DNA but it would be somebody else’s DNA. Another choice would be for her to adopt a child, which, you know, is certainly a desirable thing to do in a world where there are children who need adoption.

    What is the urgency of people to have their DNA in their child? In fact, most of the things that our children get do not get from our DNA, they get from all the enhancement that we give them, so there’s this obsession that “My child has to have my DNA.” She did have some other choices. The risks that she took were real.

    My eyes were rolling into the back of my head.

    • misdreavus says:

      By that I mean the genetic engineering of human beings. Sorry.

    • JayMan says:

      Damn…

      In my opinion, anyone with those beliefs should be disqualified from being any way involved in shaping the policy on this.

      But that’d be asking too much…

      • Sandgroper says:

        So, a woman wanting a child that has her own DNA is now an *obsession*?

        “most of the things that our children get….. they get from all the enhancement that we give them” – Huh?

        Agreed – this person Krimsky should never be permitted to get anywhere near anything with the word ‘policy’ attached. He’s a moron.

      • Elijah Armstrong says:

        One of the “against” people was the co-editor of a volume of essays on how race is a “social constuct.” I remember it had an essay by that idiot Graves, where he hideously distorted the conclusions of a paper written by a personal friend of mine.

  25. Elijah Armstrong says:

    Excuse me, one of the “for” people – i.e., someone supporting a ban on genetic engineering of humans.

  26. Anon says:

    Re: canine venereal sarcoma

    How does it get around Hayflick limit?

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