Monday, January 12, 2009

Genetics versus popular illusion

Popular illusion: we're all the same. Race is a social construct. Class is an accident of history. Gender does not influence thinking. Individuals all have the potential to be whatever they want to be.

Hard reality: we're all widely different. Race represents evolutionary plateaus. Class occurs because smarter people tend to prosper when they work. Gender influences outlook and intellect, and emotion is an intellectual process. Individuals are 80% determined by genetics and 20% by experience, which means that we cannot be whatever we want to be, but we can get slightly better than the last generation.

Exhibit A:


A survey of numerous African populations in Kenya and Cameroon found a striking amount of diversity in a gene responsible for sensing bitter tastes.

"If they have more genetic diversity, there's more variation in their ability to taste," says Sarah Tishkoff, a geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who presented the findings at a recent conference.

Europeans and Asians typically have only one of two forms of a gene called TAS2R38, which detects a bitter-tasting compound called PTC and similar chemicals in vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

NewScientist


So race isn't a social construct, but it's a collection of genes, and the more "diverse" a group is the less it has evolved from its original environment in Africa.

Exhibit B:


New research published today will bring prenatal testing for autism significantly closer, prompting experts to call for a national debate about the consequences of screening for the disorder in the womb and allowing women to terminate babies with the condition.

The breakthrough study by Cambridge University's autism research centre has followed 235 children from birth to the age of eight. It found that high levels of testosterone in the amniotic fluid of pregnant women was linked to autistic traits, such as a lack of sociability and verbal skills, in their children by the time they are eight.

The Guardian


Angry, warlike moms produce kids who have single-minded focus. This is useful if you need to churn out a generation that will dispassionately kill your enemy.

Let's summarize...

Popular illusion: we are whoever we construe ourselves to be.

Hard reality: we are what nature makes us.

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Subvert the dominant paradigm, don't be a solipsist.

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