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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  June 2009

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE June 2009

Subject:

Re: "Our brains are fluid and plastic"

From:

Michael H Goldhaber <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 14:55:27 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (921 lines)

To you only, Mart,

I, for one,  enjoy your posts on the SftP list, whether I agree with  
them (or even understand them) or not. I hope you stay on the list,  
but I also ask that you try to leave out ad hominem invective. This  
last request seems possibly unnneeded, since you seem to have heeded   
others upset with the relatively few times you have strayed in that  
direction.

Best,

Michael
-------
Michael H. Goldhaber
SftP list moderator


On Jun 28, 2009, at 11:52 AM, mart wrote:

> ps   it doesnt appear to be in the cached pages. 'my bad'.  i guess  
> this is so-called 'collective intelligence' or stupidity.   this  
> still is a waste of time, so maybe tyhis is my last post here  
> (unless due to the genes self-control proves diddicult to resist  
> feeding the trolls).   you can get paid actually for writing posts  
> like those on here, including mine.  but, just as slaves did work  
> that could be compensated, as did indians, some don't, perhaps due  
> to the genes or the environment.
>
> -- On Sun, 6/28/09, mart <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
>> From: mart <[log in to unmask]>
>> Subject: Re: "Our brains are fluid and plastic"
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Date: Sunday, June 28, 2009, 2:38 PM
>> its not there so my memory is
>> limited, though its equally possible if you go back a year
>> or and find his cached posts it will be
>> there.
>> in any events these discussions seem little more than
>> gossip or corner talk.
>> as a side note, i did note that one of the heads of energy
>> agencies, i think under clinton, gave a talk saying nuclear
>> power was bopth unnecesary and not the way to
>> go.   also, one of the government agencies
>> has done a review of some 12 plans fort enertgy futures,
>> many of which either do not rely on more nuclear, or see a
>> very limited tole for it.  but to know that you might
>> have to google;  similarily if you are a corrupt priest
>> living off the catholic teachings, if you googled evolution
>> you might lose your comfortable job.  ignorance is
>> bliss, so keep preaching.
>> there have been several 'knee jerk' posts on behasviort
>> genetics from the 'pure environment' side of things (J P
>> Rushton is an idiot) which serve no purpose (since Rushton
>> even recently had papers in the UK's Royal society biology
>> journal (i think showing gypies have low
>> iq).
>>
>> --- On Sun, 6/28/09, Michael Balter <[log in to unmask]>
>> wrote:
>>
>>> From: Michael Balter <[log in to unmask]>
>>> Subject: Re: "Our brains are fluid and plastic"
>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>> Date: Sunday, June 28, 2009, 11:38 AM
>>> I don't see Michelle Malkin in
>>> Hawks' links, perhaps mart would like to show us
>> where
>>> to find that?
>>>
>>> MB
>>>
>>> On Sun, Jun 28, 2009 at 5:10 PM,
>>> mart <[log in to unmask]>
>>> wrote:
>>>
>>>
>>> if i recall, hawks links to
>>> michelle malkin (right wing talk host i think)on his
>> blog.
>>>  his blog often is fairly interesting especxially on
>> issues
>>> like 'out of africa'/multiregional  theory, but
>>> there is also some questionable stuff on there.
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> the UNC/Duke sociology and genetics faculty really
>> have
>>> some highly questionable people.  studies from there
>> use
>>> fairly complex data analyses, but on very shoddy
>> research
>>> designs (exceedlingly small sample sizes,
>> self-reporting
>>> type psychological questionaires, etc.)  to try to
>> find
>>> single-gene (typically seretonin, etc.) influences on
>>> behavior (eg gene plus no family breakfast=gang
>>> membership).
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> my fave is the guy who is learning beahviro genetics
>> on the
>>> job (since thats not his field) and so he does linear
>>> regrtessions to correlate child performance with iq
>> scores.
>>>   thats since he can only solve linear
>> regressions---and
>>> you get results--- so dealing with higher order
>> effects
>>> isn't neccesary. there'sd another one in Va. too
>>> (who also specializes in average state iq
>> scores/percantage
>>> blacks on the state budget---keeps him out of jail!).
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>  its quite similar to 'general equilibrium'
>>> modeling in econ, which uses vast firepower to find
>> answers
>>> to ill-posed problems (eg maximizing or projecting
>> GDP).
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> most of theses single issue types are too lazy to try
>> to
>>> deal with formulating well-posed problems and solving
>> them.
>>>  but that is partly a function of the organization
>> of
>>> research, which favors publish/perish so you have to
>> find
>>> something you can 'solve' (even if the result is
>>> thrown out in 5 years---you only live once, so what
>> if
>>> you're wrong? you got your tenure!!!   i wonder
>> whether
>>> that 'gay gene' stuff by levay, etc has ever been
>>> replicated---probably there are mixed results).
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>      --- On Sun, 6/28/09, Jon Beckwith <[log in to unmask]>
>>> wrote:
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>> From: Jon Beckwith <[log in to unmask]>
>>>
>>>> Subject: Re: "Our brains are fluid and
>>> plastic"
>>>
>>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>>
>>>> Date: Sunday, June 28, 2009, 9:32 AM
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> Michael-  I am suspicious about Hawks
>>>
>>>> in terms of where
>>>
>>>> he is coming from.  Witness his statement after
>> the
>>>
>>>> first
>>>
>>>> Microcephalin paper appeared in Science.
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> New Scientist
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> September 17, 2005
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> "Whatever advantage these genes give, some
>> groups
>>> have
>>>
>>>> it and some
>>>
>>>> don't. This has to be the worst nightmare of
>>> people who
>>>
>>>> believe strongly
>>>
>>>> there are no differences in brain function
>> between
>>>
>>>> groups," says
>>>
>>>> anthropologist John Hawks of the University of
>>> Wisconsin in
>>>
>>>> Madison.
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> I agree with you that scientific reports on
>> genetics
>>>
>>>> and behavior
>>>
>>>> should not be rejected out of hand, but given
>> its
>>> long, sad
>>>
>>>> history, we
>>>
>>>> certainly should look at them suspiciously.
>>>
>>>> Particularly, when it
>>>
>>>> is coming from people who have a history of
>> getting
>>> things
>>>
>>>> wrong or have
>>>
>>>> known biases.  For example, when the study of
>> Caspi
>>> et
>>>
>>>> al came out
>>>
>>>> reporting a correlation between an MAOA
>> polymorphism,
>>>
>>>> individuals with it
>>>
>>>> being exposed to child abuse and subsequent
>>> anti-social
>>>
>>>> behavior, the
>>>
>>>> data seemed OK to me, although in such cases,
>> one
>>> awaits
>>>
>>>> replication.  Problem is that attempted
>> replications
>>>
>>>> have given
>>>
>>>> different results.  I was also suspicious
>> because I
>>>
>>>> was on a panel
>>>
>>>> with one of the authors of that paper, who
>> expressed
>>> some
>>>
>>>> views that
>>>
>>>> sounded quite classist to me
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> Now, we have
>>>
>>>> to look at this new study that reports MAOA as
>> the
>>>
>>>> "Gangsta
>>>
>>>> gene."  I'm not sure the article is out yet
>>>
>>>> in Comprehensive
>>>
>>>> Psychiatry.  Does anyone have a copy?
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> As far as
>>>
>>>> EvPsych goes, I just don't see this as providing
>>>
>>>> scientific evidence for
>>>
>>>> anything.  I never say never, so maybe some day
>>>
>>>> scientists in this
>>>
>>>> field will develop approaches that will allow
>> them to
>>> make
>>>
>>>> hypotheses
>>>
>>>> with more backing, but right now is not the
>> day.
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>
>>>
>>>> Jon
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> t 08:25 AM
>>> 6/28/2009, you wrote:
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> From
>>>
>>>> University of
>>>
>>>> Wisconsin-Madison anthropologist John Hawks.
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> Sent to you by Michael via Google
>>>
>>>> Reader:
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> "Our brains are fluid and
>>>
>>>> plastic"
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> via john hawks weblog by John
>>>
>>>> Hawks on
>>>
>>>> 6/26/09
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> For some reason, it's "bash evolutionary
>>>
>>>> psychology" week.
>>>
>>>> First, Sharon Begley writes a 7-page essay in
>>>
>>>> Newsweek,
>>>
>>>> "Don't
>>>
>>>> Blame the
>>>
>>>> Caveman.", and now David Brooks gamely takes on
>>>
>>>> the subject in
>>>
>>>> the New York Times:
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> "Human Nature Today".
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> Brooks' target is Geoffrey Miller's new book,
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior. I
>>>
>>>> haven't seen
>>>
>>>> Miller's book yet, maybe they'll send me one.
>>> I
>>>
>>>> have a feeling there's
>>>
>>>> more to it than Brooks' two-paragraph synopsis.
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> We are all narcissists, Miller asserts. We spend
>> much
>>>
>>>> of our lives
>>>
>>>> trying to broadcast our excellence in these
>> traits in
>>> order
>>>
>>>> to attract
>>>
>>>> mates. Even if we’re not naturally
>>> smart or
>>>
>>>> outgoing, we buy
>>> products
>>>
>>>> and brands that give the impression we are.
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> It seems to me that an evolutionary analysis of
>>>
>>>> consumer behavior is
>>>
>>>> a tall order. You have to account for the fact
>> that
>>> nature
>>>
>>>> didn't set up
>>>
>>>> the mall; a lot of clever advertising people did.
>> Just
>>> as
>>>
>>>> David Kessler pointed
>>>
>>>> out for
>>>
>>>> restaurants, stores are busy trying to exploit
>> innate
>>>
>>>> biases toward
>>>
>>>> products and to manipulate learned responses to
>> them.
>>> Some
>>>
>>>> of it is a
>>>
>>>> novel environment, other parts are fairly old
>>> applications
>>>
>>>> of information
>>>
>>>> foraging. The combinations of old and new,
>> cultural
>>>
>>>> variations, and
>>>
>>>> varying levels of group participation may make
>> cooking
>>> a
>>>
>>>> better analogy
>>>
>>>> than foraging.
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> Putting the intrinsic challenge aside, I think
>> David
>>> Brooks
>>>
>>>> shoots wide
>>>
>>>> of the mark. He lists a catalog of alleged
>> excesses
>>> in
>>>
>>>> Miller's book, and
>>>
>>>> tries to pivot into the point that evolutionary
>>> psychology
>>>
>>>> in general is
>>>
>>>> overreaching in its interpretations of human
>>> behavior.
>>>
>>>> These
>>>
>>>> "criticisms" of evolutionary psychology are
>>>
>>>> hardly new. Some of
>>>
>>>> them may have some force yet, but in Brooks'
>> hands
>>> they
>>>
>>>> hardly slap
>>>
>>>> harder than Ann Landers' famous "wet
>>> noodle":
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> But individuals aren’t formed
>>> before they enter
>>>
>>>> society.
>>>
>>>> Individuals are created by social interaction.
>> Our
>>>
>>>> identities are formed
>>>
>>>> by the particular rhythms of maternal attunement,
>> by
>>> the
>>>
>>>> shared webs of
>>>
>>>> ideas, symbols and actions that vibrate through
>> us
>>> second
>>>
>>>> by second.
>>>
>>>> Shopping isn’t merely a way to broadcast
>>> permanent,
>>>
>>>> inborn traits. For
>>>
>>>> some people, it’s also an activity of
>> trying
>>> things
>>>
>>>> on in the
>>>
>>>> never-ending process of creating and discovering
>> who
>>> they
>>>
>>>> are.
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> So what? Many kinds of sexual and status displays
>> in
>>>
>>>> nature are
>>>
>>>> highly learned -- bowerbirds construct displays
>> from
>>>
>>>> physical objects,
>>>
>>>> many songbirds learn songs based on features of
>> the
>>> songs
>>>
>>>> they hear.
>>>
>>>> They're all trying to create and discover (which
>>> is
>>>
>>>> highfalutin' way to
>>>
>>>> say, learn) what to do. That doesn't mean that
>>> the
>>>
>>>> behaviors don't evolve
>>>
>>>> under selection -- it just means that an
>> evolutionary
>>>
>>>> account of the
>>>
>>>> behaviors must explain the learning mechanism.
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> In humans, there's no question that status
>>> displays are
>>>
>>>> part of mating
>>>
>>>> and social competition. The outcomes of mating
>> and
>>> social
>>>
>>>> competition
>>>
>>>> influence fitness. What remains unknown is the
>> extent
>>> to
>>>
>>>> which learning
>>>
>>>> may be influenced by innate biases. How do we
>> choose
>>> who to
>>>
>>>> copy? Why do
>>>
>>>> we respond to some signals (nowadays, products)
>> and
>>> not
>>>
>>>> others? Is
>>>
>>>> familiarity enough -- old-fashioned, blank-slate
>> type
>>>
>>>> learning? How much
>>>
>>>> do developing minds depend on cues other than
>>> repetition?
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> Nobody really knows the answers to these
>> questions,
>>> at
>>>
>>>> least not well
>>>
>>>> enough to persuasively test hypotheses about the
>>> evolution
>>>
>>>> of human
>>>
>>>> minds. But Brooks implies that such questions
>>> aren't
>>>
>>>> worth asking. He
>>>
>>>> thinks that it's enough to claim that humans
>>> aren't
>>>
>>>> "hard-wired" -- as if that (false)
>>> dichotomy
>>>
>>>> actually conveys
>>>
>>>> any information. In doing so, Brooks confuses
>> the
>>> currency
>>>
>>>> of evolution
>>>
>>>> (that would be, fitness) with the currency of
>>> individual
>>>
>>>> fulfillment.
>>>
>>>> They're not the same, and in many cases they
>> work
>>>
>>>> against each other.
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> Things you can do from here:
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> Subscribe to john hawks weblog using Google
>> Reader
>>>
>>>> Get
>>>
>>>> started
>>>
>>>> using Google Reader to easily keep up with all
>> your
>>>
>>>> favorite
>>>
>>>> sites
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> Jon
>>> Beckwith
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> Dept. of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> Harvard Medical School
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> 200 Longwood Ave.
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> Boston, MA 02115
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> Tel. 617-432-1920
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> FAX 617-738-7664
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> e-mail [log in to unmask]
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> website
>>>
>>>> <
>>>
>>>> http://beck2.med.harvard.edu/>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> At my website you can find the
>>>
>>>> Spring 2008
>>>
>>>> syllabus of a
>>>
>>>> course I teach, Social Issues and
>>>
>>>> Biology.  Go to
>>>
>>>> "People", then to me
>>>
>>>> and click on the Microbiology 213 line.
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>> Related: My book, a memoir: Making
>>>
>>>> Genes, Making Waves: A Social Activist in
>> Science,
>>> Harvard
>>>
>>>> University
>>>
>>>> Press (2002)  Harvard
>>>
>>>> University
>>>
>>>> Press.
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> -- 
>>> ******************************************
>>> Michael Balter
>>> Contributing Correspondent, Science
>>> Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
>>> Boston University
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> Email:           [log in to unmask]
>>>
>>> Website:       michaelbalter.com
>>> Balter's Blog: michael-balter.blogspot.com
>>>
>>>
>>> ******************************************
>>>
>>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>
>
>
>

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