Re: [xmca] Nobel prize talks stupid things about human intelligence

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Mon Oct 22 2007 - 15:32:01 PDT

Fascinating PBS documentary a few weeks ago on the 'epigenetic' system -
that environmental events during an individual's life, while they don't
change the structure of the genome, have a direct impact on the expression
of genes, and that these changes are passed down (via their effect on
formation of eggs and sperm) to the next generation, and even to
grandchildren. If my grandfather lived in a time of famine, my likelihood of
developing diabetes is much increased. As David says, something can be
heritable but not genetic (in origin). The inheritance of acquired
characteristics, no less.


On 10/22/07 4:08 PM, "David Preiss" <> wrote:

> Eirik,
> The Steve Connor comment you send us (second link below) tells
> exactly why JW was not doing science at all. Particularly, why you
> can't infer from an heritability ratio a conclusion about the
> intelligence of people that works with you (as Watson say). On the
> other hand, something can be statistically heritable and not genetic
> at all. A nice explanation is in the Sternberg, Grigorenko and Kidd
> paper I sent before.
> David
> David
> On Oct 22, 2007, at 3:16 PM, E. Knutsson wrote:
>> Amanda,
>> JW's comment (
>> article3075642.ece)
>> concludes with this request: "[W]e as scientists, wherever we wish
>> to place
>> ourselves in this great debate, should take care in claiming what are
>> unarguable truths without the support of evidence."
>> Some of the other comments also seem to give a more balanced view:
>> "Curtailing free debate is almost always a mistake. Allowing
>> scientists and
>> individuals to air their theories openly does not validate them. On
>> the
>> contrary it allows them to be refuted."
>> Eirik
>> On 2007-10-21, at 01:26, Amanda Brovold wrote:
>>> Just for the record, it sounds to me as if Watson has suggested he
>>> may have
>>> been misquoted. In the article linked to 3 messages below he
>>> says: "I can
>>> understand much of this reaction. For if I said what I was quoted as
>>> saying, then I can only admit that I am bewildered by it. To
>>> those who have
>>> drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is
>>> somehow
>>> genetically inferior, I can only apologise unreservedly. This is
>>> not what I
>>> meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no
>>> scientific basis
>>> for such a belief." I am not sure why the first two sentences of
>>> this quote
>>> are generally left off when it is repeated. Such common
>>> occurrences though
>>> (even on this very list) lead me to believe it is plausible that
>>> what Watson
>>> said my not have been as appalling as what has been passed around
>>> makes it
>>> seem. I agree that it seems certain he has a view I very much
>>> disagree with
>>> and seems to be contradicted by the preponderance of evidence.
>>> However, I
>>> find un-thoughtful knee-jerk responses to such views to be at
>>> least as
>>> dangerous as the views themselves. I have heard people stress
>>> that it is
>>> important for academics to respond appropriately to events such as
>>> these. I
>>> very much agree, it is important for experts in the relevant
>>> fields to
>>> correct any misunderstandings that stories like this are likely to
>>> perpetuate. It is also extremely important though for the academy to
>>> remember that academic freedom is absolutely vital. As appalling
>>> as views
>>> expressed by one academic may be, the expression of controversial
>>> view
>>> points simply cannot be allowed to threaten the protections
>>> necessary for
>>> inquiry to be carried out.
>>> Something else to consider, phrased a different way, I feel
>>> confident that
>>> many people outraged by Watson's remarks would agree that in fact
>>> there are
>>> differences in the intelligences of different people, often
>>> correlated with
>>> differences in culture. These are not differences in terms of one
>>> being
>>> overall superior to another, but I do not think that reading is
>>> forced by
>>> the words that have been quoted without context, even if they are
>>> accurate.
>>> It is at least possible that Watson, as he now seems to claim,
>>> really meant
>>> to refer to differences without evaluating them. And isn't the
>>> recognition
>>> of the complexity of intelligence one of the things that makes
>>> many of the
>>> outraged so upset about IQ testing?
>>> -Amanda
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
> David Preiss, Ph.D.
> Subdirector de Extensión y Comunicaciones
> Escuela de Psicología
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Received on Mon Oct 22 15:34 PDT 2007

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