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

From: Vera P. John-Steiner <vygotsky who-is-at>
Date: Thu Oct 25 2007 - 09:27:08 PDT

I echo Martin's comments on the epigenetic system. It supports an
assumption long shared by people on this network about the unification
of biology and culture.


Martin Packer wrote:

> 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.
> Martin
> On 10/22/07 4:08 PM, "David Preiss" <> wrote:
>>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.
>>On Oct 22, 2007, at 3:16 PM, E. Knutsson wrote:
>>>JW's comment (
>>>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
>>>contrary it allows them to be refuted."
>>>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
>>>>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
>>>>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
>>>>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
>>>>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
>>>>of the complexity of intelligence one of the things that makes
>>>>many of the
>>>>outraged so upset about IQ testing?
>>>xmca mailing list
>>David Preiss, Ph.D.
>>Subdirector de Extensión y Comunicaciones
>>Escuela de Psicología
>>Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
>>Av Vicuña Mackenna 4860
>>Macul, Santiago
>>Fono: 3544605
>>Fax: 3544844
>>web personal:
>>web institucional:
>>xmca mailing list
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

Vera P. John-Steiner
Department of Linguistics
Humanities Bldg. 526
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM  87131
(505) 277-6353 or 277-4324
xmca mailing list
Received on Thu Oct 25 09:35 PDT 2007

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