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

From: Cathrene Connery <cconnery who-is-at>
Date: Fri Oct 26 2007 - 15:04:29 PDT

The alteration of brain chemistry experienced by individuals with
post-traumatic stress disorder is a good example of the epigenetic
system that has profound and echoing impacts on both social individuals
and family, friends, co-workers, and the communities that participate in
their social processes.

Vera P. John-Steiner wrote:
> 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.
> Vera
> 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:
>>> 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
>>> Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
>>> Av Vicuña Mackenna 4860
>>> Macul, Santiago
>>> Chile
>>> Fono: 3544605
>>> Fax: 3544844
>>> e-mail:
>>> web personal:
>>> web institucional:
>>> _______________________________________________
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>> _______________________________________________
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Dr. M. Cathrene Connery
Assistant Professor of Education
Ithaca College
xmca mailing list
Received on Fri Oct 26 15:15 PDT 2007

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