Saturday, April 26, 2008

The problems with phenomenology

Sorry about the lack of posts for a week. I've been under stress.

In philosophy club Saturday, we discussed whether the scientific method was a method which produces most truth.

I argued that it was about the best thing we've got, and we can't understand what it's like to be anything else - for example, to use the classic philosophy of mind example, we can't understand what it is like to be a bat . We cannot echolocate, we do not have very good hearing, and we cannot fly.

Phenomenology examines first-person experiences. I think phenomenology is going to be stuck between what we learn of consciousness in the next decades and the fact that you cannot reproduce an individual's experience because it is so complex at the moment. We have a limited ability to reason logically which is constrained by our perceptions.

So can we in fact know what it's like to be a bat? Well, there are two factors in this:

- the bat's neurological milieus
- the bat's experiences

Generalizing from one bat to all bats is dangerous; there are different species of bats, and each one has different abilities. For example, a hawknose bat does not know what a vampire bat's perception of blood is, and within species, I suspect one bat does not know how exquisitely satisfying another bat's recent meals were.

The research by Tristan Bekinschtein, whose work I have cited before in this blog, deals with consciousness in patients with 'disorders of consciousness' - dementia, PVS and Alzheimer's. His research seems to suggest that there are significant impairments in affective cognition and theory of mind in such individuals (for those of you who don't know what theory of mind is, here is a Wikipedia article that describes it extremely well.)

This does not seem to mesh with how philosophers define consciousness, though, which is to say, they don't limit it to simple awareness of the self and of one's environment.

Subjective experience, by definition, is how we perceive a thing. Now, in my studies of neuroscience, our perception of something first goes through our sensory system. To use a complex example from my own experiences, say you are at a party, you are sober, and you are sitting next to someone who is drinking a beer. Your senses are not impaired, so you perceive the situation as accurately as possible. You smell the alcohol, see the color of the bottle, and see the person who is drinking it. The visual, olfactory, auditory, tactile, possibly gustatory, proprioceptive, nociceptive, and thermoceptive aspects of the situation all trigger certain responses in your sensory system. These varied responses are compared to your previous experiences, whether you have experienced it firsthand or heard about it.

You know, I think this can be best summed up in one angry sentence: Philosophy uninformed by science is sophistry.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Race and intelligence

I'm gonna get more fire on this one. I'm not going to talk about this from a comparative standpoint but am going to present general information; I am not going to talk about this in controversial terms until I'm a professor and I've got tenure, because I know who probably reads this blog and I need to make it clear, in no uncertain terms, that I am an individual of no significant prejudices. ('No prejudices' would be a misnomer, because everybody's got them.)

Race is undoubtedly a factor in intelligence because members of certain cultural groups tend to mate with people of their own cultural group - interracial offspring are becoming more common, yes, but there is still a strong trend in organisms to stick to their own. An example of selection for intelligence is Steven Pinker's article in The New Republic (admittedly a conservative paper which I usually will not read because of its sheer stupidity, but Steven Pinker writes mostly good stuff, though I still thoroughly disagree with him on his rather sexist defense of Larry Summers) about selection for intelligence in individuals of Ashkenazi Hebrew background ('Jewish' is a misnomer; 'Jewish' describes an adherent of a religion, not a member of an ethnicity.) Pinker writes:

The appearance of an advantage in average intelligence among Ashkenazi Jews is easier to establish than its causes. Jews are remarkably over-represented in benchmarks of brainpower. Though never exceeding 3 percent of the American population, Jews account for 37 percent of the winners of the U.S. National
Medal of Science, 25 percent of the American Nobel Prize winners in literature,
40 percent of the American Nobel Prize winners in science and economics, and so
on. On the world stage, we find that 54 percent of the world chess champions have had one or two Jewish parents.
Does this mean that Jews are a nation of meinsteins? It does not. Their average IQ has been measured at 108 to 115, one-half to one standard deviation above the mean. But statisticians have long known that a moderate difference in the means of two distributions translates into a large difference at the tails. In the simplest case, if we have two groups of the same size, and the average of Group A exceeds the average of Group B by fifteen IQ points (one standard deviation), then among people with an IQ of 115 or higher the As will outnumber the Bs by a ratio of three to one,
but among people with an IQ of 160 or higher the As will outnumber the Bs by a ratio of forty-two to one. Even if Group A was a fraction of the size of Group B to begin with, it would contribute a substantial proportion of the people who had the highest scores.

The CH&H theory can be divided into seven hypotheses. The first is that the Ashkenazi advantage in intelligence is genetic in the first place. Many intellectuals dismiss this possibility out of hand, having been convinced by Stephen Jay Gould's book The Mismeasure of Man that general intelligence does not exist and that there is no evidence for its heritability. But a decade ago, the American Psychological Association commissioned an ideologically and racially diverse panel of scientists to review the evidence. They reported that IQ tests measure a stable property of the
person; that general intelligence reflects a real phenomenon (namely, that measures of different aspects of intelligence intercorrelate); that it predicts a variety of positive life outcomes; and that it is highly heritable among individuals within a group. This does not imply that differences between groups are also genetic, since one group may experience a difference across the board, such as in wealth, discrimination, or social and cultural capital.
The most obvious test of a genetic cause of the Ashkenazi advantage would be a cross-adoption study that measured the adult IQ of children with Ashkenazi biological parents and gentile adoptive parents, and vice versa. No such study exists, so CH&H's evidence is circumstantial. The Ashkenazi advantage has been found in many decades, countries, and levels of wealth, and the IQ literature shows no well-understood environmental factors capable of producing an advantage of that magnitude. It remains possible that the advantage is caused by some poorly understood environmental cause. Environmental hypotheses tend to get a free pass in intellectual life, but they must be scrutinized as well. The possibility that Jewish mothers produce smarter children is unlikely in light of abundant evidence that families have no lasting effect on intelligence. Siblings reared together are no more correlated in IQ than siblings who were separated at birth, and adopted siblings are not correlated at all. Growing up in a given home within a culture seems to leave no
lasting stamp on intelligence.
But parents are just one aspect of the environment, and the cultural milieu is surely more important. Yet it cannot be taken for granted that Jewish culture favors achievement in physics, philosophy, or chess. ...

Also worth remembering is the saying that if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Mere expectations cannot produce a brilliant mind. So an environmental explanation of the Ashkenazi advantage in intelligence is also unproven, though it certainly cannot be ruled out.

The second hypothesis is that Ashkenazim tended to marry their own during most of their formative history. This is necessary, because natural selection cannot change the genetic composition of a population if new genes are constantly flowing in from the neighbors and diluting its effects. CH&H cite the Jewish traditions of avoiding intermarriage, proselytization, or conquest. They mention historical accounts attesting that intermarriage was indeed rare, and genetic evidence pointing to an admixture of about 0.5 to 1 percent of neighboring genes per generation. Note that over many centuries this is enough to make Ashkenazim genetically similar to their European neighbors, so the notion of a distinct "Jewish race" is indeed nonsense. But the two populations are not identical: the genetic overlap due to interbreeding is around one-third to one-half, depending on which genes you look at.

The third hypothesis is that Ashkenazim were concentrated in mercantile, managerial, and financial occupations at a time when their neighbors were likely to be peasant farmers, craftsmen, or soldiers. Jews presumably had an accidental head start in these occupations because of their religious obligation of literacy, their ability to network with one another across far-flung communities, and their role as a go-between amid Christian and Islamic civilizations. In the Middle Ages they were funneled into middlemen professions by their exclusion from guilds, their inability to own land, and the niche opened up by the Christian prohibition of usury. CH&H cite historians who have documented that a majority of Jews were middlemen during the Middle Ages, many of them moneylenders.
The fourth hypothesis is that in traditional Ashkenazi occupations higher intelligence led to greater economic success. CH&H cite contemporary data that IQ predicts income and occupational success in every profession, and that the minimum IQ requirements for financial and managerial occupations are higher than those for farming, crafts, and the military. Presumably, numeracy, verbal skill, problem solving, and social intelligence are invaluable in calculating slim profits and interest
rates, in assessing creditworthiness, in anticipating trends, and in meeting other cognitive demands of the middleman niche. Cultural historians have noticed that these skills seem to be cultivated among contemporary middleman minorities.
The fifth hypothesis is that richer people had more surviving children during the centuries in which Ashkenazim were middlemen. Today the wealthy tend to have fewer children, but before the demographic transition (which began with the industrial revolution) wealth brought better nutrition and healthier surroundings, and hence more children who survived to adulthood. CH&H cite historians who made this point about the Ashkenazim in particular.
The sixth hypothesis is that the common Ashkenazi diseases are a product of natural selection rather than genetic drift, the other mechanism of evolutionary change. In any finite population, some genes can go extinct and others can take over the population by sheer chance. Imagine an island on which a lightning bolt happened to kill everyone but the redheads; the descendants would found a redheaded race, despite the lack of any advantage to redheadedness. As the example suggests, drift is most potent in small populations. It can leave a genetic stamp on an inbred community that was founded by a small number of pioneers, or that suffered a bottleneck in population size and subsequently rebounded, multiplying copies of whatever genes were possessed by the few lucky survivors.
Most medical geneticists believe that drift is to blame for Ashkenazic genetic diseases. CH&H respond with two lines of evidence, based on the logic that drift affects all genes equally, be they advantageous, neutral, or deleterious. Bottlenecks tend to reduce heterozygosity, or the state of having different versions of a gene from one's mother and father. That is because if only a few ancestors were around at some point in the past, they would have had fewer gene variants to leave to their descendants, increasing the chance that a gene would meet a copy of itself when a couple conceives a child. CH&H adduce evidence that Ashkenazim, unlike other small populations, have degrees of heterozygosity similar to their more numerous European neighbors. They also suggest that Ashkenazim have a distribution of neutral genes similar to that of Europeans in general. A problem in evaluating this hypothesis is that arguments for and against genetic bottlenecks are often sensitive to assumptions built into the models, and we can expect CH&H to be debating their critics for some time.
Perhaps the most interesting biological fact addressed by CH&H is that Ashkenazi
genetic diseases tend to cluster in a small number of metabolic pathways. Genes involved in different stages of a single biochemical assembly line are often scattered throughout the genome. The presence of mutations in a set of these genes is a fingerprint of natural selection, because the only common denominator is their effect on the organism, which is what selection, and selection alone, can "see." Random drift is unlikely to collect genes scattered hither and yon that just happen to take part in the same biochemical process.
It has long been known that Ashkenazi diseases cluster in groups with a common
metabolic pathway. They include disorders of storing sphingolipids ("sphinx-like fats"), such as Tay-Sachs and Gaucher's, and disorders of DNA repair, including the BRCA1 gene, which increases the odds of breast cancer. Using a functional genomic database, CH&H try to calculate the a priori probability that these clusterings could have arisen at random, and dismiss it as infinitesimal.

The seventh and really pivotal hypothesis is that the common Ashkenazi diseases are by-products of genes that were selected because they enhance intelligence. The alternative is that they were selected for something else, such as resistance to infectious disease. CH&H discount disease resistance for most of the genes in question because the genes are not shared by other Europeans, who must have been victims of the same germs.
Harmful genetic by-products can arise in two major ways. In heterozygote advantage, a gene confers an advantage on possessors of one copy (heterozygotes or carriers), which outweighs the disadvantage it encumbers on possessors of two copies (homozygotes). The best-known example is the sickle cell gene, prevalent in malaria-ridden parts of Africa, which leads to malaria resistance in homozygotes but to anemia in heterozygotes. CH&H suggest that a similar trade-off could have produced the Ashkenazi diseases, though the evidence is paltry. They note that increased levels of sphingolipids foster neural growth in developing rodent brains, and that the normal version of the BRCA1 gene inhibits neural growth; but that is a long way from human intelligence.
The other kind of by-product comes from antagonistic pleiotropy: a single copy of a gene has multiple effects, the good ones outweighing the bad ones on average. The
evidence here is a bit better. People with the genes for torsion dystonia,
non-classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and Gaucher's disease tend to have higher average IQs, or tend to be concentrated in professions such as physics and engineering. But the numbers are small. So the evidence that Ashkenazi disease genes boost intelligence is extremely iffy. Still, the hypothesis is testable: compare the IQs in a large sample of sibling pairs, one of whom is a carrier of a disease gene, the other a non-carrier. If the carriers are not smarter, the hypothesis is wrong. The study could easily be done in Israel, with its centralized records of health care, education, and military service.

Pinker's hypotheses seem to state that certain genes are going to be selected for in certain populations and some populations are more prone to select for intelligent genes. So there are, certainly, some mild genetic correlations, but I have to issue a warning: this does not mean one race has superior intelligence to another. Even if one race has a higher average IQ, you cannot generalize from a population to an individual. The mean is not the median. People of different races are very spread out among the continuum of IQ.

One of my favorite academics in my field is J. Philippe Rushton, an evolutionary neurogeneticist at the University of Western Ontario. Dr. Rushton nearly lost his job because of his article 'Evolutionary Biology and Heritable Traits (With Reference to Oriental-White-Black Differences)' . Pinker and Rushton make the point that there are clearly differences between people of different ethnic backgrounds, but that there is potential for misuse. Intelligence researchers will have to deal with - and I am absolutely afraid of having to deal with this in the future, but I will need to deal with this - human rights groups such as the NAACP. Their purpose is noble and I am a LOUD supporter of civil rights for folks, but censoring science because they may not want to know information gathered in an ethical, honest way is going too far - and they will most likely misinterpret it, because frankly, not too many people in most human rights groups about anything lately have any science background, and people in general are also morons.

Before we tackle race and intelligence, though, we still have to figure out the neurological basis of it. As I said, I aim to be one of the researchers who does significant work in this area. We have a tiny list of genes, and a comprehensive neurologic model of intelligence is not going to be possible until we have the rest of the genes.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Stephen Hawking communicates my attitude perfectly

I'm a disciple of science
I know the universe is in full compliance with natural laws,
but many place reliance on the psuedo-science of quacks and
morons and fools because
their education's deficient,
they put faith in omniscient
make-believe beings who control their fate,
but the Hawk ain't with it, dig it,
their Holy writ ain't the least bit legit,
it's a bunch of bullshit.

They need to read a book that ain't so damn old,
let reason take hold,
though truth to be told,
they're probably already too far gone,
withdrawn, the conclusion foregone.
But maybe there is still hope for the young,
if they reject the dung being slung from the tongues
of the ignorant fools who call themselves preachers,
and listen instead to their science teachers.

Upon blind faith they place reliance,
what we need more of is science!

Trash Talk
Uh yeah, that's right!
Fundamentalist assholes!
Screw the whole lot of them.

Verse 2
Look, I ain't Thomas Dolby,
science doesn't blind me,
think you're smart? Form a line behind me,
you won't find me, truth to tell,
to be a man who suffers fools very well.
Quite the opposite in fact,
I ain't got time to interact
with crystal wearing freaks in need of a smack.
New age motherfuckers? Don't get me started,
I made more sense than them last time I farted.

Not to put too fine a point upon it,
but the whole new age movement is full of shit.
Please allow me to elaborate,
explicate, expatiate.
From astral projection to zygomancy it's a
mish-mash of idiocy.
Instead of the archaic worship of seasons,
they should explore logic and reason.


Trash Talk
Fucking new-agers!
Is there any amount of bullshit they won't swallow?
It's two-thousand-aught-three goddammit!
When are these morons gonna join us in the 21st century?

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Friday, April 11, 2008

On being human

This is one of those hopefully rare posts where I get EXTREMELY serious.

Human beings have a surprising amount of hubris.

We are a remarkably arrogant species; we say there is a purpose for everything, we say we are the masters of Earth, we say we are going to conquer everything.

This makes me laugh.

We are another species; we are born, we eat, we socialize, we have sex, some of us breed, and we die. The fact that we seem to be remarkably aware of this, though, is rather interesting, which does, in fact, make humans rather unique among other animals. Nature is a fickle, enigmatic... thing.

We are a remarkably varied species. Unique among animals - but not special - we have conquered an entire planet and devised ways using our brains, not the rest of our bodies, to adapt - a sort of technoadaptation, if you will, as opposed to a genoadaptation. As a white person, my ancestors came from climates where there was less sun, which decreased the need for melanin in our skin to protect us from ultraviolet.

Our minds in particular are driven partially by genetics and partially by environment - but we underestimate the magnitude of both. Our genetics give us a propensity to certain behaviors, but at birth, our minds are very much tabulae rasae. The complexity of our own minds may, in fact, be beyond our own capacity to understand them, but they are as complex as the society that is composed of beings which have them. I like to think of things as little microcosms; human beings house bacterial civilizations, our societies seem a little bit similar to human brains, and our bodies function similarly to our cells. Nature has an odd organization.

I propose a solution to the madness that is humanity, which others have already brought forth: stop being human. Progress beyond it. Humanity is still evolving. I wish I could see what humanity will look like in the future. Perhaps my family's descendants (I don't plan on having children, myself) will barely resemble me. Forsake the limitations of our silly bodies; go beyond the flesh. Willfully refuse to do what society demands of you, if it is the right thing to do. Be willing to be a pariah for the sake of truth. (I am going to do this by studying cognitive neurogenetics and devoting my life to deciphering intelligence - hopefully, this information will be used to make people smarter, because right now, most human beings are woefully stupid - case in point, George Bush.) It is difficult - I have been there and still am, and quite willfully - but it builds in you formidable strength.

We all need to work toward making humanity extinct - by becoming something else. Perhaps, even, gods.

It is not beyond our reach.

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The Large Hardon Collider

No, that was not a typo.


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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why philosophy of mind is an utterly pointless discipline

I'm going to draw some fire for this one.


Philosophy of mind is an utterly pointless discipline.

Philosophy in general irks the hell out of me in several ways; it looks for things that have really been only rationalized to exist by philosophers and haven't been proven to exist any other way (which makes them sound like fundamentalists of some theistic religion and frankly makes me not take them seriously at all); I can think of too many philosophers whose only source of proof was the logical assumptions made by their brains. Ethics, logic, and thought experiments are great, but postulating about things such as mathematics and the mind makes philosophers look like remoras of the intellect.

Consciousness is an especially contentious thing - David Chalmers, for one, has this silly notion of 'qualia', which are 'the way things seem to us'. These are, according to Chalmers, ineffable, intrinsic, private, and directly apprehensible in consciousness. Say you see a red cup which contains beer. Chalmers says that 'redness' is a quale of the cup, as is the 'brownness' of the beer or the 'liquidness' of the beer or the 'truncated conicness' of the cup.

These phenomena are easily explainable by the fact that the chemicals which compose the plastic and the beer reflect the colors red and brown, and that beer exists at room temperature in a liquid state (since it is mostly water) and that the plastic was poured into a mold and hardened that way, since it is solid at room temperature. The reason we see red and brown is the fact that human eyes are designed to see those colors. This is how the electromagnetic spectra reflected by these substances looks to our eyes and how our eyes process them. If we were dogs, we would see shades of gray, and if we were bees, we would see some funky purple stuff. The reason we have those colors is that that is what people have called them over time, and, well, we can't do much about the electromagnetic spectrum, that's just the way it is and there's no 'why' to it. There is essentially no 'why' to the most basic aspects of existence.

Also, this 'zombie' thing: If zombies were physically similar to us, they would be conscious. Consciousness is a physical property which exists because of our neurophysiology. There is no supernatural woo-woo explanation to it, and any supernatural woo-woo assumptions are about as good as saying there's a big flying teapot on the other side of the universe. (OBVIOUS CONNECTION TO THE ABSURDITY OF THEISM FOR THE WIN)

The Chinese room experiment is about the only plausible thing I have ever seen come out of philosophy of mind; for the answer as to why this is plausible, see Developing Intelligence.


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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Speculating about the future of intelligence research

Since this field is very near and dear to me - I will make some speculation about the future of it.

I see a future full of questions - some controversial, some not. (I will attack the controversial ones head on.) Probably the most pressing question is 'How do we get from our small list of genes that may be correlated to intelligence to a whole-brain model of intelligence?' We will probably follow the rest of consciousness research in this respect, since consciousness research is largely done in non-integrated pieces at the moment; you can't integrate it until you have enough information. (I'm curious about the work of Tristan Bekinschtein from Cambridge; apparently, he does work on patients with 'consciousness disorders' - persistent vegetative state, frontotemporal dementia, etc. - which is really fraught with ethical issues but is very interesting - about behavior such as affective decision-making and emotional processing. ) A lot of research is done - for example - on identical twins separated at birth, which - in correction from my last post - is a VITAL component of studying the neurogenetics of intelligence, and this gives a window into how much environment and genetics influence intelligence. (Genetics influences one's intelligence a LOT. ) A major concern is communicating this information to the public correctly - studies about race and intelligence have caused uproar - white supremacist groups have tried to co-opt their incorrect interpretations of some studies (for example) to further their own horribly racist aims.

One problem that, frankly, is going to have to be dealt with harshly is the field of philosophy of mind. My beef with philosophy of mind is that it approaches something that is clearly physical with the attitude that it is not; we neuroscientists stick to what we can prove with the support of observable, at least somewhat empirical, and testable evidence, whereas philosophers of mind go all over the place - my advisor, for the record, thinks philosophy of mind is an idiotic field, or at least that was his impression when I told him of some of philosophy of mind's stupidities. (If you recall my review of Jaegwon Kim's Philosophy of Mind, you recall I was not amused.) Has anyone considered the notion that the brain is more complex than we are aware of? (If we can find biological bases for several functions, we can put a whole lot of philosophers out of work. Say goodbye to your job, David Chalmers. - if you can't tell already, I think philosophy of mind is silly.) There are aspects of the brain that we haven't discovered yet, I bet, and I think there's potentially a complex multi-level integration of system, cell, molecule, and gene that may need to be completely explained before we make a model for consciousness. (Fuck, I'm sounding like a string theorist, but at least I'm not postulating the existence of anything that doesn't; I'm merely bringing a possible hypothesis and interaction and function of systems which we know exist.) I am a little afraid of what philosophers of mind might postulate about intelligence and whether it might be broadly accepted by the public.

I may be dead by the time there is a working model of intelligence. I may be decomposed. The idea is that complex and unresearched. There are hundreds of papers about it, but intelligence research isn't even in its infancy - it is embryonic .

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Monday, April 7, 2008

The sad state of intelligence research

I just spent an hour looking for PhD advisors. I'm planning to get my PhD in neuroscience and research the neurogenetics of intelligence.

Every, and I mean EVERY intelligence researcher I've seen is a psychologist. This is incredibly sad - because it means that none of them are looking at intelligence from a strictly neuroscientific point of view. Psychology flows from neuroscience, and intelligence is determined partially by genetics, so one would think people would be all over the genetic aspects of intelligence.

NOT SO. I can name a couple of genes and not much more that influence intelligence:

Human neuropsin
and a small amount of genes on chromosome 4

There are no comprehensive, published models of how these things work? Psychologists can research all this stuff to hell, but until we neuroscientists get cracking on researching the neurogenetics of intelligence, we're all going to be dumber about being smart.

Even the neuroscientists I know of who are researching this are only focusing on systems research - John Duncan at Cambridge (who I am going to contact as a possible PhD advisor) is the only one I know of who's focusing specifically on intelligence. (Let's see if I get in Cambridge - foreign students need a 3.5 to even be considered. My GPA is currently not quite that high, and that worries me a lot)

Robert Plomin is another possible PhD advisor at King's College London (I suspect I am going to England for grad school) who discovered IGF2R's role in intelligence. Of course, right now he's working on a twin study and that just doesn't make me happy.

Are people perhaps AFRAID of the controversial issues behind intelligence research? I say get some cojones and start researching - I don't care if we get epithets slung at us by the masses who don't know any better!

Controversy is an engineer of progress.

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Atheist Statistics 2008

This warms my heart.

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Controversial frontiers in cognition

There are some topics which understandably will rile people a bit.

One is the topic of intelligence, which I am devoting my life to researching - I already know that I will get hit with a lot of crap when I investigate the neurogenetics of it. There is a book called The Bell Curve which makes several inferences about correlation of intelligence by race, sex, height, and familial environment; it is a devastating but eye-opening commentary, even if much of the reasoning is flawed; the data is unmistakable. Studies on intelligence frequently hearken back to old-school eugenics, particularly Nazi-era eugenics which made assumptions based on those who were not members of the 'master race' that Hitler was so fervent about - his madness was fatal on an epic scale to masses of innocent individuals, and part of the reason was because he was so misinformed and out of his tiny little mind. Mengele, particularly, practiced eugenics in his sickening and inhumane experiments on those who were in concentration camps. (As an aside - if you are one of the probably few people who don't know the evil shit that Mengele did, you might be informed about how bad it was when I say many people who cite Mengele's experiments in their works often include an aside about the sheer cruelty of his experimentation.) New-school eugenics lacks the general inhumanity of old-school eugenics, and in many cases, can be good; take, for example, gene therapy, which is broadly an eugenic practice. It modifies a genome in order to weed out an undesirable condition. Intelligence will apply to this in the manner that if we can find a way to make people smarter, people will be smarter - and, frankly, I see no harm in that. It's not culling a population of less intelligent people that should be the aim - it's bringing everybody up to speed with the smartest people so we're all, honestly, geniuses.

Another is consciousness - some people, I suspect, are afraid at what this is going to do to our society. Perhaps it will make them feel less special. I have nothing but pity for these people (the condescending kind).

Another is neurotheology - for example, the God helmet experiment conducted by Michael Persinger showed that so-called 'religious experiences' are merely hyperactivations in the temporal lobe. If you disagree with this conclusion, let me inform you of one prominent comparison between subjects: Richard Dawkins and a priest both were in the experiment. Richard Dawkins' temporal lobe was not activated; the priest however exhibited signs of thinking frantically in the face of evidence that he in fact was temporally hyperactive.

I enjoy controversy.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Commenting is OKAY

Seriously, folks, I blog because I want to foster discussion.

Please comment! Contribute to the discussion !

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