Saturday, April 5, 2008

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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