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To me a baby is pure ego, pure evil what some would say...it would destroy the universe to get another taste of sugar in its mouth, if it could only figure out how...
In Thy sight none is "clean from sin," not even the infant whose life on earth is but a day... Or was it then good, even [as an infant], to cry for what, if given, would hurt? bitterly to resent, that persons free, and its own elders, yea its own parents, served it not? that many besides, wiser than it, obeyed not the nod of its pleasure? to strive to strike and hurt with all its might, because its biddings were not obeyed, which had been obeyed to its peril? In the weakness then of baby limbs, not in its will, lies its innocence.
- St. Augustine, Confessions 1.7: 11
I also agree with weedwhacker regarding children. They are like sponges. They absorb everything you tell them without questioning it.
This is not true. We are born with lots of software pre-loaded into our brains. Aggression, pleasure-seeking, sexuality, language ability, affection for kin and altruism - we're born with all of that. Environment is critical, though, because it provides the input - the variables you plug into the programmed instincts to get output.
Scientists, for instance, have recently identified small changes in DNA that account for the pale skin of Europeans, the tendency of Asians to sweat less and West Africans’ resistance to certain diseases.
Such developments are providing some of the first tangible benefits of the genetic revolution. Yet some social critics fear they may also be giving long-discredited racial prejudices a new potency. The notion that race is more than skin deep, they fear, could undermine principles of equal treatment and opportunity that have relied on the presumption that we are all fundamentally equal.
WASHINGTON - Oops, the scientist dropped his clothespin. Not to worry — a wobbly toddler raced to help, eagerly handing it back. The simple experiment shows the capacity for altruism emerges as early as 18 months of age.
Toddlers’ endearing desire to help out actually signals fairly sophisticated brain development, and is a trait of interest to anthropologists trying to tease out the evolutionary roots of altruism and cooperation.
Psychology researcher Felix Warneken performed a series of ordinary tasks in front of toddlers, such as hanging towels with clothespins or stacking books. Sometimes he “struggled” with the tasks; sometimes he deliberately messed up.
Review: Strange Fruit: Why both sides are wrong in the race debate by Kenan Malik
18 June 2008
NewScientist.com news service
WHAT are we to make of the race debate? One side denies that the concept of race makes scientific sense. The other declares it a legitimate scientific category, grounded in genetics and geography. Kenan Malik - a prominent author and senior visiting fellow at the University of Surrey in Guildford, UK - thinks the arguments on both sides are wrong.
Take, for instance, this one: "The human race is too young for it to have evolved into distinct species-like units." No, it isn't, and Malik provides good, if not overwhelming, reasons why not. Or this one: "Distinctions between races are arbitrary." No, they aren't. In a famous experiment in 2002, a computer program was able to "blindly" sort genetic data from individuals around the world into five populations that were nearly identical to the traditional races.
Some scoff: the program was not truly blind; it used genes known to correlate with race.Perhaps, but the result does show that the distinctions are not arbitrary. Malik is a keen logician; he takes assertions literally, weighs the evidence and usually finds it wanting. This aspect of Strange Fruit would be terrific for a college course on critical thinking.
One fixed point in the debate is Richard Lewontin's classic 1972 Journal of Evolutionary Biology paper which showed that most genetic differences between individuals occur within traditional racial groups, not across racial divides. Most people are too shy to say, "I hear that we share more than 94 per cent of our genes with chimpanzees. Couldn't a few differences categorise us into races?"
Malik, thankfully, is never shy, though uncharacteristically he omits A.W.F. Edwards's claim, in the journal BioEssays in 2003, that Lewontin's argument is flawed because it treats genetic markers as if they were statistically independent. They are not, a fact that was essential to Luca Cavalli-Sforza's path-breaking genetic anthropology charting human migrations out of Africa, for which Edwards devised the statistical tools. Nevertheless, Lewontin had it right. No one has shown that any characteristic important to being human aligns better with the traditional racial groupings than with any other large, indiscriminate sorting of peoples.
Some aspects of physiology, however, are differentially distributed. In 2005 the US Food and Drug Administration caused a furore when it approved the drug BiDil, intended for African Americans with heart disease. Many feared this would legitimise race as a category. Malik insists that race can be a temporary but valid screen for deciding who would probably be helped by the drug and who would not. That's just "evidence-based medicine", even if the available evidence is weak. It would be unethical not to use the screen, and equally unethical not to find out why the drug works selectively. A racially targeted drug is a heck of a lot better than western medicine's usual assumption that the human body is that of a white male.
The danger, though, is that meaningless differences can be used to reinstate stereotypes. The BiDil case is more to do with patents and drug companies than race, but it could spur race-based research. In April, the discovery of a gene associated with the production of beta blockers was announced. The gene appears to be common among African Americans, and this might affect the way beta blockers are prescribed for blacks. That's useful, but why was the gene's distribution analysed this way, if not out of implicit racialism?
The middle section of Malik's book recaps his cultural history of the European concept of race, covered in his book The Meaning of Race (Macmillan, 1996). In my view, this history is much less benign than Malik suggests - just read Louis XIV's 1685 Code Noir, which set out the rules for slaves and masters in the French West Indies. Still, Malik loves Enlightenment thinkers and their faith in universal reason, and he fears that western civilisation is increasingly mired in anti-reason. Maybe, maybe not, but three cheers for Malik's rationalism.
The final part of the book takes up the cudgels against identity politics and multiculturalism. Malik condemns uncritical respect for everybody, and thinks that our enthusiasm for diversity is a refashioned racism. A more generous and constant theme of his work is that we need a purified 18th-century universalism, one that is sensitive to the realities of history and of peoples. And lots of logic and scientific method.
Over the last few weeks I have observed what seems to me to be an increased number of prejudiced and hate filled posts. These usually revolve around the issue of race, religion, sexual orientation, and/or presidential politics. The mods are amazing at removing the truly offensive ones, but a lot of them are masked within a thinly veiled attempt of pretense to a valid opinion. This of course has nothing to do with ATS, it is but a microcosm of society at large.