I'm not sure where to put this thread.
I also am unsure if I can even post this on ATS.
I am reading a short story in A Science Fiction Argosy
edited by Damon Knight.
The story is Four Brands of Impossible by Norman Kagan.
Here is the passage that got me ranting to myself (pg. 603-604):
Now of course I know all about the science of modern psychology - it's one reason I've remained so balanced and stable. Myself, I'm what is
known as a shame personality. It's a matter of personal honor with me that I fight to the limit for the highest grades and the most scholarship. I'll
beat 'em all out. That's me.
Dick Dolby was clearly a guilt personality. He really believed all that guff about the scientist's world view, about the search for truth, about
following an abstract pattern of behavior. Poor old Dick, he had an abstract moral code too, as I might have expected. Well, he had to follow the
rules, and he might get kicked in the belly, but at least he was stable in his sad, picky way.
Now Harry Mandel was a fear personality. He tried to belong to some sort of whole, to link its destiny with his own. A gestalt. You find a lot like
that: fraternity boys, soldiers, club members, athletes on a team. And of course the intellectuals - the literary group and Zenish girls and the
Ain't social psychology great!
Anyway, Mandel's kind of twitch, the fear personality, is okay as long as he really has his buddies and he believes it. If he doesn't have them, he
wanders around until he can link up with a new bunch. If he doesn't believe he has them - look out! A fear personality with doubts about its gestalts
can slide right over into paranoid schizophrenia.
It came out in funny ways, distorted, because Mandel was very intelligent, and the more intelligent, the more little links can begin to snap and
break. One night in late August he came up with this:
"I mean, I have nothing against that particular minority group," he said loudly. "It's just that - well, look at it this way. The original members
were selected on the basis of crude physical strength - the smart clever ones escaped the slavers. Then they were brought over here and were slaves
for several hundred years. Now it seems to me that if you have slaves, you're going to encourage breeding among the stupid and the strong. You don't
want smart quick ones. As a matter of fact, the smart quick ones would try to escape and would be shot. Or else, if they're clever, slip over the
color lines and intermarry.
So you see, you've had forces at work for three hundred years that bred - I mean in terms of human genetics - for less intelligence. You do that for
three centuries and it shows - as a matter of fact, it does show. In terms of modern science, they might even be inferior."
He was crazy, insane. For one thing, three hundred years isn't long enough to matter genetically for humans. For another, "the smart clever ones"
didn't escape the slavers' roundups any more than the others did. Maybe if Mandel had been a slave owner he'd have tried to encourage only the stupid
to breed, but such eugenically oriented thinking didn't exist in times past. As for shooting would-be escapees, you don't destroy valuable merchandise
like that, you bring it back alive! (Anyway, you don't talk about races, you talk about human beings.) Mandel was rationalizing, justifying immoral
attitudes on the basis of a "science" which really doesn't exist. As for "scientific morality," hell, science and morality are different, and by
trying to base one on the other you are setting up for something like Hitler's "final solution."
Yet poor disturbed Mandel had thought the theory up. And for an instant, thinking of the exchange students and the Zenish girls back at the
multiversity, my own brain had become inflamed. Science, reason, intellect - there are some things you mustn't think about. God help me.
A few things before I go further. I haven't finished the story! And I'm not a racist! (Yes, this is referencing slavery, something that's hard to
openly discuss) My intention to come here and make a thread about this was to enlighten myself about the reasons for my reaction to this passage.
And what's my reaction to this passage? Well, I found myself understanding Mandel's "theory" and even finding myself partly agreeing with it. It made
sense to me, somewhat. I mean, if I was a slave owner, I would look for people with low skills (people who desperately wanted work and a place to
live). Furthermore, in those days, their nutritional needs probably would not have been met, especially by a slave owner who might be racist towards
them. It's commonly known that IQ in non-civilized countries is lower. This is not so much the consequence of genetics as it's the result of poor
nutrition, lack of schooling, and insufficient stimulation. This circumstance could easily find itself take root in slave camps and in the children of
the slaves. So while I think Mandel might be incorrect to reference Darwinian evolution in his argument that slaves were bred for certain things and
this produced dumber and dumber slaves, I don't think the protagonist (the person speaking his opinions about Mandel) is correct in defeating Mandel's
argument by relying on the fact that three hundred years is not long enough for Darwinian evolution to impact human genetics. Neither do I agree that
slave owners back then were too stupid to select for stupid people and thus couldn't institute a kind of eugenics program. People back then were
plenty smart, that's why they bred dogs and horses and a number of other things for specific traits. They would not have missed their chance to have
the strongest most obedient slaves in their camp. That's the power of money, not eugenics.
In fact, this whole episode in history is just an example of exploitation of peoples.
I find the protagonist to be a bit full of himself and perhaps resistant to the idea that people can be bred. So much is he resistant that he focuses
all his energies on defeating Mandel's argument in a blind rage. I've noticed this line of thinking in a lot of people. Are they humanists? I actually
consider myself one. But I don't agree that humans cannot be bred for specific traits. More succinctly, with context to slavery in the south about two
centuries ago, I think that intentionally breeding for certain things isn't necessary. In fact, the traits that're advantages can naturally result
from the competing factors involved. For example, strong slaves might naturally be inclined towards hard labor moreso than weaker slaves. This is the
same as athletic people being more inclined to exercise and/or to participate in sports. Additionally, the act of hard labor itself will build muscle
and slaves, as a result, will be stronger. Thus, slaves might tend to be strong even though slave owners weren't intentionally selecting for this
trait. The same could be said for intelligence level. They probably weren't educated and did not receive optimum nutrition, so it's natural that
they're stupid. The simple act of the slave owner being greedy (increasing the expectations for higher productivity) could have made the situation
intensify, over time. So they could have got dumber and stronger. I'm thinking of the parents and the children developing rules and cultural things to
be better "slaves". I'm thinking of slave owners that need extra money. Genetics don't have to change.
I think the poverty among african-americans (and/or former slaves) in the modern world was the social/cultural shock-effect leftover from their
exploitation as slaves. Genetics is not relevant.
If our country collapsed, I think people would get "dumber". But that's not genetics!
This topic is probably much deeper and broader than I can even dream of. I know it's probably futile for me to make a post about this and to attempt
to speak logically, but I wanted to try. I'd also like to bring up the terms social evolution
(1) and sociocultural evolution
(2), as I
believe they have some relation to all this.
There's also this:
Attempted explanations have included improved nutrition, a trend toward smaller families, better education, greater environmental complexity,
and heterosis (the occurrence of genetically superior offspring from mixing the genes of its parents). Another proposition is the gradual spread
of test-taking skills. The Flynn effect has been too rapid for genetic selection to be the cause.
* - references
edit on 18-4-2012 by
jonnywhite because: (no reason given)