We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
"geographic determinism", what a crock. Just look at Japan, a country that has prospered despite an almost total lack of resources...or Africa which, despite abundant resources, remains in abject poverty....or N Korea/S Korea...or Haiti/Dominican Republic.
While IQ's might be "real" the methodology to measure them is inadequate.
What if you raised 1000 Japanese people in Africa immersed in African tribal culture and without schools and raised 1000 Africans under Japans culture where education and work ethic are prized. Would those numbers be reversed or at least moderated???
By geographical determinism, what was meant was the Europe and to a slightly lesser extent China, had the right kind of weather and soils for the growing of wheat, rye, and barley, plus herding animals that could be domesticated (with the assistance of dogs), which sub-Saharan Africa did not. Once these farming and grazing (as opposed to herding) societies took shape, they selected for the traits that led to success when living in that kind of society. It is those traits that we tend to measure as "Intelligence".
You'll also see that the "rice societies" of east and Southeast Asia developed along slightly different lines, leading to cultural differences that persist to this day.
Another Guy named Dan
The absolutism is generally only on the environmental side. The geneticists allow that some environmental factors are likely there, though the insist those are overrated. The environmentalists will tolerate only the slightest bit of genetic influence, around such things as eye color.
Most people think it is some of both and don't see that the debate has enormous consequences, as their reasonable willingness to consider both is now under fire.
I am increasingly convinced of the importance of genetics in human abilities and development. I have five children, three adopted.
Assistant Village Idiot
Why such black-and-white thinking? Because rigidity of that kind makes it easier both to be smug both about good fortune that sprang partly from good luck and to be complacent about failure that can be blamed partly on bad luck.
This is fascinating. Thanks for the link. I sometimes read Quillette, but had not seen this column. The column makes me want to learn more about Sam Harris, who I had not heard of before. There are lots of good links in that column for future reading.
Is the world deterministic or not? That is the big question. The ancients believed that the Gods/Fate ruled things, which meant that we acknowledged that we didn’t completely understand how the world worked. We just knew that there were a lot of things outside of our control or even knowledge. Then Newton came along and we began to think that maybe we could figure out – completely – how the world worked. Then quantum mechanics came along and we began to have doubts about that again. However, even Einstein, who contributed so much to quantum mechanics, did not believe that quantum mechanics was the ultimate answer, which led to the famous debates with Bohr.
In biology, Darwin upended how we think about living things, but it was nearly another 100 years before we began to understand the mechanism – DNA. Now we have people who think, because of DNA, that biology is deterministic. “For biological determinists, [our trials and our triumphs] are encoded in our DNA sequence.” DNA is important, but I don’t see how any thoughtful person can come to the conclusion that DNA is that deterministic. Whatever. As AVI notes, most people think both DNA and environment are important. And, I would submit, most people think that free will – what we choose to do with our lives – is also important. On that thought, I note with amusement in the Wikipedia entry for Sam Harris that he can’t seem to make up his mind if he wants to be a vegetarian or not. Personally I wonder if it matters. I eat almost anything. Even organic when put in front of me.
A perspective I would add to this discussion is chaos theory. James Gleik’s 1987 book Chaos is fascinating. See also the course Chaos by Steven Strogatz at The Great Courses. Starting in the 1960s we learned that even simple, deterministic-looking mathematical formulations lead to results that cannot be predicted. This is true for both continuous math (differential equations) and discrete math (e.g., cellular automata and fractals). I think this has important implications: even if everything in our world is governed by mathematics (and we don't know that it is), and we knew the the exact equations (which we don’t), we would still not be able to predict the future.
The Switchel Philosopher