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    Fresh stuff! New Blog Post #3! So in my last blog posts we learned about the role of heredity in determining behavior and the non-affect of parenting and the family environment on behavioral traits. But most of us feel we are in control of ourselves (I suppose except when it comes to the “scars” parents...
  • @BackLash
    As to the question of the existence of "free will", can you give an example of evidence you would accept as proof that it does exist? It seems to me, that your argument boils down to the assertion that some notional thing called "the will" or "I" cannot make a decision, only a physical system can, and therefore, physical systems make all decisions. Then, since the only objective evidence for "the will" and "I" is the decisions they make, and you will not allow that they could possibly make decisions, they must not exist. Setting aside the question of how you might hope to convince "me" that "I" don't exist, you have basically assumed what you claim to demonstrate.

    The subjective evidence for "I", at least, seems quite strong. It may be that my "free will" is a delusion, but whose delusion is it? DesCartes addressed this issue some time ago, fairly conclusively, I think. He no longer exists, by the way, but I believe he once did.

    In any case, whether decisions are made by minds having free will, or brains controlled by the inexorable laws of physics, it seems evident that plenty of people, myself among them, have been dissuaded from various actions on the grounds, not that they were morally wrong, but that they were legally risky. Like, they can put you in jail for doing that! So, maybe we don't have "free will", but we sure as Hell act as if we do. Which, in turn, implies that the laws should be framed on the assumption that we do. Always supposing that the laws mandate behavior we find desirable. Does "desire" exist?

    It may be that my “free will” is a delusion, but whose delusion is it?

    It’s yours. But what are you?

    it seems evident that plenty of people, myself among them, have been dissuaded from various actions on the grounds

    You can interact with your computer, right? Lack of free will ≠ does not respond to input.

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  • As to the question of the existence of “free will”, can you give an example of evidence you would accept as proof that it does exist? It seems to me, that your argument boils down to the assertion that some notional thing called “the will” or “I” cannot make a decision, only a physical system can, and therefore, physical systems make all decisions. Then, since the only objective evidence for “the will” and “I” is the decisions they make, and you will not allow that they could possibly make decisions, they must not exist. Setting aside the question of how you might hope to convince “me” that “I” don’t exist, you have basically assumed what you claim to demonstrate.

    The subjective evidence for “I”, at least, seems quite strong. It may be that my “free will” is a delusion, but whose delusion is it? DesCartes addressed this issue some time ago, fairly conclusively, I think. He no longer exists, by the way, but I believe he once did.

    In any case, whether decisions are made by minds having free will, or brains controlled by the inexorable laws of physics, it seems evident that plenty of people, myself among them, have been dissuaded from various actions on the grounds, not that they were morally wrong, but that they were legally risky. Like, they can put you in jail for doing that! So, maybe we don’t have “free will”, but we sure as Hell act as if we do. Which, in turn, implies that the laws should be framed on the assumption that we do. Always supposing that the laws mandate behavior we find desirable. Does “desire” exist?

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan

    It may be that my “free will” is a delusion, but whose delusion is it?
     
    It's yours. But what are you?

    it seems evident that plenty of people, myself among them, have been dissuaded from various actions on the grounds
     
    You can interact with your computer, right? Lack of free will ≠ does not respond to input.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Some of you may have encountered a popular meme, shared by many celebrities and other people in the spotlight. Well in this post, I wanted to fix it just a bit: We've seen similar corrections to false PC memes, like the one at the left. But the above meme on the "racist brain" is clearly...
  • […] Racist Brain – The Unz Review […]

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  • @Lion of the Judah-sphere
    Strange that brain size is so low in Japan according to that map...

    The Japanese also have small bodies…

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  • Strange that brain size is so low in Japan according to that map…

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    • Replies: @JayMan
    The Japanese also have small bodies...
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  • Fresh stuff! New Blog Post #3! So in my last blog posts we learned about the role of heredity in determining behavior and the non-affect of parenting and the family environment on behavioral traits. But most of us feel we are in control of ourselves (I suppose except when it comes to the “scars” parents...
  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Anonymous
    I still struggle with the idea that I cannot control my brain, that I can't control the way I react to things and the way I do things. With that being said, it does completely explain my constant internal war with myself. Blah

    ‘You don’t control your brain; your brain controls you’

    Incorrect, you ARE your brain, there are not 2 different you’s

    “People continue to become overweight”, “people continue to get high”, “people (mostly men) continue to cheat”
    ….yet all of a sudden “our brains are organic computers that generate outputs based on inputs. The threat of punishment if one breaks to law is one of these inputs that the brain weighs in making decisions”…so do incentives matter, or not? (and of course there are examples of people losing weight, people stopping smoking shit and men learning that being faithful to the right woman is its lifetime reward.

    And of course people are determined by their genes and experience so procreation of killers (not self defense) and pedophiles needs to be prevented.

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  • Reblogged this on Overexcitable and commented:
    Excellent!

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  • @Alex Kierkegaard:

    For the insult in your last comment, you are on moderation. Make another personal attack and you will be banned.

    And even when someone fails to obey himself doesn’t mean anything. I can say “I want to stop smoking” and fail to do it, just as I can say “I want to become president of the United States of America” and fail to do it.

    And in both cases, when you failed, WHY did you do so? That’s the key to understanding the issue.

    In other words, free will would exist for you IF EVERY LIFEFORM IN THE UNIVERSE WERE CAPABLE OF ACHIEVING EVERY SINGLE THING IT DREAMT OF.

    Not so much your President example because that depends on talent and characteristics. But the conditions are still related. WHY would you fail to modify your behavior? WHY do you “dream of” certain things? That’s key.

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  • @Anonymous
    "There is no free will because your brain controls you." But my brain IS me. Like saying "there is no free will because you control you", i.e. there IS free will. Retards confused by wordplay.

    “There is no free will because your brain controls you.” But my brain IS me. Like saying “there is no free will because you control you”, i.e. there IS free will.

    That is an expression meant to illustrate a property of the matter; namely, that your brain will just “do things” that you can’t “force” into your command. Sam Harris explains it well.

    Free will does not exist and never did.

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  • “There is no free will because your brain controls you.” But my brain IS me. Like saying “there is no free will because you control you”, i.e. there IS free will. Retards confused by wordplay.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan

    “There is no free will because your brain controls you.” But my brain IS me. Like saying “there is no free will because you control you”, i.e. there IS free will.
     
    That is an expression meant to illustrate a property of the matter; namely, that your brain will just "do things" that you can't "force" into your command. Sam Harris explains it well.

    Free will does not exist and never did.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • I love how this excellent post begging people to consider the big picture, the next steps for society given this reality instantly degenerates into a fight over the existence of free will. You must get tired of it. I despise arguing so I wouldn’t have been as dogged in my responses as you have here in the comments.

    For my own part, this post and the realizations it discusses are exactly the same as I’ve been grappling with as I move into middle age. I’ve had too many experiences with actual people to keep deceiving myself with a belief in tabula rasa or dualistic wishful thinking but this understanding also extends to the fact that others won’t (and sometimes can’t) change their minds. There may simply be no way to convince the public at large or even a significant fraction that this is true and if that’s the case, then the future of humanity may likely be more of the same, with better phones and faster internet (for some).

    ~S

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  • @4cpiomega
    >They are typically shipped to the rubbish bin, especially when, as in this case, they don’t seem to add anything particularly useful.

    So then why don't you apply this to your own claim that free will doesn't exist?

    >It’s clearly not a “fact” however. Nice try though.

    The correspondence principle means that at the macroscopic scale of a coin quantum mechanical effects are insignificant. Do you know of any other source where indeterminacy would occur during a coin flip?

    >Sure, it’s an assumption, and any good scientist will freely admit that.

    Yes, in order to do science we have to make certain assumptions. These are, however, the exact same assumptions that are not taken for granted in metaphysics. So, you can use assumptions like that one to support Kepler's laws, but you can't use them to deny free will.

    The correspondence principle means that at the macroscopic scale of a coin quantum mechanical effects are insignificant. Do you know of any other source where indeterminacy would occur during a coin flip?

    The correspondence principle states that at macroscopic scales, quantum mechanical effects operate such that they are approximated by classical mechanics, within the degree of precision that we’re typically concerned. This is the case with all theories that emerge from more fundamental ones at space-time/mass-energy scales beyond typical human experience. Quantum effects are insignificant insofar as the level of precision concerned with a typical coin flip. Since, of course, no one has actually gone into the detail to observe all the relevant physical parameters involved in a coin flip in order to predict the outcome, we can pretend that it’s purely classical phenomenon when it’s clearly not. (If you want to get picky, and posit that there isn’t much room for uncertainty in the motion involved in the coin flip—wrong as that would technically be—would you be so confident if we include the state of mind of the flipper and the precise muscle movements he executed to set up the coin the way he did?)

    This is a common misconception that is often repeated. It is easily shown to be false by a simple thought experiment: computer memory chips used to be vulnerable to generating errors because of radiation, often alpha particles, interacting with the chip. This would often give random program errors often freezing the computer. I shouldn’t have to explain the myriad of events that a frozen computer can cause. In these instances, one can imagine that the course of history could be considerably different if the computer error didn’t occur. Now, the process that spawned the particle was clearly a quantum process, demonstrating how random events on the microscopic scale can have macroscopic effects.

    So then why don’t you apply this to your own claim that free will doesn’t exist?

    Again, based on the clearly successful assumption in science that the universe works in an orderly way, claims are given merit only when there is evidence to support them. There is no evidence for the existence of free will. Indeed, there is evidence against its existence (if wills were free, why is any one will different from any other?). Indeed, it is superfluous at best. Thus, I’m perfectly justified in declaring its nonexistence, until you can provide evidence to the contrary.

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  • >They are typically shipped to the rubbish bin, especially when, as in this case, they don’t seem to add anything particularly useful.

    So then why don’t you apply this to your own claim that free will doesn’t exist?

    >It’s clearly not a “fact” however. Nice try though.

    The correspondence principle means that at the macroscopic scale of a coin quantum mechanical effects are insignificant. Do you know of any other source where indeterminacy would occur during a coin flip?

    >Sure, it’s an assumption, and any good scientist will freely admit that.

    Yes, in order to do science we have to make certain assumptions. These are, however, the exact same assumptions that are not taken for granted in metaphysics. So, you can use assumptions like that one to support Kepler’s laws, but you can’t use them to deny free will.

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    • Replies: @JayMan

    The correspondence principle means that at the macroscopic scale of a coin quantum mechanical effects are insignificant. Do you know of any other source where indeterminacy would occur during a coin flip?
     
    The correspondence principle states that at macroscopic scales, quantum mechanical effects operate such that they are approximated by classical mechanics, within the degree of precision that we're typically concerned. This is the case with all theories that emerge from more fundamental ones at space-time/mass-energy scales beyond typical human experience. Quantum effects are insignificant insofar as the level of precision concerned with a typical coin flip. Since, of course, no one has actually gone into the detail to observe all the relevant physical parameters involved in a coin flip in order to predict the outcome, we can pretend that it's purely classical phenomenon when it's clearly not. (If you want to get picky, and posit that there isn't much room for uncertainty in the motion involved in the coin flip—wrong as that would technically be—would you be so confident if we include the state of mind of the flipper and the precise muscle movements he executed to set up the coin the way he did?)

    This is a common misconception that is often repeated. It is easily shown to be false by a simple thought experiment: computer memory chips used to be vulnerable to generating errors because of radiation, often alpha particles, interacting with the chip. This would often give random program errors often freezing the computer. I shouldn't have to explain the myriad of events that a frozen computer can cause. In these instances, one can imagine that the course of history could be considerably different if the computer error didn't occur. Now, the process that spawned the particle was clearly a quantum process, demonstrating how random events on the microscopic scale can have macroscopic effects.


    So then why don’t you apply this to your own claim that free will doesn’t exist?
     
    Again, based on the clearly successful assumption in science that the universe works in an orderly way, claims are given merit only when there is evidence to support them. There is no evidence for the existence of free will. Indeed, there is evidence against its existence (if wills were free, why is any one will different from any other?). Indeed, it is superfluous at best. Thus, I'm perfectly justified in declaring its nonexistence, until you can provide evidence to the contrary.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @4cpiomega
    >It’s up to proponents of a claim to prove that it is true, not the other way around.

    Whether you claim that free will exists or that it doesn't, the claim is not falsifiable.

    >As for metaphysics…

    Isn't even about answering the same questions that science does. It's right there in the name "meta-physics". If it were about physical reality it would just be called "physics".

    >That reality is probabilistic is quite provable. (Can you tell me exactly which atoms in a radioactive material will decay and when?)

    Notice you didn't ask me a question about the physical world e. g. "will radioactive decay occur when the nucleus is bombarded with neutrinos?". You asked me a question about what I personally knew. That's totally irrelevant. If I told you that caloric was real would that make it true? I could use bra-ket notation to write out the the "wavefunction" of a coin, and tell you that I didn't know for certain if it would land on heads or tails. Would that change the fact that a coin flip is based on deterministic mechanical processes?

    But, hypothetically, let's suppose I DID predict radioactive decay. Suppose we had an atom of U-238, and at every step of the decay chain I told you the exact yoctosecond you would register a count on your photomultiplier. Is that any guarantee that my next guess would be correct? Suppose that I had a deterministic theory and displayed a set of experiments I had done whose outcomes were successfully predicted by the theory. It might have well been that those outcomes were not predetermined, but that reality is in fact probabilistic(0.0001% vs. 99.9999% instead of 0% vs. 100%) and that I had merely gotten "lucky".

    >I hope you’re not seriously going to try to propose that metaphysics go toe-to-toe with science

    It is metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of science that define what exactly "science" is in the first place. To talk about them in a confrontational manner is nonsense.

    If you want to know what philosophy has done for mankind, just look at the fact that prior to the 19th century the term "scientist" didn't even exist. If you want to know what philosophy can do for mankind, it can keep people from using the word "science" to justify unfalsifiable, untestable, Not Even Wrong metaphysical conjectures.

    Whether you claim that free will exists or that it doesn’t, the claim is not falsifiable.

    And you know what happens to claims that aren’t falsifiable? They are typically shipped to the rubbish bin, especially when, as in this case, they don’t seem to add anything particularly useful.

    I could use bra-ket notation to write out the the “wavefunction” of a coin, and tell you that I didn’t know for certain if it would land on heads or tails. Would that change the fact that a coin flip is based on deterministic mechanical processes?

    It’s clearly not a “fact” however. Nice try though.

    But, hypothetically, let’s suppose I DID predict radioactive decay. Suppose we had an atom of U-238, and at every step of the decay chain I told you the exact yoctosecond you would register a count on your photomultiplier. Is that any guarantee that my next guess would be correct?

    Suppose I told you when the sun would rise tomorrow, and that it in fact my prediction has been correct every day for the past several centuries? Would that be any guarantee that it would be correct tomorrow? In science, we know that, strictly, the answer is no. That is a neat little thing that’s known as Hume’s Dictum, that presumes that things will continue to work because they always have. Sure, it’s an assumption, and any good scientist will freely admit that. It’s one however that have proven incredibly useful, so I will continue to stick with it.

    I hope you’re not seriously going to try to propose that metaphysics go toe-to-toe with science

    It is metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of science that define what exactly “science” is in the first place. To talk about them in a confrontational manner is nonsense.

    Of course, all of which are useless without science. To the extent that they have been useful in that regard, that’s great. Beyond that, we have to take them for what they’re worth, and the answer to that is not a whole lot.

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  • @4cpiomega
    "As he shows, what has been thought of as “free will”, the uncaused cause, simply does not exist. All human behavior is the result of physical processes that occur in the brain."

    There is simply no battery of experiments you could preform, no set of empirical evidence that could be gathered, that could disprove free will; It is a metaphysical, not a physical, concept. Nowhere in this post do you even attempt to make a metaphysical argument, let alone refute dualism, you just assume that the mind can be reduced to physical processes. It's exactly the same thing Sam Harris did in his talk on the same subject.

    This is the same mistake many people make with quantum mechanics. Since QM is probabilistic, and it's the best theory we've got, they then go on to say that therefore reality itself must be probabilistic. One is free to believe this, but the claim that reality is probabilistic is not even hypothetically testable!

    Whether it's Niels Bohr vs. determinism, or determinism vs. free will, those who share their opinion with the notions currently fashionable will arrogantly declare that "science says". It doesn't. Science, if it is to be the study of the natural world, cannot lend its support for metaphysical speculations.

    “There are two distinct meanings to the word ‘science’. The first meaning is what physicists and mathematicians do. The second meaning is a magical art … What is of harm is the blind faith in an imposed system that is implied. ‘Science says’ has replaced ‘scripture tells us’ but with no more critical reflection on the one than on the other. … reason is no more understandable this year than prayer a thousand years ago. Little Billy may become a scientist as earlier he might have turned priest, and know the sacred texts … The chromed apparatus is blessed by distant authority, the water thrice-filtered for purity, and he wears the white antiseptic gown … But the masses still move by faith. … I have fear of what science says, not the science that is hard-won knowledge but that other science, the faith imposed on people by a self-elected administering priesthood. … In the hands of an unscrupulous and power-grasping priesthood, this efficient tool, just as earlier … has become an instrument of bondage. … A metaphysics that ushered in the Dark Ages is again flourishing. … Natural sciences turned from description to a ruminative scholarship concerned with authority. … On the superstition that reduction to number is the same as abstraction, it permits any arbitrary assemblage of data to be mined for relations that can then be named and reified in the same way as Fritz Mauthner once imagined that myths arise. … Our sales representatives, trained in your tribal taboos, will call on you shortly. You have no choice but to buy. For this is the new rationalism, the new messiah, the new Church, and the new Dark Ages come upon us.”

    -Jerome Lettvin: poet, electrical engineer, neurophysiologist

    >It’s up to proponents of a claim to prove that it is true, not the other way around.

    Whether you claim that free will exists or that it doesn’t, the claim is not falsifiable.

    >As for metaphysics…

    Isn’t even about answering the same questions that science does. It’s right there in the name “meta-physics”. If it were about physical reality it would just be called “physics”.

    >That reality is probabilistic is quite provable. (Can you tell me exactly which atoms in a radioactive material will decay and when?)

    Notice you didn’t ask me a question about the physical world e. g. “will radioactive decay occur when the nucleus is bombarded with neutrinos?”. You asked me a question about what I personally knew. That’s totally irrelevant. If I told you that caloric was real would that make it true? I could use bra-ket notation to write out the the “wavefunction” of a coin, and tell you that I didn’t know for certain if it would land on heads or tails. Would that change the fact that a coin flip is based on deterministic mechanical processes?

    But, hypothetically, let’s suppose I DID predict radioactive decay. Suppose we had an atom of U-238, and at every step of the decay chain I told you the exact yoctosecond you would register a count on your photomultiplier. Is that any guarantee that my next guess would be correct? Suppose that I had a deterministic theory and displayed a set of experiments I had done whose outcomes were successfully predicted by the theory. It might have well been that those outcomes were not predetermined, but that reality is in fact probabilistic(0.0001% vs. 99.9999% instead of 0% vs. 100%) and that I had merely gotten “lucky”.

    >I hope you’re not seriously going to try to propose that metaphysics go toe-to-toe with science

    It is metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of science that define what exactly “science” is in the first place. To talk about them in a confrontational manner is nonsense.

    If you want to know what philosophy has done for mankind, just look at the fact that prior to the 19th century the term “scientist” didn’t even exist. If you want to know what philosophy can do for mankind, it can keep people from using the word “science” to justify unfalsifiable, untestable, Not Even Wrong metaphysical conjectures.

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    • Replies: @JayMan

    Whether you claim that free will exists or that it doesn’t, the claim is not falsifiable.
     
    And you know what happens to claims that aren't falsifiable? They are typically shipped to the rubbish bin, especially when, as in this case, they don't seem to add anything particularly useful.

    I could use bra-ket notation to write out the the “wavefunction” of a coin, and tell you that I didn’t know for certain if it would land on heads or tails. Would that change the fact that a coin flip is based on deterministic mechanical processes?
     
    It's clearly not a "fact" however. Nice try though.

    But, hypothetically, let’s suppose I DID predict radioactive decay. Suppose we had an atom of U-238, and at every step of the decay chain I told you the exact yoctosecond you would register a count on your photomultiplier. Is that any guarantee that my next guess would be correct?
     
    Suppose I told you when the sun would rise tomorrow, and that it in fact my prediction has been correct every day for the past several centuries? Would that be any guarantee that it would be correct tomorrow? In science, we know that, strictly, the answer is no. That is a neat little thing that's known as Hume's Dictum, that presumes that things will continue to work because they always have. Sure, it's an assumption, and any good scientist will freely admit that. It's one however that have proven incredibly useful, so I will continue to stick with it.


    I hope you’re not seriously going to try to propose that metaphysics go toe-to-toe with science
     
    It is metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of science that define what exactly “science” is in the first place. To talk about them in a confrontational manner is nonsense.
     
    Of course, all of which are useless without science. To the extent that they have been useful in that regard, that's great. Beyond that, we have to take them for what they're worth, and the answer to that is not a whole lot.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @4cpiomega
    "As he shows, what has been thought of as “free will”, the uncaused cause, simply does not exist. All human behavior is the result of physical processes that occur in the brain."

    There is simply no battery of experiments you could preform, no set of empirical evidence that could be gathered, that could disprove free will; It is a metaphysical, not a physical, concept. Nowhere in this post do you even attempt to make a metaphysical argument, let alone refute dualism, you just assume that the mind can be reduced to physical processes. It's exactly the same thing Sam Harris did in his talk on the same subject.

    This is the same mistake many people make with quantum mechanics. Since QM is probabilistic, and it's the best theory we've got, they then go on to say that therefore reality itself must be probabilistic. One is free to believe this, but the claim that reality is probabilistic is not even hypothetically testable!

    Whether it's Niels Bohr vs. determinism, or determinism vs. free will, those who share their opinion with the notions currently fashionable will arrogantly declare that "science says". It doesn't. Science, if it is to be the study of the natural world, cannot lend its support for metaphysical speculations.

    “There are two distinct meanings to the word ‘science’. The first meaning is what physicists and mathematicians do. The second meaning is a magical art … What is of harm is the blind faith in an imposed system that is implied. ‘Science says’ has replaced ‘scripture tells us’ but with no more critical reflection on the one than on the other. … reason is no more understandable this year than prayer a thousand years ago. Little Billy may become a scientist as earlier he might have turned priest, and know the sacred texts … The chromed apparatus is blessed by distant authority, the water thrice-filtered for purity, and he wears the white antiseptic gown … But the masses still move by faith. … I have fear of what science says, not the science that is hard-won knowledge but that other science, the faith imposed on people by a self-elected administering priesthood. … In the hands of an unscrupulous and power-grasping priesthood, this efficient tool, just as earlier … has become an instrument of bondage. … A metaphysics that ushered in the Dark Ages is again flourishing. … Natural sciences turned from description to a ruminative scholarship concerned with authority. … On the superstition that reduction to number is the same as abstraction, it permits any arbitrary assemblage of data to be mined for relations that can then be named and reified in the same way as Fritz Mauthner once imagined that myths arise. … Our sales representatives, trained in your tribal taboos, will call on you shortly. You have no choice but to buy. For this is the new rationalism, the new messiah, the new Church, and the new Dark Ages come upon us.”

    -Jerome Lettvin: poet, electrical engineer, neurophysiologist

    There is simply no battery of experiments you could preform, no set of empirical evidence that could be gathered, that could disprove free will; It is a metaphysical, not a physical, concept.

    Science isn’t in the business of disproving things. It’s up to proponents of a claim to prove that it is true, not the other way around. As for metaphysics

    This is the same mistake many people make with quantum mechanics. Since QM is probabilistic, and it’s the best theory we’ve got, they then go on to say that therefore reality itself must be probabilistic.

    Yet your own words explain why we go with it.

    One is free to believe this, but the claim that reality is probabilistic is not even hypothetically testable!

    That is actually not true. That reality is probabilistic is quite provable. (Can you tell me exactly which atoms in a radioactive material will decay and when?)

    I hope you’re not seriously going to try to propose that metaphysics go toe-to-toe with science on the results each has generated for mankind…

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • “As he shows, what has been thought of as “free will”, the uncaused cause, simply does not exist. All human behavior is the result of physical processes that occur in the brain.”

    There is simply no battery of experiments you could preform, no set of empirical evidence that could be gathered, that could disprove free will; It is a metaphysical, not a physical, concept. Nowhere in this post do you even attempt to make a metaphysical argument, let alone refute dualism, you just assume that the mind can be reduced to physical processes. It’s exactly the same thing Sam Harris did in his talk on the same subject.

    This is the same mistake many people make with quantum mechanics. Since QM is probabilistic, and it’s the best theory we’ve got, they then go on to say that therefore reality itself must be probabilistic. One is free to believe this, but the claim that reality is probabilistic is not even hypothetically testable!

    Whether it’s Niels Bohr vs. determinism, or determinism vs. free will, those who share their opinion with the notions currently fashionable will arrogantly declare that “science says”. It doesn’t. Science, if it is to be the study of the natural world, cannot lend its support for metaphysical speculations.

    “There are two distinct meanings to the word ‘science’. The first meaning is what physicists and mathematicians do. The second meaning is a magical art … What is of harm is the blind faith in an imposed system that is implied. ‘Science says’ has replaced ‘scripture tells us’ but with no more critical reflection on the one than on the other. … reason is no more understandable this year than prayer a thousand years ago. Little Billy may become a scientist as earlier he might have turned priest, and know the sacred texts … The chromed apparatus is blessed by distant authority, the water thrice-filtered for purity, and he wears the white antiseptic gown … But the masses still move by faith. … I have fear of what science says, not the science that is hard-won knowledge but that other science, the faith imposed on people by a self-elected administering priesthood. … In the hands of an unscrupulous and power-grasping priesthood, this efficient tool, just as earlier … has become an instrument of bondage. … A metaphysics that ushered in the Dark Ages is again flourishing. … Natural sciences turned from description to a ruminative scholarship concerned with authority. … On the superstition that reduction to number is the same as abstraction, it permits any arbitrary assemblage of data to be mined for relations that can then be named and reified in the same way as Fritz Mauthner once imagined that myths arise. … Our sales representatives, trained in your tribal taboos, will call on you shortly. You have no choice but to buy. For this is the new rationalism, the new messiah, the new Church, and the new Dark Ages come upon us.”

    -Jerome Lettvin: poet, electrical engineer, neurophysiologist

    Read More
    • Replies: @JayMan

    There is simply no battery of experiments you could preform, no set of empirical evidence that could be gathered, that could disprove free will; It is a metaphysical, not a physical, concept.
     
    Science isn't in the business of disproving things. It's up to proponents of a claim to prove that it is true, not the other way around. As for metaphysics...

    This is the same mistake many people make with quantum mechanics. Since QM is probabilistic, and it’s the best theory we’ve got, they then go on to say that therefore reality itself must be probabilistic.
     
    Yet your own words explain why we go with it.

    One is free to believe this, but the claim that reality is probabilistic is not even hypothetically testable!
     
    That is actually not true. That reality is probabilistic is quite provable. (Can you tell me exactly which atoms in a radioactive material will decay and when?)

    I hope you're not seriously going to try to propose that metaphysics go toe-to-toe with science on the results each has generated for mankind...

    , @4cpiomega
    >It’s up to proponents of a claim to prove that it is true, not the other way around.

    Whether you claim that free will exists or that it doesn't, the claim is not falsifiable.

    >As for metaphysics…

    Isn't even about answering the same questions that science does. It's right there in the name "meta-physics". If it were about physical reality it would just be called "physics".

    >That reality is probabilistic is quite provable. (Can you tell me exactly which atoms in a radioactive material will decay and when?)

    Notice you didn't ask me a question about the physical world e. g. "will radioactive decay occur when the nucleus is bombarded with neutrinos?". You asked me a question about what I personally knew. That's totally irrelevant. If I told you that caloric was real would that make it true? I could use bra-ket notation to write out the the "wavefunction" of a coin, and tell you that I didn't know for certain if it would land on heads or tails. Would that change the fact that a coin flip is based on deterministic mechanical processes?

    But, hypothetically, let's suppose I DID predict radioactive decay. Suppose we had an atom of U-238, and at every step of the decay chain I told you the exact yoctosecond you would register a count on your photomultiplier. Is that any guarantee that my next guess would be correct? Suppose that I had a deterministic theory and displayed a set of experiments I had done whose outcomes were successfully predicted by the theory. It might have well been that those outcomes were not predetermined, but that reality is in fact probabilistic(0.0001% vs. 99.9999% instead of 0% vs. 100%) and that I had merely gotten "lucky".

    >I hope you’re not seriously going to try to propose that metaphysics go toe-to-toe with science

    It is metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of science that define what exactly "science" is in the first place. To talk about them in a confrontational manner is nonsense.

    If you want to know what philosophy has done for mankind, just look at the fact that prior to the 19th century the term "scientist" didn't even exist. If you want to know what philosophy can do for mankind, it can keep people from using the word "science" to justify unfalsifiable, untestable, Not Even Wrong metaphysical conjectures.

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  • @Anonymous
    Great subject. An incomplete thought on my part. We don't have free will, on that I agree. However, isn't it quite possible that we can influence the attributes that we have been granted by nurture and nature? Examples... Hmmm. We can read the assigned text in class or we can daydream. We may have the desire to do both, but really can only do one or the other. Whichever one occurs changes who we are and how we are programmed to face the next situation. This continues thereby building our character. Much the same way a brick wall is built one brick at a time. The result is the sum of the total, not the cause of any one brick being laid (or not laid).

    The absence of free will doesn’t mean the absence of outside influence. All of our actions have causes, and those causes will include things we have encountered in our lives. Any attempt at conscious change doesn’t solve this dilemma, as we then have to ask where did that notion come from?

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Great subject. An incomplete thought on my part. We don’t have free will, on that I agree. However, isn’t it quite possible that we can influence the attributes that we have been granted by nurture and nature? Examples… Hmmm. We can read the assigned text in class or we can daydream. We may have the desire to do both, but really can only do one or the other. Whichever one occurs changes who we are and how we are programmed to face the next situation. This continues thereby building our character. Much the same way a brick wall is built one brick at a time. The result is the sum of the total, not the cause of any one brick being laid (or not laid).

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    • Replies: @JayMan
    The absence of free will doesn't mean the absence of outside influence. All of our actions have causes, and those causes will include things we have encountered in our lives. Any attempt at conscious change doesn't solve this dilemma, as we then have to ask where did that notion come from?
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  • This was very well written. Most articles that deal with a challenge to free will reflect on effects on society to have a view which disregards true free will. Let’s just determine the truth and then decide best the way to incorporate that into society.

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  • Deckard: She's a replicant, isn't she? Tyrell: I'm impressed. How many questions does it usually take to spot them? Deckard: I don't get it, Tyrell. Tyrell: How many questions? Deckard: Twenty, thirty, cross-referenced. Tyrell: It took more than a hundred for Rachael, didn't it? Deckard: [realizing Rachael believes she's human] She doesn't know. Tyrell: She's...
  • [...] at Gene Expressions, we learn this alarming fact: The idea that the self, or the conscious mind, emerges from the [...]

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  • Fresh stuff! New Blog Post #3! So in my last blog posts we learned about the role of heredity in determining behavior and the non-affect of parenting and the family environment on behavioral traits. But most of us feel we are in control of ourselves (I suppose except when it comes to the “scars” parents...
  • I still struggle with the idea that I cannot control my brain, that I can’t control the way I react to things and the way I do things. With that being said, it does completely explain my constant internal war with myself. Blah

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    'You don’t control your brain; your brain controls you'

    Incorrect, you ARE your brain, there are not 2 different you's

    "People continue to become overweight", "people continue to get high", "people (mostly men) continue to cheat"
    ....yet all of a sudden "our brains are organic computers that generate outputs based on inputs. The threat of punishment if one breaks to law is one of these inputs that the brain weighs in making decisions"...so do incentives matter, or not? (and of course there are examples of people losing weight, people stopping smoking shit and men learning that being faithful to the right woman is its lifetime reward.

    And of course people are determined by their genes and experience so procreation of killers (not self defense) and pedophiles needs to be prevented.

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  • Deckard: She's a replicant, isn't she? Tyrell: I'm impressed. How many questions does it usually take to spot them? Deckard: I don't get it, Tyrell. Tyrell: How many questions? Deckard: Twenty, thirty, cross-referenced. Tyrell: It took more than a hundred for Rachael, didn't it? Deckard: [realizing Rachael believes she's human] She doesn't know. Tyrell: She's...
  • Re: “If there were strong evidence of some form of life after death then this would certainly argue strongly against the sufficiency of neuroscientific materialism.”

    I would say it certainly would argue against materialism, but not necessarily against the materialist view of the brain. It would just require a God to re-image the previously extant brain model, much like installing software on a new computer.

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    IMHO we (as humans) cannot understand objectively what it is like to be humans. We are all ‘inside the box’ as humans together. it’s simply impossible for us to make any reasonable hypothesis of what is happening or how subjective conciousness works. The moment we loose our subjective conciousness we loose the ability to try and analyze it. The moment we gain it, we are bound by it’s limitations and unable to see out of it. A physical analog to this would be an insect born and raised in a cave trying to describe sunlight – it simply has no ability to formulate a way to describe it, because it’s to far away from it’s experience.

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  • Adrian, you have a brain, a teacup doesn’t. If you remove your brain, you’ll be as sentient as a teacup.

    http://lesswrong.com/lw/no/how_an_algorithm_feels_from_inside/

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  • I wonder about that. I know all the arguments and they are intellectually fairly compelling, but I still have the feeling something has been missed. If we don’t have “real” free will we have something that seems like free will that needs to be explained. I don’t just mean the feeling that we (our conscious selves) are in control of our decisions – I agree that a lot of that is post hoc rationalisation of decisions that our subconscious brain has taken and then made us aware of. But the fact remains that we do take conscious decisions – there patently is some measure of conscious control that needs explaining. I do not believe this is simply always an illusion. I think free will is a real emergent property of the human brain, though I have not the foggiest idea how it could possibly emerge. I suppose it might be a semantic difficulty – if, by free will, we mean an incredibly sophisticated level of autonomous and reflective cognitive control over decision-making in any given context, emerging from a system that integrates all the information entailed in the complete current state of our nervous system, then I think we have it. I am not sure that would satisfy the full philosophical criteria for free will (where it could be argued that if you knew the complete current state of our nervous system it would be possible to accurately predict our behaviour – i.e., the system is completely deterministic), but it’s good enough for me.

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  • Even among those who accept that the mind is just the activity of the brain, belief in free will seems pretty common. It seems to me that free will will be the last superstition to die.

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  • Of course it is hard to prove that a cup of tea is not having a subjective experience but I don’t see any good reason to expect that it is. There is nothing about the cup of tea that a subjective experience would help explain. On the other hand, we clearly do have subjective experiences and, yes, neuroscience still cannot explain them. Some would argue that once we have explained all the bits and pieces and processes involved in generating them that, actually, there won’t be anything left to explain – I am not sure I buy that argument. It has been compared to “life” and you could say that once you explain all the molecular and cellular biology of, say, a bacterium, you have explained life (without ever really having defined it – in fact, the term becomes moot at a certain point).

    An interesting question, though, is considering whether things a little closer to us than inanimate objects have subjective experiences and what they are like. Do chimps, dogs, newborn babies, fish, flies have subjective experiences? They clearly encode information about the external world and internal states, including memories of past experience but do these constitute the same type of “felt” experience? Some would say our capacity for introspection and metacognition is what sets us apart – we not only have these signals encoding this information, we have signals telling us we have those signals and can think about them in an abstract way.

    While we do not yet know the answers to these questions, all of them are empirical questions – I see no convincing theoretical or philosophical reason to suggest they are not in principle answerable by scientific inquiry.

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  • You are right that neuroscience explains why the human experience is rich. But it does not explain why there is any experience at all. We assume (perhaps wrongly) that matter like the tea in my cup and even the cells in my feet have no subjective experiences of their own. We also believe (probably rightly) that brain processes are just the same kind of stuff obeying the same physical laws. Yet my brain processes correspond to real, subjective experiences. I am concious. This particular(assumed) difference between tea and me is left unexplained by neuroscience.

    Neuroscience does explain why I am smarter than my cup of tea, as can be observed by looking at our external actions. That’s good, but it doesn’t make the question of internal experience go away. Perhaps this question is what you mean by “…we cannot conceive of how a mental state could arise from a brain state…”.

    Actually I don’t think this is so hard to conceive: my guess is that all physical process correspond to subjective experiences. Decartes had other ideas. The really hard thing is to put any such guesses to the test. Science, which strives to explain the objective phenomena might deal itself out of the game when it comes grappling with inherently subjective ones.

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  • The September issue of Discover Magazine had an interesting piece, If Modern Humans Are So Smart, Why Are Our Brains Shrinking? It's now online, though to read the full article you'll have to have a print subscription, or, pay 99 cents to get a digital copy of that issue. John Hawks is described as "a...
  • [...] of the week, in response to Slouching toward idiocracy: JWM and Dave Both hit on key concepts [...]

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  • This is really terrible news for 19th century craniometrists!

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  • [...] of Discover, Kathleen McAuliffe has written a superb article on the shrinking human brain.  Razib commented on it [...]

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  • Doesn’t this also roughly coincide with a period of significant retreat of ice as the interglacial (Holocene) took hold? Maybe we really are (or were) living in a uniquely halcyon climate, if such has any influence on the size of the brain required to survive.

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  • Most of the comments I wanted to make have already been expressed by others; the others are as of yet quite undeveloped and likely wouldn’t add much to the discussion.

    That said, for the edification of anyone interested, the following is IMHO a very good review of some of the neuroscience topics at hand here: dx.doi.org/10.1038/nrn2793

    I am especially interested in the potential for developments in this area wrt functional connectivity (as inferred via DTI and resting-state fMRI), especially given that the lab at which I am an assistant is currently performing heavy research wrt the so-called “default network” (there is some controversy that moniker — my PI, for instance, despises it).

    Note that there is a non-paywalled copy of the paper on the website of one of the authors; however, I know not if he has permission to distribute it, so I will leave it to the interested to seek it out themselves.

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  • …there is a greater “packing density” of the neurons in the female brain.

    The male brains were about 12.5 percent heavier than female brains. Hence the greater neuronal packing density in the female brain nearly balances the larger size of the male brain. The g Factor; Jensen pg. 149

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Always knew she was denser. Perhaps these sorts of changes are involved.
    Fwiw, I find claiming Neanderthal heritage does injustice to Neanderthals!

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  • I look forward to examining JH’s data base and analyses in a peer-reviewed journal article, especially how the knotty problem of reconstructing body mass for dead people was solved. Check out this ref to see how other scientists approached this challenging problem for a mid-Pleistocene Asian fossil in PNAS of Feb, 2006:

    “Body size, body proportions, and encephalization in a Middle Pleistocene archaic human from northern China.”
    1. Karen R. Rosenberg
    2. Lü Zuné
    3. Christopher B. Ruff

    Glad to see we agree that, fundamentally, this story is indeed “old news”. I never implied that the phenomenon was fully explained by genetic correlations between body size and brain size. New data and new spin are always welcome, even if they appear in a pop sci forum.

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  • 1. Someone mentioned this is old.

    In my humble opinion one of the problems with many discussions of this subject is however the media and general public’s misunderstanding of the “selection” metaphor, meaning that devolution is thought of by some people as the opposite of selection, which is kind of weird if you think of what selection really means in biology. It is therefore very much worth reading “proper” biologically correct discussions of the subject.

    2. Social intelligence.

    We shouldn’t be too happy with any idea that some type of social intelligence is a good thing to be getting instead of the old fashioned type of intelligence which gets in the way of division of labour. Consider how much ants and bees have. They certainly seem to demonstrate that hive minds do not require a hell of a lot of brain power amongst individuals.

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  • It’s a real puzzle actually.

    Overall brain size correlates about 0.4 with IQ among contemporary adults of the same sex, and increasing brain size is associated with apparently increasing behavioral complexity in human ancestors (and other lineages).

    That leaves wiggle room for economizing mutations to account for some of the shrinkage, and certainly men and women achieve similar outcomes in terms of g with different sized brains.

    But it’s hard to get around the possibility that we’ve lost some cognitive capabilities since the peak.

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  • josh, props for admitting error.

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  • Razib, good point. I’m completely wrong about that being more the case with the Abrahamic religions.

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  • RT: “the cranial vaults of the English population have become higher and more vertical, despite no significant immigration since the Dark Ages. This sounds like an expansion of the frontal region of the brain and is also in accord with an increasing average cranial vault height over time”

    –I suspect any increase in vertical foreheads has more to do with decreasing facial robusticity than increasing brain tissue.

    Neanderthals are a great example of this. They have sloped forehead because their faces are massive, not because they have small forebrains.

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  • Holy shit!

    …Natalie Portman is pregnant?

    But on cranial capacities throughout time, this trend should be helped along nicely by those in the lower socioeconomic classes pumping out babies left and right, many of which on the government dole… while higher class couples put off having kids only to have trouble conceiving later on in the woman’s reproductive lifespan.

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  • here’s the fucking quote btw:

    “Since the Bronze Age, the brain shrank a lot more than you would expect based on the decrease in body size,” Hawks reports. “For a brain as small as that found in the average European male today, the body would have to shrink to the size of a pygmy” to maintain proportional scaling.

    Hawks chose to focus on Europe in the relatively recent past, he explains, because there are exceptionally large number of complete remains from that era. That allowed him to reconstruct a detailed picture of what was happening during our downsizing. The process, he discovered, occurred in fits and starts. There were times when the brain stayed the same and the body shrank, mostly notably, he says, from the Roman era until medieval times. But more frequently, the brain got smaller while the body remained the same. Indeed, Hawks says, that is the overarching trend for the thousands of years he studied.

    granted, john only got his phd in 1999.

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  • It’s just not news, as you would discover if you had the time/took the time to read i

    it says it’s not news in the discover article. and of course i knew about the general result even before the article. i’ve blogged about it before. e.g.:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2009/06/the-evolution-of-human-intelligence

    i said it was interesting. not novel. i’m not defensive, i just hate commenters who pop off without even bothering to read what i link to. even the free part of the discover article makes it clear that this is a well known phenomenon among paleontologists, if not the general scientific public. if you paid $1 you’d see that the anthropologists know about the issue about correlation with body size (that’s biology 101), but they don’t think that the data is so clear that that can explain the whole phenomenon. since you have a ph.d. in biological anthropology, and have been a scientist longer than i’ve been alive, have the data sets since 1997 not changed the picture at all?

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  • @rk: I didn’t dismiss it at all. It’s just not news, as you would discover if you had the time/took the time to read it. It’s a classic, very important paper that your readers might find of interest and relevance. Hence the citation. The implication is that the reduction in brain size is a correlated response to reduction in body size, although as Russ Lande and others have noted, the intraspecific genetic correlation between these 2 variables is not terribly high.

    BTW, I’ve been a practicing, publishing biological anthropologist since I received my Ph.D. in the mid 70s. Sometimes you get defensive for no good reason. Like this time.

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  • “frontal and parietal regions associated with g”

    “the areas that deal with processing sensory information located mainly in the back of the head”

    Those are two new exciting findings in Neuro-Science. Anatomic correlations with IQ are dynamic with age–a bit troubling for suggesting an anatomical location for g. Chemosensation is certainly the oldest sense and the most important in most mammals–check out where you olfactory bulb is. In one simplified sense, one might consider the thalamus the central sensory processing area, it’s basal but not in the back. Cortical sensory maps are all over the place, mainly middle-ish.

    If the domestication model extends to humans, one would think skull morphological change is not due to selection for brain shape but an incidental byproduct of altered neural crest development due to selection on endocrine systems.

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  • A similar thought to Longmas that the decrease in cranial capacity may have something to do with the decrease in size of certain areas of the brain that deal with motor control and senses as opposed to cognitive ability (g) occured to me. It would be interesting to know how different regions of the brain expanded or contracted over time. When reading about Jung and Haier’s P-FIT (Parietal-Frontal Integration Theory) based on their neuro-imaing studies linking the parietal and frontal lobes as the regions of the brain most strongly connected with g, two things I had read previosly immediately jumped into my mind:

    1) Thumbing through old anthropology books like Coon I’ve read that over historical time frames Europeans (and I believe also East Asian populations) have become increasingly brachycephalic (broad headed) and even allegedly long-headed “nordic” populations like the Dutch, Danes and North Germans have a mean cephalic index of 80 or more, making them low brachycephals. In contrast, most ancient Europeans were dolichocephals. To me this brachycephalization sounded like it could have been caused by an expansion of the parietal region, perhaps combined with a contraction of the visual processing sections in the back of the head.

    2) In “The 10,000 Year Explosion” Cochran and Harpending note that over historical timeframes the cranial vaults of the English population have become higher and more vertical, despite no significant immigration since the Dark Ages. This sounds like an expansion of the frontal region of the brain and is also in accord with an increasing average cranial vault height over time noted by early 20th C. anthropoligists like Coon.

    Perhaps modern man, at least in some regions of the world, has seen an expansion of the frontal and parietal regions associated with g, and a decrease in the areas that deal with processing sesory information located mainly in the back of the head?

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  • you’re definitely in the ‘bluebird’ group of commenters for that rafe ;-)

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  • JWM and Dave Both hit on key concepts here.

    Its not just cats, cattle and humans, in fact the relative brain size of almost all domesticates is smaller then their wild ancestors http://tiny.cc/ty6n9 . This just part of a suite of changes that characterize domesticates. Including reduced size, a more pronounced forehead, a shorter foreface, overall increased morphological diversity, a wider range of coat colors, long hair, curly hair, naked skin, and reduced dentition. Most of these characteristics are seen in modern humans relatives to our ancestors. Compared to erectines and neanderthal and even early AMH modern humans are less skeletally robust, have shorter forefaces and larger foreheads and smaller teeth in more crowded jaws. Compared to chimps we are characterized by being having naked skin, long hair of an astonishing variety of color and form and increased morphological diversity even within genetically homogeneous populations.

    The belyaev Domestic fox experiments http://tiny.cc/diffx, provides a very intriguing clue as to why this might be. Belyaev was able to induce all of the morphological changes typical of domestic animals in foxes by breeding for a single characteristic, Tameness. Tameness can be conceived of as openness to novel social situations and strangers. This is characteristic of all juvenile animals but rare in adult wild animals. Selection for this trait seems to effect developmental genes which have major effects in morphology resulting in these typical patterns of morphological change.

    Domestic animals are generally less intelligent then their wild ancestors but they appear to have domain specific capacities for social learning and thinking that their wild ancestors don’t http://tiny.cc/cjfpt.

    I suspect that the development of just such capacities as been one of the primary selective patterns behind the development of modern humans. We may have lost some individual brain power but without the evolution of those social capacities I doubt we would have ever been able to harness that brain power to build civilization. I also think it’s quite likely that the selective environment of civilization has selected for a horde new adaptions on traits like IQ and time preference which would have not been as advantageous for our paleolithic ancestors.

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  • related: natalie portman is pregnant.

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  • It especially shows up in Abrahamic religious, so people are steeped in that theme even if it normally focuses on moral decline rather than intellectual decline

    not that this matters, but from what i know this is wrong joshua. most world traditions are explicitly declinist. confucius looked back to the golden age of the sage kings. his project was one of restoration. and we famously live in the kali yuga. the greeks believed that we had declined from ages of gold, to silver, to bronze, to iron. in fact, many scholars have argued that abrahamic religions are more progressive, and implicitly less declinist, because they have a projection of future religious utopia with the messianic age.

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  • This is actually old news.

    if you read the article you see people with paleontlologists with doctorates discussing this seriously and not dismissing it. if you can do so with a cite to a 1997 paper, that’s fine. perhaps the paleontologists are full of it. or perhaps it’s a little glib to just cite an old paper to dismiss? unless that is you have specialized knowledge in the area?

    What is the correlation between cranial capacity and IQ in modern humans? I have read it is not very significant, which seems hard to believe, given the numbers of neurons in each cc.

    30 seconds of google books would have yielded a correlation between brain size and IQ of 0.3. prolly be lower for cranial capacity. that’s a rather small r-squared actually, huh?

    many of the points made in the comments here are addressed in the article. since discover puts some bread on the table for me it’d be churlish for me to just repeat everything which was gained through genuine reporting. sorry :-) is $1 so much if yer curious?

    So even if those without will who can’t swallow a pill inherit the earth rather than the meek, we should still keep our population percentage of nerds and it may even increase.

    yeah, i was hoping assortative mating would be our salvation. unfortunately i don’t quite see that it has a large enough impact last i checked.

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  • I highly suspect that JMW is right. Modern human’s are Homo erectus that have undergone domestications syndrome. We’re the border collie to our wolf ancestors.

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  • So in the Idiocracy clip above what does the retarded president say to the world’s smartest man? “I thought your head would be larger.” It is funny because it is so rediculous.

    Did anything else happen right around 50,000 years ago? Wasn’t that right about the time of the “the great leap forward” when evidence of truly modern intellence started showing up in the archeological record. I never much liked the title the great leap forward, more like a conceptual threshold passed on a six million year walk in my opinion but still damn noteworthy. I’m not going to speculate as to why brain size stopped growing and even reversed when we started showing signs of using our brains in a modern creative way because I don’t know, but I very much doubt it is a coincidence.

    A second seperate subject covered above is our intellectual future. I remember years ago reading “The Bell Shaped Curve” and if I am not mistaken the book said women with graduate degrees are averaging 1.5 children while women who dropped out of high school are average 3.1. Even assuming that there is only a small correlation between education and inherited intellence and this two to one ratio gets greatly decreased the picture gets ugly in just a handful of generations. I’d put in a clip of Devo singing “are we not men, we are devo” if I was Razib at this point. But even if the average intellegence starts declining after the Flynn effect has reached it’s maximum there is another big change in our mating behavior that needs to be noted. The long term effect on the bell shaped curve on human intellence will be changed by college entrance exams and equality towards women. It wasn’t until after World War Two that smart women and smart men were accepted into the best universities because of their perfomance on college entrance exams. Before this time you got into Harvard because your Daddy did. So who are the very brightest men and women of today picking for mates? Their peers in the acedemic and professional world. So even if those without will who can’t swallow a pill inherit the earth rather than the meek, we should still keep our population percentage of nerds and it may even increase. The way genetics is moving forward these days, kind of a Moore’s Law in the fast lane, it isn’t far fetched science fiction to begin speculating that we will get that three pound thingamajigger between our ears figgered out so the idiots have the choice of mind glasses at birth for their kiddies, but what the hell do I know.

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  • Studies have also shown that the cranial capacity of modern domesticated cats is smaller than that of domesticated cats during the classical Egyptian period. Similarly, domesticated cattle have smaller cranial capacities than their wild cousins.

    So one possible factor contributing to the decline is that the human race has domesticated itself. We no longer need to use our wits to survive in the wild; hence we need less cranial capacity for processing information related to hunting/being hunted. As you remarked, the brain is a metabolically expensive organ, so it would make sense to reduce its drain on the energy budget as much as is possible.

    This is a factor that would have appeared only in the last 10,000 years or so, and is obviously not the only factor in the decline that started 50,000 years ago. It could also be that the domestication of dogs contributed to the original decline, as dogs took over many tasks that humans had to do themselves (hunting, scouting, herding). That says a lot about the effect of supervisory work on your brain…

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  • “hominin” is a pleasing word that has rather sneaked up on me. Can we agree to call chimps and gorillas “hominouts”?

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  • This is actually old news.

    Nature 387, 173 – 176 (08 May 1997); doi:10.1038/387173a0

    Body mass and encephalization in Pleistocene Homo

    Christopher B. Ruff*, Erik Trinkaus† & Trenton W. Holliday‡

    Both brain size and body size have decreased over the last 35ky according to this study. “Relative” brain size, not so much.

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  • Joshua,

    I think you can make a good argument that the advent of contraception accelerated any pre-existing decline in intelligence.

    I’m not too comforted by the fact that there are millions more smart pekoe then ever before. Smart people don’t exist in a bubble. A lot of their otherwise productive efforts are gong to be going toward alleviating the living conditions of many more millions of their less intelligent cousins.

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  • There has been some recent coverage of the apparently surprising-to-some finding that “group intelligence” (a somewhat new concept which I think is so far poorly defined) is not correlated with mean, median, or maximum IQ of individuals in the group, but rather with structural features of the group and its dynamics. I’m not conversant with the details except that this is for small groups and specific kinds of tasks, but if you’ve ever seen a bunch of physicists trying to switch out a liquid nitrogen tank, well….

    The mapping between individual intelligence and the “cognitive abilities” of groups on various scales (family, tribe, society, civilization) is probably is not simple or linear. Particularly at larger scales, group achievement may depend on structural dynamics, how work and information are organized, etc, far more than average ability. The Amazon.com shipping department (no offense!) works orders of magnitude more efficiently and “smarter” than any academic department I’ve ever seen. Every company in the world knows it is useless to just hire smart people, you need an organization that exploits a range of talents from diverse types of people. I know if you pick people to work in a collaborative research lab based on grades and standardized test scores, you’re doomed.

    Anyway, point being… maybe once you have “smart” organizations, smart individuals become less advantaged relative to others. To be “parsimonious,” however, I would say skulls have functions beyond enclosing brains, my instinct is to be dismissive of any conclusions about trends in cognitive evolution based solely on hat size. Even if IQ does vary weakly with skull size within a particular hominid group at a particular time does not support the idea that it correlates across related species.

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  • Matt says:

    There’s a video presentation by Professor Hawks here relating to this -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXKbgc6BUc0.

    The charts he references in this show no change in bone length in his Southern African San population, though I don’t know if that is universal. I remember reading that at least relative limb proportions are more complicated in other parts of the world, due to climatic adaption. That also seems that it doesn’t tell you what Fat Free Body Mass would be like, and that’s what’s important.

    http://www.oba.zcu.cz/soubory/texty/Ruff_et_al_(in_press).pdf – This paper has estimates of stature and body mass for Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic to Bronze Age Europeans. Doesn’t look like a strong change in BMI, although absolute body mass and height look like they changed more, but with no real strong trend.

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  • The most interesting bit of this is how much it actually does conflict with the standard Idiocracy-type narrative. People who claim we are getting dumber generally try to argue that it is something that has started at most in the last few centuries (often just the last fifty years). That it might be something that’s been happening for 50,000 years? That doesn’t fit that narrative, most likely because that narrative is to a large extent a standard narrative about nostalgia, general decline, almost part of a fall from grace. People like that story in the general form, hence it shows up in a lot of religions. It especially shows up in Abrahamic religious, so people are steeped in that theme even if it normally focuses on moral decline rather than intellectual decline (although in Orthodox Judaism there is a notion of the “decline of the generations” which applies this much more widely to not just a moral decline but also a decline in intelligence and in general knowledge levels.) That sort of decline for 50,000 years though doesn’t fit that sort of story well since they can’t just blame it in video games or TV or the like.

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  • Are these cranial capacities measures adjusted for body size? I’m sure you are well aware that humans have also been moving toward a more gracile (albeit taller) form. I would like to see a side by side comparison overtime, to see if the decreases correlate. More to the point, is the decrease in brain capacity having to do with the decrease in size of certain areas of the brain that deal with motor control and senses, something we might not need in a modern world, but needed as a hunter-gather?

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  • Since I first heard of this, I’ve been wondering if what we’re losing is not “brain volume”, but “brain cushion”. I’m sure the paleontologists who study these cranial cavities know how to tell which parts shrank and so forth, but it certainly seems significant that the decrease in cranial capacity happened at the same time our species began harvesting less mega-fauna (and assumedly dealt with less head trauma as a consequence).

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  • What is the correlation between cranial capacity and IQ in modern humans? I have read it is not very significant, which seems hard to believe, given the numbers of neurons in each cc.

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  • Is it possible that women who bore large-cranium babies died often in childbirth and natural selection favored women who produced babies with smaller heads?

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  • Nature has a news piece on vastly improved models for psychology-related phenotypes in model organisms. It's worth a read, keeping in mind James Watson's claim from last year that "the past century was the coming together of chemistry and biology, and this century will be the coming together of psychology and biology". The story highlights...
  • Related topic from ScienceDaily: 
     
    Several genes with strong associations to schizophrenia have evolved rapidly due to selection during human evolution, according to new research. 
    … 
    It also provides genetic evidence consistent with the long-standing theory that schizophrenia represents, in part, a maladaptive by-product of adaptive changes during human evolution – possibly to do with aspects of creativity and human cognition. 
     
    I like this theory because it’s the same one I conjectured-up years ago based on a loose analogy between the rapid evolutionary development of the human brain, and software development; i.e., if you release it “too early” it’ll have more bugs, but if you spend the time fixing the glitches before release, the (buggy) competition will swamp you.

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  • Well, if a quarter of vaginally-delivered babies suffer detectable brain bleeds, then I’m going to adjust my view of what a normal brain is, if only for personal comfort as I reach my middle thirties.

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  • Just as a heads up, Cato Unbound’s latest issue is on IQ. The kickoff is from James Flynn.

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  • A new meaning for the “Never trust anyone over 30″ slogan…

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  • Lots of people are walking around with brain damage. We seem to be able to compensate for quite a bit of it very well, assuming each incident of damage is small and they’re spaced out enough. 
     
    If the damage associated with age concerns you, you might want to start asking people if they engage in certain very physical sports with high concussion rates.

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  • 'Smart' mice teach scientists about learning process, brain disordersEvolved biological systems aren't optimal...just good enough. Knowing how the system works should lead to interventions that improve function. In the coming decades there should be nutritional, drug, training, genet
  • Stupid me, I saw Fly’s comment mid way through and went off on a tangent! 
     
    On why the developmental switch happens at that specific moment, it’s likely also related to the relative oxygen tolerance of each subunit. NR2B is hypoxia invariant for example. NR2C (xp only in cerebellum) currents are increased by hypoxic challenge, thus it’s latent expression to avoid the excitotoxic effect’s I mentioned before. Mice exposed postnatal ~D14 to hypoxic conditions have exaggerated, huge, motor deficients.  
     
    Usually in the NR2B discussions people point to Zhuo’s work which shows increased pain/irritation perception from NR2B as the reason. I’d tend to disagree since if the learning advantage was that significant, the ‘pain’ could just be inhibited or renormalized in the peripheral.  
     
    I’ll stop there since some coworkers are looking at this topic, but this older paper from another lab is decent primer if interested: Oxygen sensitivity of NMDA receptors: relationship to NR2 subunit composition and hypoxia tolerance of neonatal neurons.

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  • ‘Presumably’… Yes, you’re correct in that there is likely causation for the switch from NR2B & NR2D to NR2A & NR2C.  
     
    So, basically, NMDAR’s are heteromeric and composed of assemblies of NR1 + NR2x/NR3; each with distinct expression topologies and, just as importantly, distinct gating properties. NMRAR’s have pretty damn slow gating dynamics generally, having an offset decay time constant of: NR2A (~120ms), NR2B & NR2C (~400ms), NR2D (~5,000ms).  
     
    It’s a dual edged sword, so you, presumably, want to keep the channel opened longer to accrue a bigger EPSC, inflate the probability of PSP firing and facilitate the ‘coincidence detection’ someone previously mentioned.  
     
    OTOH, hyperactivating ionotropic glutamate receptors is an excitotoxic mechanism. NMDA channels as mentioned have a really long open time and have been shown to be pivotal in mediating this. I’m not familiar with the exact pathways of glutamate/calcium toxicity, I work with the receptors; Sorry. 
     
    IMHO, To disagree with fly’s Building a Better Mouse post, he said, “Evolved biological systems aren’t optimal…just good enough.” I disagree with this comment on some levels and the NR2B thing is a good example. After the developmental switch, of the adult isoforms: NR2A is ubiquitous, NR2C is localized in the cerebellum, and of the transient ones: NR2B becomes restricted to the forebrain and NR2D that was in the diencephalon nearly disappears. So there is a neat little distribution of NR2 subunits that appears quite smart. 
     
    Not only for the neuroprotective role, but if you could look at where the optimal ‘fitness’ is on a high dimensional landscape taking into account the excitotoxicity, energetic costs, information density, etc, I would guess you are pretty close to optimal for the closed system as currently laid out. It’s not a global optimal solution, you could likely build a better receptor that does the same job; or if you could dynamically and locally swap current receptor isoforms at current receptor recycling rates based on some sort of feedback loop, perhaps (overhead costs?!). But the system works pretty darn good. 
     
    Many people, IMHO, fall into this pit of thinking that biology is this binary system in which you can flip a global switch or ubiquitously swap subunit A for B with no other effects instead of modeling it as a dissociative or whathaveyou network.  
     
    Marc Hauser has a story how he used to ask his students what single sensory parts would you reversibly take from any animal. So, everyone wants the visual circuits of an eagle, auditory cortex of a bat and olfactory bulb of a dog… but then, he makes the point, who wants to smell a millimole of urine on a hydrant at 200 yards? So, there is something to be said for looking at the whole system in toto; it might not be that bad perceptually for a dog, but I’m another story. 
     
    That being said, the article is a step in the right direction as it’s a targeted, local approach.

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  • in this case they used an inducible transgenic system (discussed here at some length). 
     
    basically, they surrounded part of the cdk5 gene with sites that can be recognized by an enzyme that chops out anything between those two sites.. the enzyme isn’t naturally found in mice. so they crossed altered cdk5 mouse with one that can express the enzyme.. here’s the trick though: the enzyme is setup so that it is only works in the presence of tamoxifen. so you just feed the mice tamoxifen when you are ready to knockout the gene.  
     
    one problem is that the knockout isn’t reversible, so you can’t tell whether you affected memory acquisition, consolidation, storage, or retrieval.  
     
    with the doogie mouse i believe they set up their transgene under the control of the promoter for alpha CamKII which happens to be modulated by development. this gives less strict control obviously, but its a very common application now.  
     
    as far as genes that switch during development, all of the pkc isoforms except zeta and delta increase over the first 4 weeks, nr2b switches out and nr2a switches in, AMPA receptor subunit GluR4 switches out for GluR1, and there was a recent paper showing PSD-95/MAGUK family members doing a dvelopmental swithc too.. i’ll have to find links later..

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  • Any good links or papers on such developmental stage specific expression? How do they make it adult specific?

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  • Fly says:

    “presumably this developmental switch happens for a reason” 
     
    Yes. I’d like to know what the trade offs are. Perhaps too much adaptation to new surroundings hampers long term skill development in adult mice. High level learning might depend on the stability of lower level learning. 
     
    It would be nice to have a “smart” pill that temporarily increased learning rate.

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  • of course joe tsien made an adult mouse with extra NR2B several years ago (the doogie mouse).. NR2B is preferentially expressed in young mice and has a longer calcium conductance, purportedly increasing the time window for coincidence detection between pre and post synaptic firing.. in adults NR2B is usually replaced with NR2A and less learning.. presumably this developmental switch happens for a reason..  
     
    i’m by their reversal learning conclusions in the real paper.. i’m not on completely firm ground but basically i thought fast reversal learning was a sign of poor memory for the initial training.. guess you can interpret how you like..

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  • It seems that "pathological" left-handedness and pedophilia might share a common origin in some early developmental disturbance(s), possibly a brain infection (or group of infections). I first read about the potential fitness costs that left-handers suffer in a passing remark of Harpending & Cochran (2006), although when I searched PubMed for "left-handed" and "longevity," I...
  • agnostic: I think I was getting a much wackier theory from that than you were. Just “pedophiles spend resources caring for children instead of reproducing” is silly, but not as bizarre as “pedophiles take some of their relatives out of the reproductive pool to ensure the rest have sufficient resources to succeed.”

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  • Do I not recall that in say, ancient Rome girls got married a young ages to men who were much older?  
     
    We don’t know how hebephilic men in a “relationship” would progress without interference. It might be that they fall in love and continue to be sexually attracted to the person into her middle age.

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  • Most of the problems in Zygal’s silly suggestions map to similar problems in adaptive explanations of obligate male homosexuality. 
     
    1) Kin altruism theory 
     
    Produce even suggestive or anecdotal evidence that pedophiles forgo all other worldly pursuits in order to raise their nephews & nieces, whom they’re sexually attracted to. If you do the simple math, pedophiles would have to have twice the psychological attachment to and invest twice the amount of resources in their nieces & nephews as a mother would in her own child, just to break even. Think about that: twice as much as a mother invests in her child. Obviously pedophiles do no such thing. 
     
    especially if the non-reproductive members have a special interest (i.e. attraction) in those children 
     
    By your hypothesis, then, biological parents should be sexually attracted to their own children, the better to motivate them to invest in & care for their children. Again, obviously false. And even if this dynamic selectively applied to just the uncles, you’d still be wrong: sexual attraction is fleeting, while parental love is close to unconditional. Thus, pedophiles would invest less than a biological parent, the former’s interest evaporating once the kid turned 13 (or whatever). 
     
    I’d have to think hard to remember reading a more idiotic evolutionary hypothesis, to be frank. 
     
    2) “First come, first served” 
     
    This is only slightly less loony. Recall that we’re talking about people who are primarily attracted to prepubescents — there’s no “first come, first served” there. Pubescents, perhaps. But pedophiles would lose interest once their mate actually matured sexually, and was later able to bear healthy offspring, so they won’t be interested in ever being “served” in a way that will produce children. 
     
    So, again, produce evidence that pedophiles not only have sex with those incapable of bearing children, but keep them around until they sexually mature, up through their late teens / early 20s, when their offspring would be most healthy. Obviously, they cut them loose once they look mature. 
     
    Even if they did do this — which they don’t — there’s a much easier solution to making sure your mate isn’t sneaking around with other guys: a bias against investing in a relationship with a promiscuous woman, combined with an instinct for jealousy and “mate-guarding” once in a long-term relationship. This has the neat side-effect of not having to wait 8-10 years into the relationship to start having kids. 
     
    In general, it’s easy to imagine, so that’s not very interesting per se. It’s more difficult to model reality, which means that is interesting. Your proposals have no grounding in the facts of the real world, indeed your empirical predictions are contradicted by them, so we can easily dismiss your imagination.

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  • Zygal: 
     
    I don’t see how (1) can make any sense in evolutionary terms. Pedophilia that doesn’t kill the victims probably reduces their fitness (by screwing them up a bit mentally), but doesn’t prevent them reproducing when they’re old enough. It certainly does expend the pedophile’s energies on reproductively unproductive stuff. Besides that, the general strategy doesn’t make much sense–kin selection usually works in the opposite direction, except in pretty specialized cases (like infanticide for sickly babies or babies spaced too closely together for the mom to carry).  
     
    (2) makes some sense as an edge case, I think–it probably explains some of why youth and innocence in women is appealing. But genes that cause you to focus much of your reproductive energies on girls who are too young to have kids that survive are going to be outcompeted by genes that cause you to focus on girls who can have kids. You get the pure 12 year old girl, she’s surely a virgin and carrying no STDs, but none of your genes propogate because she dies in childbirth at 13. I get the 17 year old and risk getting a girl who’s been around a bit, but she can actually have babies without advanced medical technology. Which of us has more offspring?

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Re: Evolutionary explanations of pedophilia: 
     
    1) Kin altruism theory 
     
    This works especially well for pedophiles attracted to exclusively prepubescent girls (or boys, for that matter). A family with more non-reproductive members will have more resources for the children of the members who do have children, especially if the non-reproductive members have a special interest (i.e. attraction) in those children. The recessive pedophilic genes are thus passed obliquely through the reproductive relatives’ children. 
     
    2) “First come, first served” 
     
    If a man can obtain a female as a mate before she has reached reproductive maturity, he will be certain to be the first one with any chance of impregnating her. This explanation is especially good for those who have a primary attraction to prepubescent and pubescent girls. 
     
    You see, it isn’t that hard. It just takes a bit of non-biased imagination. You know, the kind that doesn’t see bizzare pathologies in common sexual attractions.

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  • Rosey? 
     
    I can’t speak for all of womankind, but the keenest — and most startling and unexpected — emotion most of us feel in middle age, is relief. Suddenly you feel autonomous, capable of doing things and not caring what people think. As if you belong to yourself again, the way you did before you became a–a “hebe!” (I thought that was an anti-semitic epithet, I had no idea…but I digress.) Sure, the male lust may not be there–but just now I’m thinking, whew–who the hell cares? I actually feel kind of sorry young girls and icky lusters. What a drag that life is from where I am now.  
     
    Joan Sewell has I think written just the book for you I’d Rather Eat Chocolate, discussed in the current Atlantic Monthly in a free access article.

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  • The Real Richard Sharpe– 
     
    20-25 is a more reasonable age for optimum mental and physical reproductive readiness in a female.  
     
    Actually, I didn’t say that, I only quoted it from Rosey, but must have screwed up or something. 
     
    While I think that is the optimum in many ways, evolution doesn’t try to find the optimum, and some people are going to biased towards grabbing the first passable mate available, others towards waiting, and so forth … that is, there will be a distribution.

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    rosey said ===I was reading about a case in Pakistan of a 14 year old village girl married against her wishes=== 
     
    thats sad when that happens. presumably she wld have been ok if she & her husband knew about oral sex & masturbation. anyway, 16 or 17 years is currently the optimum age for childbirth, according to midwives i know. 
     
    the, woman don’t know their own minds until they are at least 36 & have a phd has worn a little thin for me..

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  • My point in an earlier post a ways up above about most men being physically attracted to middle (16) and up teen girls was not to say that most are the most physically attracted to that age range. It was to say it?s a bit absurd to claim that attraction to at least older looking girls within that age range is something a guy in question ?just can?t understand at all?. I say that?s plain BS, aka lying for social approval, pure and simple.  
     
    Attraction to female prepubescent children is another matter entirely, and I strongly suspect it is far less common than is currently imagined because we often lump with it all socially and legally forbidden attractions to any teen below the age of consent which is now often 18.

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  • The Real Richard Sharpe– 
     
    20-25 is a more reasonable age for optimum mental and physical reproductive readiness in a female.  
     
    And I think most guys of a wide variety of ages themselves regard that age range, or actually the entire 20?s as, when females tend to look physically hottest.  
     
    Which isn’t to say they are actually likely to make the best mates for men a LOT older than that even if those males are high status and resource enough to attract within that range. Lots of folly that we endlessly tell stories about revolves around much older but rich/ high status men who refuse to get that message, the sort of 20′s women that is attracted to such men, and the nearly inevitable results. 
     
    There are as always exceptions. Drew Barrymore was probably hotter in Poison Ivy at probably 17 than she has been since or anyway than she was five or ten years later. In fact one of the conceits of the movie is that she could go from looking like an adolescent, albeit a pretty developed one, to a stunning late twenties looking woman, depending on how she dressed and got herself up. But there are not many more precocious adolescents than she was, in bad as well as good ways.

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  • I agree that attraction to girls who are under 18, but show signs of physical maturation, is not difficult to explain in evolutionary terms. There is no reason why natural selection should have established some artificial age cutoff that agrees with our modern social definition of age of consent. The optimal age of reproductive readiness may be later, but genes will not select solely the optimum–they will select enough variance around that optimum that men will have a chance of actually finding a partner. 
     
    I have mentioned the “complicated mechanism gone awry” theory in several discussions of sexual preferences before. I think it is very plausible, given the fact that the machinery DOES have to be very compleex to take into account the complicated fitness landscape of partner selection. 
     
    Also, it’s interesting that in talking about handedness, it seems nobody here has mentioned the research relating it to either cerebral lateralization of function or hormone levels. I don’t have time right now to find a reference, but if you search you should be able to find lots of information on these correlations, which seem to be a simpler cause of association between mental function and handedness than a hypothetical pathogen (not to say there aren’t pathogens that can influence all of these things).

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  • Rosey says: 
     
    The sex that does the heavy lifting in this one area of life, reproduction, is the one that really should call the shots about how optimum all that is. 
     
    Unfortunately, the world is more complex than this simplistic view presents. 
     
    Fifteen (much less younger) is NOT the optimum age for the survival of either the mother or the baby. 20-25 is a more reasonable age for optimum mental and physical reproductive readiness in a female. Adolescence is for getting to know your new body and your new mind, and that of the opposite sex.  
     
    Our genes do not have the ability to encode optimum behavior, merely behavior that works and gets those genes into the next generation. 
     
    Moreover, those genes exist in both male and female bodies, who each have common interests (getting their genes into the next generation) but different risks and many conflicts of interest. 
     
    Since, on average, females need males to impregnate them, and then they need the economic resourses that males can provide to get the packages of genes they launch to a state where they can themselves reproduce, females need to pay great attention to what males are doing. However, the run the risk of being left holding the baby. Males, on the other hand, run the risk of holding someone else’s baby. 
     
    The whole situation is very complex and leads to some interesting, and sometimes heartbreaking behavior, but its all we have.

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  • Rates of left-handedness is somewhere b/w 10-15%. 
     
    My mother claimed that I was left-handed when very young but became right-handed by copying the rest of the family. Does that happen, or was she mistaken? 
     
    It can happen, but you can see whether this affects the numbers or not. I.e., if there are fewer lefties as age increases, that could just mean that lefties are converting to righties — but that would imply an increase in righties. If there is no increase in righties, it means lefties are dying off — which was the case in the Dutch study. 
     
    Ive also read that Left handers are more likely to have an IQ in the genius range. Is that true? 
     
    What I’ve read doesn’t say — if so, could just reflect covariance with male sex (males are more likely to get screwed up by the environment). It won’t do to look at mathematicians, chess players, etc. like some have — these require not just IQ but certain personality profiles to succeed. If having a brain disturbance leads to a more eccentric personality, but left IQ alone (remember, these are probabilistic things, and the correlation between the outcomes is significant but not strong — .1-.2 maybe), then you could get a weirdo genius type. So you’d want to look at high-IQ people who are straight as an arrow… senior partners at law firms, top surgeons, maybe? 
     
    You could just poll for handedness among the tenured faculty at the top 10 schools of law, medicine, and business/management on the one hand (no pun intended), and the top 10 schools of mathematics, music composition, and painting/sculpture/architecture on the other. They’re roughly equal in IQ, but vary markedly in modal personality profiles. I’d predict the latter would show significantly more non-righties, indicating more lefties / more wacko personality, not more lefties / more IQ (i.e., if they didn’t differ in handedness). 
     
    Another thing to keep in mind — showing that X is more common among geniuses doesn’t tell you that much. Evolution seeks to maximize reproductive success, not necessarily creative or High Culture success. So first you’d have to show that they had more kids than expectation. But since many variables interact to produce a genius, you wouldn’t know which one or ones was/were responsible. You’d have to compare them with a group like lawyers to see if it was IQ, or street musicians to see if it was artistry.

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  • ” Hebephilia is a very different matter in Darwinian terms, especially for men. A 15 year old girl/woman is probabilistically more fertile and more apt to produce a viable offspring. “Adolescence” is the brainchild of extended education and parental responsibility for young adults in the family.”  
    I was reading about a case in Pakistan of a 14 year old village girl married against her wishes, and experiencing a difficult pregnancy. She told her mother, “this thing (fetus) will kill me.” Her mother tried to encourage her with, “all women go through this, etc.” The girl knew better, even as an illiterate villager. She said, “Umma, I’m not a woman. I’m a girl.” She died shortly afterwards. 
    I like the latest science and genetics, but sometimes gnxp is just like opening up a musty closet. All real enough, but so freakin’ old. Mr. Blow, your time would be better spent surfing the web for the latest blossoms on offer from Thailand and Moravia. I can’t speak for all of womankind, but the keenest — and most startling and unexpected — emotion most of us feel in middle age, is relief. Suddenly you feel autonomous, capable of doing things and not caring what people think. As if you belong to yourself again, the way you did before you became a–a “hebe!” (I thought that was an anti-semitic epithet, I had no idea…but I digress.) Sure, the male lust may not be there–but just now I’m thinking, whew–who the hell cares? I actually feel kind of sorry young girls and icky lusters. What a drag that life is from where I am now. . 
    However, it is not your “hebephilia” which provokes this missive. Consenting ADULTS and all that jazz (btw, did you know your mind at 15?) as long as you use birth control. 
    My point is that you are wrong about the “adolescents” reproductive “fitness.” The sex that does the heavy lifting in this one area of life, reproduction, is the one that really should call the shots about how optimum all that is.  
    Fifteen (much less younger) is NOT the optimum age for the survival of either the mother or the baby. 20-25 is a more reasonable age for optimum mental and physical reproductive readiness in a female. Adolescence is for getting to know your new body and your new mind, and that of the opposite sex.  
     
    In the old days, and even now in 3rd world countries, mortality is particularly high for adolescent mothers and their babies. If they do survive, fistulas and other traumas are common. There are whole hospitals in places like Africa devoted to repairing these girls of “optimum age.” 
    While I am sure everyone has anecdotes of teenage mothers who are doing just fine and dandy, stories of very young mothers always chilled me–a ghastly irony of Mother Nature. It’s something you have to see to appreciate. Even the ancient Hebrew law makers had laws against sex with eleven year old girls because they might become pregnant and die. Really–that’s in the Talmud. I am not sure if 12 year olds were more likely to survive statistically. Men. They try in their way. 
    Adolescents make terrible mothers. They are barely formed physically (inside no matter how they look outside) and mentally. One scientist writing on psychopathy and violent offenders noted the high numbers of teenage mothers of these psychos. Even in less extreme cases he cited studies showing that adolescent mothers have a “flattening” effect on their babies. They are simply not developed enough to think of babies as anything but a thing that causes them trouble. At this stage, people are meant to get used to their bodies first before undertaking the most rigorous life changing event that could happen to them. 
    With modern medicine, even a man could survive childbirth. But, when you think about the enthusiastic promotion of extremely young brides down through the ages (10-13 was ideal in India for example), “Hebephilia” (new word for me) has probably been responsible for more premature female deaths (and male if you include 50% of the babies) than any other one cause.

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  • I write and eat with my left hand. I throw with my right hand. (I am also right-handed for most sports)

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  • My brothers are identical twins. One is a leftie and the other right handed. My sister and I are lefties – as was our father (who was forced at gunpoint to convert to rightism as a child). 
     
    I’ve read before that lefties have a slightly shorter life span – but thought it mainly due to the frustrations of trying to make do in a right handed world.  
     
    BTW, I really pretty much divide different tasks to different hands. I use right handed scissors. I doubt I could work a mouse left handed. I shoot a hand gun right handed (but a rifle left handed).

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  • What about sex with chickens?  
     
    Can I get a chicken nugget?

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  • Attraction to biologically mature females who are legally underage seems easy to understand in fitness terms. Attraction to females who are just beginning to show those signs, I can kind of see how that works–the signals look about right, sex for men is mostly low-cost if the husband/father/brothers aren’t around to stick a spear in him for it, etc.  
     
    Attraction to obvious children seems at least as hard to understand as homosexuality, in evolutionary terms–you’re spending substantial resources on something that can’t pay off. And yet, it seems like there’s a fair bit of both, today and in the historical record, with an apparently large amount of variation per culture.  
    It kind of seems widespread enough to make me want an explanation, though maybe “complicated machinery going slightly awry” is an answer. After all, most kinks don’t have an obvious evolutionary explanation–the desire to tie someone up, or dress up like a girl, or fetishes about leather or feet or whatever, those all look plausibly like complicated machinery getting shifted off its natural purpose. Maybe that mechanism is just complicated and subject to going off the rails, like the immune system or the endocrine system.

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  • I write left and throw right…right hand is strongest, left more control. 
     
    My wife was born left, parents made her use her write hand as is normal in Asia, well in the 70′s.

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  • Joe Blow says: 
     
    Something else that occurs to me is that much of the “hebe”phobia out there comes from middle-aged women, who probably simply resent the competition from healthier and more beautiful peers. (The argument could be made that perpetually forcing women to compete in the “sexual marketplace” is anti-woman and chauvanistic, as some apologists for the Muslim veil say.) 
     
    I hope you understand that words and guilt are powerful psychological tools that can be used by some individuals to make other individuals do things that are not in the best genetic interests of those the tools are used against. 
     
    Just as there are powerful genetic conflicts of interest between mother and child, so too are there between mother and father.

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  • Joe Blow says: 
     
    Pedophilia is a strange behavior not readily explainable in Darwinian terms. Maybe it could be explained by a pathogen opportunistically manipulating neural activity to facilitate transmission to an ideal host (at appropriate stage of life cycle). Humans don’t want to be believe it can happen to them (“we are rational”), but it happens with other species, often in truly bizarre ways. After all, sex is an efficient way to transmit pathogens.  
     
    Indeed, it does not need to be explained in Darwininan terms, but neither do we need to posit a pathogen that has such a complicated life cycle that it needs to manipulate our neural circuitry. 
     
    It seems to me that simple failure modes of a delicate piece of machinery and the presence of a pathogen that attacks certain neurons is enough to explain the phenomenon.

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  • Dougjinn, thanks for adding your thoughts. It’s kind of a puzzle actually, why American society nowadays expects nubile young women to wed (stupid, unproven and poor) young men. It’s such a waste, and probably related to the indecently high divorce rates in this country. One strange hypothesis that I thought of is that credit is to blame. Young men can now access all kinds of chick-pleasing expenditures that are realistically beyond their means (nice cars, expensive dates) using credit cards.  
     
    What’s amazing is how Americans are knee-jerk disgusted at the idea of “dirty old men” admiring women only five or ten years their junior. The very natural alliance of older, established men and nubile young brides has been re-cast as some kind of mental disease.  
     
    This might go back to over-protective parents and the emphasis on “peer culture” in American society. Life has become a cradle to grave kindergarten, in which mentor relationships are questioned but parents are too busy to meaningfully invest time and training in adolescents. Somewhere like even the Soviet Union, teacher-student sex was something that happened somtimes and wasn’t so strongly stigmatized (certainly not with the knee-jerk outrage it elicits in the US).  
     
    Something else that occurs to me is that much of the “hebe”phobia out there comes from middle-aged women, who probably simply resent the competition from healthier and more beautiful peers. (The argument could be made that perpetually forcing women to compete in the “sexual marketplace” is anti-woman and chauvanistic, as some apologists for the Muslim veil say.) 
     
    It’s still kind of a mystery to me why hebephilia is such a strong taboo in the US. Could it simply be the Lake Wobegon cult of college?

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  • Joe Blow said? 
     
    Pedophilia is a strange behavior not readily explainable in Darwinian terms. 
     
    Given all the hysteria which surrounds this topic in America today it?s not surprising that the vast majority of people wish to make overbroad statements which aren?t true ? at least the overbroad parts of which aren?t. 
     
    Attraction to PRE-PUBESCENT females is at least a bit of a challenge to explain in Darwinian terms. It?s also far more unusual than what is popularly thought of as pedophilia in this country currently, or than what is defined as criminal and gets someone classified as a sex offender solely because of the age of the object of the offenders lust. 
     
    Probably most and maybe a higher percentage than that of men are physically attracted to young but post-pubescent girls, especially those who show development of secondary markers of onset of fertility, such as breasts of some noticeable size, rounding hips, etc. In others words pictures of middle teens who show signs of considerably budding sexuality can be quite erotic. Perhaps that?s part of why they as well as those of children are currently so taboo and federally illegal. They?re visually erotic to almost all men I think. Sweet sixteen is called that for a reason and not only seventeen year old boys think so. 
     
    Now actual relations, aside from the severe legal and social taboo violation penalties, is another matter entirely, considering such factors as social interaction (have nothing in common, no friends in common or potentially in common, and nothing to talk about together) and often (certainly not always except for really large age differentials) the unlikelihood of the adolescent being attracted to a considerably older man. 
     
    Further, being attracted to those who whose fertility has just blossomed and hence having a shot at being the first to inseminate her before other competition has set in, is not so hard to understand as an evolved instinct in at least a substantial number. Others (including myself) will prefer the full bloom even on an entirely physical plane (pictures or one nighters real or imagined or prostitutes), before we consider likelihood of having anything to talk about or do together besides sex. Perhaps the full bloom preference tends to go together with having a better shot in physical terms at the male competition thing for more widely prized females, while nerdier guys tend to go for younger looking females. I don?t know. Has some plausibility. Studies? 
     
    These days high nutrition, excellent health and widespread children pampering has lead to fertility onset generally by 13 and sometimes by 11. I think society tends to want to keep this knowledge from getting too broadly disseminated, but it?s out there. Even breast development is often pretty strong by 14 or even 13 (particularly among those with significant African blood). 
     
    In days when fertility usually came in later, often not until 15 or so, a great many US states had ages of marriage and sometimes consent as low as 14 and usually (never?) no higher than 16. It was primarily feminists, allied here as in some other areas with the religious who had become alarmed at unwed pregnancies and the abortions often resorted to to end them, that this was raised throughout the US in the last few decades to at least 16 and often as high as 18 (which is rather ridiculous). Sixteen and sometimes fourteen are more common ages of consent still in Europe. 
     
    So what we socially and legally define as pedophilia today is quite different from how it was more traditionally defined here and continues to be elsewhere. It?s also quite different from where our biological attraction instincts draw the line.

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