For the Record: Plasticity

My last post For the Record (TM) stated my totally unscientific opinion that human behavior is about 70/30 nature/nurture.  Here’s what I think of that 30%:

That’s a LOT of plasticity.  Humans can be enculturated to embrace many things, even seemingly universal taboos like cannibalism and incest.  The New Soviet Man is nothing compared to that.  And though he’s nothing like what the Commies thought he’d be — Communists are the Washington Generals of politics — he’s real, all right.  In fact, you probably interact with him every day:

Read anything on social life in the old USSR, and you’ll immediately be struck by how closely Soviet apparatchiks and SJWs resemble each other.  Their complete indifference to truth, their shamelessness when caught lying, their willingness to ruin anyone for imagined slights, their overwhelming smugness, their pretensions of superiority, it’s all straight out of Komsomol.  It’s all part of a worldview that is consistent, logical… and totally alien to normal people.

Genetics has nothing to do with that.  It’s all culture.  It’s like training an attack dog — it takes a LOT of work to make a standard-issue Man’s Best Friend into a killer, but it can be done…

…. and, as with vicious dogs, the damage is probably permanent.  But that’s a rant for another day.

For the Record: Nature vs. Nurture

As the “Alt-Right” or whatever we’re calling Our Thing* now descends further into its inevitable SJW-ish purity spiral, more and more people are going to start calling for “litmus tests” — they’ll assume that you believe X, and because of that, etc.  So I’m going to post a few things For the Record, to make it easy to throw me out when the time comes.  First up: Nature vs. Nurture.

Aside from the perfidy of Teh Jooooos!!!, nothing gets folks on this side of the aisle more worked up than “race realism.”  If you take this to mean “race is real, it’s heritable, and there’s a strong genetic component to behavior,” then I’m as “race realist” as they come.  Alas, lots of folks seem to have a specific IQ number in mind, with those below it getting relegated to Epsilon-minus Sub-moron.  Which is bullshit.

Consider the child prodigy.  Years ago I read a silly horror novel in which the Gary Stu character, a twelve year old boy, not only invented all kinds of stuff, but was able to talk Wittgenstein with his university professor uncle.  And he wanted to grow up to be a writer, of course — don’t they all? — and he knew ancient languages and…

The human brain simply doesn’t work like that.  There’s a large part of the brain that’s like a computer — add more power to the processor, and it can do more things, faster.  A kid with a turbocharged CPU is a prodigy.  BUT: Just as a computer can really only do one thing — math — so the child prodigy can really only ever do math (music is a subset of math; I bet that when he wasn’t writing operas, five year old Mozart was solving trig problems).

The other part of the brain, though, needs experience to work.  A twelve year old simply can’t talk Wittgenstein meaningfully, because philosophy is not math and no matter how much your analytics want to pretend that it is, one can only philosophize with words, which require experience to use properly.  One can be immensely talented in non-math fields, but it’s impossible to do adult-level work in them without actually being an adult.  For proof, I give you the Romantic poets.  No one denies that, say, Shelley was an exceptionally talented poet, but unless you yourself are a quick-witted, verbally precocious teenager when you read him, you’re probably going to bust out laughing at stuff like “The Masque of Anarchy” (there’s a reason they don’t reprint this one in college Lit. anthologies).  Shelley was one of the world’s most talented sophomores, but it’s sophomoric for all that.

My totally unscientific belief is that it’s about 70/30 nature/nurture.


*Since there’s no Mafia anymore, I propose we repurpose their old self-designation.  It’s Our Thing now.