2014-05-17

 

Stretch Genes

Thank you to Thiago Carvalho for pointing me to this great review by H. Allen Orr. So much of this debate happens, in my view, because people do not realize the obvious fact that culture is encoded in the language and norms of people, especially when we speak of civilizations with written language. Obviously, written norms can be stronger than genetic encodings for social behavior (the Korean example that Orr so well describes in this piece). While it is very easy to raise a child from a different genetic background to behave according to norms the society where she is raised adheres to (e.g. adopted and children of immigrants), it is much more difficult to transplant cultural norms and institutions from one society to another (e.g. exporting liberal democracy), therefore genetic behavior is much less a cause of societal dispositions than cultural encodings. As Orr says:

 "If culture can so easily overwhelm genes—and Wade sometimes seems to concede that it can—why should we care about such pliant genetic predispositions, even if they were real?"

 Full book review @ The New York Review of Books


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2014-05-09

 

The not-so-quiet American

I'm more than a month behind on my Vanity Fair reading---who cares about Lewinsky anyway---but could not miss reading the Snowden Speaks special report published last month. An excellent piece detailing the saga up to now. As Snowden says: "this post-terror generation rejects the idea that we have to burn down our village in order to save it---that the only way to defend the constitution is to tear it up." Given the behavior of both most recent administrations and congress on these matters, it makes it clear that while I do intend to vote because there are important policy differences between both parties, all my financial and energy support has to be put on post-national, policy oversight organizations which are the only hopes of any checks on the current democratic system: Amnesty International, the Innocence Project, Mayors against illegal guns, Government Accountability Project, Propublica, and the like. Looking forward to what First Look Media is going to do. See also acceptance speeches for the well-deserved annual Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling.

"Sooner or later...one has to take sides. If one is to remain human." Graham Greene, The Quiet American


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