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In your view, is culture independent of genetics?


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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2012 2:13:51 PM PST
Ataraxia,

Please don't redefine the question or put words in 'probabilist's mouth. Here is the exact wording from the OP: "In your view, is culture independent of genetics?" No mention is made of differences between cultures; nor is the question of a relationship between population differences and cultural differences. It is a global question about culture and genetics. This may involve the cultures of non-human animals.

My view is "no, culture is not independent of genetics." I've explained why I feel that way, referencing our abilities to symbolize, communicate, and learn.

Ask your own questions if you wish, but please acknowledge that answers to your questions are not answers to the OP.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2012 3:41:52 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 27, 2012 3:44:28 PM PST
'probabilist says:
Harry Marks wrote:

> Humans are not ready for this kind of knowledge.

Humans weren't ready for the invention of the iron blade, either. But it happened nonetheless, and it had consequences.

Roman legions, among other things.

'prob

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2012 4:12:27 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 27, 2012 4:27:48 PM PST
Ataraxia says:
"Usually such statements are made by people with complete faith that the center can hold and knowledge will always be in the hands of good-hearted People Like Us, who would never use atomic weapons on civilians, or develop biological weapons."

If People Like Us decide to use atomic weapons on civilians, or develop biological weapons, and we happen to be religious, I am sure we will find a way to attribute it to the will of our deities and find supporting scripture for it. The difference between that and a secular society is the "God said..." we will put in front of those opinions will be a very powerful conversation-stopper, and a very useful tool for a few to impose their will on their fellow citizens. That is why it was so important for the founding fathers to remove religion from politics as a first step toward creating a modern democracy. The result was not losing our way morally. It was having an open democracy.

"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes."
-Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813

You talk of religious existentialists as if they proposed some center, and condemn the secular ones for lacking such direction. But it seems to me that all the religious existentialists have done is tack on the label of "truth" to what they want to believe anyway. Kierkegaard, in his "Fear and Trembling", talks admirably of Abraham for having such absolute faith that he even was willing to sacrifice his own son for it. But is having such a strong and unquestioning center such a good thing? Wouldn't it be better if Abraham didn't have such firm conviction and comfort of faith, and was a little more unsure of himself like us wayward and morally lost secularists?

There is no center. You are completely free. You can go and massacre your entire family if you want, and nuke entire other nations of innocent people. But you must be ready to live with the consequences. That is all you have to guide you. There is no further 3rd person judge watching and judging you.

Can you live with yourself? Can you still make judgments? I can. That is how I live my life. I am capable of making difficult moral and ethical decisions, regardless of what any deities might think about it. It's not always easy, and sometimes difficult compromises among various ethical ideals need to be made. But that is the nature of ethical dilemmas. By definition, it precludes easy solutions and perfect answers. But if we can't have perfect answers, then at least we can have better and worse ones. But these opinions are always open to further understanding and to better suggestions. None are absolute. This is not being morally lost. This is being open-minded. We still have our own reason and judgment, and although not perfect, they are better than anything else we have tried so far. So why must we attribute those latest opinions to any deities?

And if any deities come and tell me to slit my own son's throat like with Abraham and Isaac, or "slay the Amalekites, woman and child, infant and suckling", I will tell them to forget it. They can find someone else to do that.

I know you have a God that says things that you think are wonderful: love, forgiveness, etc... But what if he commanded something to you, like Abraham, that you in your mortal limitations found morally abhorrent? If you would hesitate to carry out a divine command that goes against your most current opinions and sense of morality, then why should we not believe that this God is not just a God you have made of your latest personal opinions and biases?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2012 4:13:26 PM PST
Ataraxia says:
OK. But I think my question is more interesting.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2012 8:03:30 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 1:13:14 AM PST
Lessfatman says:
There are at least two entirely different aspects to race.
The first is race as in racist which is, as you said, a social construct and has very little to do with the individuals that are stamped with any of the racial stamps in popular use.

The second has to do with stuff we can objectively observe and describe. You can see for instance that the roots of certain people are from the south of the Indian subcontinent whereas those from the north look and talk different. You are in the room with somebody from Pnom Penh, somebody from Ouagadougou, somebody from Stockholm and somebody from Riad. Very likely you'd be able to match the people with their cities if you had spent at least some time of your life as an expat.

Asian parent get babies who look Asian. Nigerian parents get babies who look 'African'.
And so forth. There is little doubt that the different appearances are due to genetic factors whether we know what they are or not.

I do not think that recognizing this as a fact could be called 'racism'.
It just is how world is. It is statistical, also. You get 'typical' representatives ad less so. People f around as can be seen in the fact that a high percentage of (so-called) African-American males carry a white Y-chromosome.

Racism would be imposing your stereotypes about a 'race' to a specific individual and estimating his/her human worth according to (for instance) the reflectance of his/her skin.

I think this is an important point: People have difficulties in appreciating people 'of color' as representatives of the same species as they are. They know that this is morally wrong in the modern society.
So they deny the differences. Nice strategy, unfortunately not very honest.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 3:22:14 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 3:34:51 AM PST
Ataraxia says:
Recognizing different skin colors in people from different parts of the world is one tning. There, there is obviously a difference of the prevalence of certain genes. But unfortunately, where things get confused is looking at other differences between them, like economic or scientific advances, and also attributing that to genetics as well.

So there are really two questions: 1) whether the difference in the prevalence of the gene for skin color in certain populations is correlated with other cultural differences as well, and 2) whether those other cultural differences are due to genetic or environmental differences between the two populations.

You can have differences in populations without those differences being genetic. For example, it would be hard to argue that the predisposition to speak Japanese or wear kimonos among the Japanese must be genetic because only people from that particular gene pool do those things. The correlation of other cultural differences to genes may be just as silly, such as the earlier assertion that Mandarin people have a tonal language because they genetically have a more musical ear. Then maybe folks from Nashville, TN are genetically more musical than folks from Albany NY because that's where the country music capital is. LOL!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 5:41:19 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 5:46:58 AM PST
When in the history of human thought has an askable question not been asked?

The question as to how our brains generate our capabilities will be answered, because it is one of the most fundamental questions about ourselves out there, and human beings want to know themselves. The techniques of whole genome sequencing and genome-wide association studies have now given us the tools to answer these questions. Scientists working in these fields are acutely aware of the potential social implications and the possibilities of misuse and abuse of the knowledge. That's why the Human Genome Project has a whole section devoted to ethical, legal, and social issues.

http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/elsi.shtml

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 5:42:26 AM PST
Agree the answers will deal the definitive blow to racism and sexism, and will once and for all demonstrate that the maximal realization of each individual's potential requires the most nurturing, supportive possible environment.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 5:46:18 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 5:47:50 AM PST
Comparative genomics is showing that the genetic variation which accounts for racial differences is miniscule compared with the total genetic variation in the human species.

Recently comparative genomic analysis of 1092 complete human genomes from 14 different human populations covering most of the world was published. Makes fascinating reading. Humans "under the hood".

An integrated map of genetic variation from 1,092 human genomes

The 1000 Genomes Project Consortium
Nature 491, 56-65 (01 November 2012) doi:10.1038/nature11632
Abstract
Introduction Genetic variation within and between populations The functional spectrum of human variation Uses of 1000 Genomes Project data in medical genetics Discussion Methods References Acknowledgements Author information Supplementary information Comments
By characterizing the geographic and functional spectrum of human genetic variation, the 1000 Genomes Project aims to build a resource to help to understand the genetic contribution to disease. Here we describe the genomes of 1,092 individuals from 14 populations, constructed using a combination of low-coverage whole-genome and exome sequencing. By developing methods to integrate information across several algorithms and diverse data sources, we provide a validated haplotype map of 38 million single nucleotide polymorphisms, 1.4 million short insertions and deletions, and more than 14,000 larger deletions. We show that individuals from different populations carry different profiles of rare and common variants, and that low-frequency variants show substantial geographic differentiation, which is further increased by the action of purifying selection. We show that evolutionary conservation and coding consequence are key determinants of the strength of purifying selection, that rare-variant load varies substantially across biological pathways, and that each individual contains hundreds of rare non-coding variants at conserved sites, such as motif-disrupting changes in transcription-factor-binding sites. This resource, which captures up to 98% of accessible single nucleotide polymorphisms at a frequency of 1% in related populations, enables analysis of common and low-frequency variants in individuals from diverse, including admixed, populations.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v491/n7422/full/nature11632.html

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 5:49:08 AM PST
Lessfatman says:
Glad you mentioned the Human Genome Project.
Without the DVD they sent me I would never have known WHY the Tamils from the south of India look different from the Muslims of the north and sort of make you think of the aborigines of Australia.
Genetics traces indicate that the two populations represent two different waves out of Africa.
There are remnants there that mark the Southern Path.

Maybe we should not call the differences we see 'racial' because it seems to be an 'n-word' for the Americans.
I just do not know any other word for the concept. Ethnicity does not do. It does not show from the outside, it is something people can assume.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 5:51:18 AM PST
Instead of "race" you can use the neutral word "population". That's how the 14 different "races" they studied in the 1000 Genomes Project paper I cited were called.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 5:51:52 AM PST
Lessfatman says:
Now, that is called 'adding to the discussion', thank you!
My 2 centimes is that the analysis has only started and there just is not enough knowledge as yet to make conclusions.
The credo is as you stated. We'll see if it will stand the test of emerging knowledge.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 6:12:25 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 6:12:50 AM PST
The pace of acquistion of the relevant knowledge is accelerating at an enormous rate. It took 13 years to sequence the human genome, at a cost of several billion dollars. It now takes only a day or two to sequence an individual's genome, at a cost approaching a few thousand dollars.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 6:13:20 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 6:18:34 AM PST
Lessfatman says:
The attempts to correlate melanin to anything else have all seriously failed. I could imagine that you could make some predictions of social status and skin reflectance in for instance Brazil or Mexico. That's politics.

All the Réunionais know immediately if somebody with low skin reflectance is a cafre or a Malbar or Malgash or Z'arab. Or 'Black'. That term is reserved for the real Africans from Africa or metropolitan France. This is how things are here. Nobody makes a fuss about it. "Comment ça va, mon cafre?" is a friendly way to say good morning to somebody who looks like 'an African'. The metropolitan French are shocked with it with their political correctness that is imported from America. No big deal here. I hear the answer: "Faut faire aller. Et toi, mon Malbaré?"

Nobody is offended. The whites from France are called z'Oreils. That's because when you talk to them in Creole, they put their hand to their ear and say please, repeat. White Creoles are called Creole Blanc. Logic?
And I am Lallemand because I am white and not from France. Sometimes I am Suisse or Belge as well. Or from Strasbourg. Nobody's really interested, they have their lives to live.

BTW the Mandarine myth that appeared in the literature some years back was debunked.
The correlations had to do with growing up in Mandarine speaking community since very young.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 6:15:53 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 6:24:41 AM PST
Lessfatman says:
I made the cheapest set of markers of myself. From Siberia. No wonder I hate snow, my ancestors have had more than enough of it!

BTW: There is a danger in confusing the terms 'data' and 'knowledge'.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 6:19:47 AM PST
Lessfatman says:
Calling the special kind of an eyelid a 'populational marker' would take some getting used to.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 6:31:35 AM PST
Agree data has to be interpreted. So right now someone can get their genome sequenced, but they'll have trouble figuring out what the data means.

However, studies like the 1000 Genomes Project are rapidly increasing our understanding of what the data in the genomes mean.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 7:29:49 AM PST
Ataraxia,

I will agree, although that makes my previous post somewhat pedantic (well, maybe it was anyway).

Maybe cultural variation isn't in a specific gene but, rather, in a well known characteristic of biology called "robustness," which gives biological systems the ability to survive a variety of environmental conditions without genes being altered but, perhaps, relying on a different allele within the existing genome.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 8:08:28 AM PST
Harry Marks says:
Ataraxia -

You have made two serious errors with this post. The first is in distracting from the issue raised about whether knowledge can be properly dealt with, by shifting to an irrelevant religious issue. I am just stating a moral fact - humanity in the year 2012 is incapable of dealing with world hunger, sanitation requirements and global warming, and somebody wants to propose that it also be given capability for complete understanding of the genetic code. This is laughably irresponsible in any system of thought.

The second major error is in identifying religious existentialism with admiration of human sacrifice. On the contrary, Kierkegaard was rubbing his neighbors' faces in the weirdness of salvation through faith, and by extension, salvation by grace. This teleological suspension of the ethical is present whenever we forgive someone. We set aside ethical principles, and their legitimate claim on us, for . . . something. What is that something? Is it radical freedom to massacre our own family? Probably not. Yet that is the implication of forgiveness - that any one of us can find a particular value or principle of choice to be "higher" than the demands of ethics.

By what right do we forgive? No right. It is not any principle of "right" that allows forgiveness. Rather it is a recognition that some more basic and fundamental principle is at work. We are able to choose who we seek to become, and what kind of world we seek to create, even if that conflicts with "what is right". And when we see that forgiveness can be more powerful in creating the new world than even enforcement of rules is, then we step into the wierd world of "teleological suspension of the ethical".

" why should we not believe that this God is not just a God you have made of your latest personal opinions and biases? "

I have never tried to convince anyone that God is an entity independent of people's values and principles. God is, if you like, the embodiment of these values and principles, if embodiment can be dynamic. I cannot claim that God is superior to my understanding of what is right (though it is possible), since to talk of God is to talk of what is right as an absolute principle, and the most I can know of that absolute principle is limited by my understanding of what is right. Your accusation about what God I have made is simply an observation about the possibilities for communication about God, and if nothing else, that observation ought to keep us believers humble.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 8:15:45 AM PST
Harry Marks says:
Fatman -
"I think this is an important point: People have difficulties in appreciating people 'of color' as representatives of the same species as they are. They know that this is morally wrong in the modern society. So they deny the differences. Nice strategy, unfortunately not very honest. "

There is denial and there is denial. It is one thing to deny statistical correlations around people's backgrounds. It is another to deny the valuations that people put on these correlations. I do not deny that it is useful to know if someone is Icelandic or Malagasy or a Solomon Islander for reasons of medical probabilities. But I do deny that it is of any public interest how the genetics of crucial social variables vary between groups, especially racial groups. To investigate these is to obsess on something that is better ignored. It is to apply the label "worth investigating" to something that is, frankly, most properly ignored.

The time may come when our societies are gentle and reflective enough to deal morally with such knowledge. Then as a curiosity maybe it will be investigated. Right now, it simply should not be.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 8:17:33 AM PST
Harry Marks says:
arpard fazakas -

"Scientists working in these fields are acutely aware of the potential social implications and the possibilities of misuse and abuse of the knowledge. That's why the Human Genome Project has a whole section devoted to ethical, legal, and social issues. "

Obtusely aware, perhaps. Acutely aware, not. They have too much at stake to deal with the dangers head-on.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 8:47:14 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 7, 2012 9:33:10 AM PST
Lessfatman says:
I have not seen any attempts to implicate the data of the relative intelligences of for instance Asians or Ashkenazy Jews anywhere. What I have seen is that politically correct judiciary system imposes its misguided ideas about fairness on for instance the selection of students into professional training. As I pointed out the Orlando event where the community ended up with illiterate police officers after the admission tests were democratisized by omitting the 'q' loaded test questions.

Might that be called negative racism? At least, the effects were negative. If you need a certain amount of processing power to carry out a job, it cannot be compensated for by an ethnicity. You need certain abilities to get through the training and to perform in the field. If this fact is seen as discriminative, tough.

If you have persons of a certain ethnicity systematically perform badly in public service, aren't you bound to form negative ideas of those people? Aren't they doing bad publicity for their kin?

Still another question that has been overlooked by idealists is that the modern society is a very complicated marketplace. Doing one's taxes, applying for a job or filling forms to qualify for training require active reading and writing skills that are beyond somebody whose IQ is in the eighties or below. For him, life is an uphill battle. To get by, he needs contacts, protectors and still his chances of success are slim.

Educators in many European countries are facing more and more immigrant children.
They have problems with the culture and the languages and the conflicts of their parents' values and those of their peers. Among the immigrant is the US, the studies indicate that the change of cultural surroundings causes a drop in the measured IQ by some 30 points. An academic with 120 would fall down to 90. A 'normal' person of 100 would fall to 70, intellectually impaired. I wouldn't make it to the Police Academy.

Teaching complicated things in foreign language to somebody with an IQ of 70 might be frustrating and according to what I have been hearing, has turned the workplace to hell. The politically correct idealists put the blame on the teachers who are in an impossible situation. The children do not have the means o succeed, either.
The standards have been accepted by somebody who's never been there or done that and the end result is that everybody is wasting their time and money and there are frustrated, alienated, illiterate and unemployable youngsters teeming in the neighborhoods, getting by being street smart and tough.

Normally, the immigrants' IQ rises to the mean level of the receiving country in three generations.
This was in the days when the flow of immigrants was ten times less than today.
From the North Africans flooding France, only Moroccan women have an upward social mobility.
The data was acquired before they made it illegal to record the ethnicity in public documents.
The statistics were too ugly and now they'd be even worse so they killed the data.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 9:08:50 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 9:25:33 AM PST
Ataraxia says:
"And when we see that forgiveness can be more powerful in creating the new world than even enforcement of rules is, then we step into the wierd world of "teleological suspension of the ethical".

Forgiveness really is a wonderful thing. It really does work magic sometimes. But are those who are not religious also able to appreciate the value of forgiveness in many situations, or is it the exclusive domain of those in particular religious denominations? And is forgiveness ALWAYS a good thing? Is it always wise, or even desirable, to "turn the other cheek" to our enemies? Why deify or divinize this particular virtue and attribute it to our deities? Is our own judgment and the circumstances at hand poor substitutes for divinizing this virtue as some kind of absolute and fundamental law of the universe? How is this different than the ancient Athenians, for example, divinizing wisdom by having Athena, the goddess of wisdom, for their patron god? Can we have the virtue of wisdom without necessarily worshipping at a temple for Athena?

It used to be that religion made the claim to give everything to its believers: insight into the real nature of the universe and their place within it, moral and ethical guidelines, etc... Bit by bit, these have been revealed to be unreliable. We figured out that these were all just the priests' way to monopoloze power and profit, not metaphysical truths. So now all that's left is forgiveness.It's abstract enough. But I am not sure why we need religion to be able to do that either. The virtue can speak for itself.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 9:22:27 AM PST
If you don't believe me, go to the link I provided. You will see that explicit consideration to the ethical, legal, and social issues surrounding the sequencing of the human genome was present from the inception of the project.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 9:24:55 AM PST
IQ is a good example of a quantitative trait: it is present as a continuous distribution, it is affected by many genes, each with a small effect, and it is affected by environment.

Of course IQ per se is much too coarse a metric to evaluate human capabilities. There are many different forms of human intelligence, including some not measured by the IQ test, such as physical (body) intelligence characteristic of dancers, athletes, etc. I believe we will see use of the IQ in genetic research supplanted by specific metrics of specific forms of intelligence.
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