Saturday, December 08, 2007

I - Why Has David Mills Internalized Racist Pseudo-Science?

This past week, I asked the journalist and screenwriter David Mills the following question;
“The main question I’d like answered is how precisely did you get hoodwinked and bamboozled to serve as a host and conduit of racist thought David? What was the intrinsic appeal of IQ heritability pseudo-science that made you buy into it hook, line, and sinker?”
I gather from the response posted at his blog, that the origin of his belief in the genetic determination of IQ consists of three parts ;
  1. An episode of Good Times
  2. Murray and Herrnstein's The Bell Curve
  3. Tryon's (1940) selective breeding for maze "Bright" and "Dull" mice - which was the basis for Cooper and Zubek's 1958 demonstration of genetic interactionism. (the link is to a recent analysis of the complexity involved with a genetic interpretation of "selective breeding")
Additional influences may pertain - and I encourage David to state these - however, these are the three he cited. In addition to the above, he managed to ask one factually distorted question of me;
So, at least in Gould’s case, we’ve narrowed down the area of interest: figuring out just how major or minor is the acknowledged influence of genetics on intelligence. Craig Nulan won’t grant even that much. (I wonder why?)
- to which I'll respond very simply - I'm an interactionist. The interactionist consensus prevails in science today rather than the popularly held dualism of nature/nurture and their effect on physiological or behavioral phenotypes.

Neither the exclusive or the additive models make any biological sense whatsoever. No genetic factor can properly be studied independent of, or just in addition to, the environment. The same is true for the environment. The concept of the environment includes a wide variety of very different causes and factors, from the genomic environment of a gene, over its chromatin packaging and cellular context, up to ecological, social and cultural influences over the whole organism. In addition to the complex facts pertaining to genetic science, I reject the genetic determinism of IQ because;
  1. I know exactly what the history and politics of IQ measurement in America
  2. I know what IQ measures and doesn't measure
  3. I know that science has had no part whatsoever in the construction of this uniquely value-laden psychometric enterprise
The politically motivated dualisms which ascribe aspects of behavior or the underlying cognitive mechanisms to either innate/genetic or acquired/environmental causes - drastically confuses the issue and leads to objective error by introducing he following error sources;
  1. Political bias
  2. Lack of basic biological knowledge in political science and psychology.
  3. Misunderstanding of what counts as an explanation
Explanations may be in terms of;
  • causal mechanisms
  • developmental processes
  • function and fitness values
  • evolutionary origin of the behavior in question

  • The interactionist scientific examination of genetics will continue, hopefully with a minimum of politically motivated distortion from the popular political controversy over nature versus nurture.

    A little background housekeeping is in order before I proceed with my analysis of the question du jour - why has David Mills internalized racist pseudo-science?

    First - I was in the interdisciplinary AI program at MIT and I studied neurophysiology and computer science and was awarded the Thomas Marill scholarship for AI my senior year.

    Second - Stephen J. Gould was not an influence on my thinking in this area - at all. My primary influence was Dr. Stephan Chorover. Unlike Gould an anthropologist, Murray an alleged political scientist, or others involved in the popular political discourse - Chorover is a neuropsychologist who served for many years on the board of directors of the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH). He wrote the book From Genesis to Genocide (1979) in part to expose experimentation and activities funded by the NIMH that he felt violated fundamental human rights.