Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Friday, May 31, 2002

My "Bulldog" has responded, and raised some points that are worth addressing, as well as some for a later date. First things first;
I said ;

While it is true that monkeys probably don't have the brains for DE's (many humans don't either!), we are talking, to some degree about apples and oranges.

To which "Godless" responds;

No, we are talking about apples and apples. Intraspecies variation is what eventually leads to speciation. As you admit, there is a demonstrable gap between humans already - some have the brains for DE and some do not.

I think I did not make myself clear; I was using the Volokhian interpretation of that aphorism, which notes that apples and oranges are both fruits, and thus somewhat similar, while "apples and intercontinental ballistic missiles" or some other such completely unrelated items is more apt. Sorry for the (very) oblique reference. Nevertheless, the key word in GC's response is eventually, as you will recall, he was suggesting that my description of human intelligence potential was flawed because "monkeys can't learn DE's" (to paraphrase).

Note that they used the most intelligent non-human creatures: chimps and dolphins. It would have strained the suspension of disbelief to use ants or bacteria. To beat a dead horse: there are genetic limitations on intelligence.

I think you are obfuscating the issue here. Bacteria don't even have more than one cell, it would strain everyone's credulity, and I obviously never even suggested it, to think that bacteria could at some point be "intelligent". Of course, if you work with them on a daily basis, you know they can be spiteful!! Ants are an interesting choice. Doug Hofstadter has a fascinating section in Godel Escher Bach using an Ant colony as a (fictitious) model for emergent consciousness. If you haven't read it, I heartily suggest it. I think GC is building a straw man here, however, beating at an unmade conjecture that human intelligence is literally unbounded, a suggestion that I never made (although a technologist might argue that our chief issues are memory capacity and look up power, which might be solved by "cyborgization").

In this particular exchange, I realize that I left something out of my original post;

This actually goes back to my very original point (who remembers that?), which was that the "races" have not been physically or reproductively separate long enough for the kind of deep, population genetic differences that GC was originally speculating on.

This was supposed to be followed by some of the obvious, physiological differences in immunity, skin coloring, and superficial physical traits, and by the suggestion that we have conflicting data here. On one hand, there are physical traits that differ. If we total up the physical traits that we can identify, and the ones that differ, we can get a rough idea of what may differ "under the hood", as GC says. However, we can not a priori suggest that all differences we see statistically in phenotype are genetic (haven't we been over this ground before?), nor can we establish the extent of the genetic differences based on the phenotypic differences (one small gene difference could have a large effect, something GC himself noted in an early post). On the other hand, the reality is that the notion of large scale genetic differences between races at "deeper levels" is difficult to reconcile with anthropological data suggesting that the time scale of human reproductive isolation is relatively short, on an evolutionary scale.

GC's comments bring me to something I wanted to comment on, the promises (true and false) of genomics and proteomics, which I will attempt to discuss in my next post.