Less is … perhaps the wrong word.

Two current items here.

The dawning realisation that less is more –  less e-mail equals more / better communication. Management by walking around, water-cooler conferences, walk-over or pick-up the phone and talk …. those were topical learning points even back when I did my MBA 20 years ago.

Unrelated except for the word “less”, is the furore about James Watson (as in Crick & Watson of DNA fame) recent “racist” remarks about genetic difference in the intelligence of African races. Less intelligent was clearly an ill-advised use of the word “less”, relative to who’s yardstick of intelligence, but is this a taboo about even suggesting genetic differences in races.

I have no doubt there are genetic differences between races, and no doubt there are also genetic bases of innate mental and well as physical faculties. Pinker’s Blank Slate says a lot about genetically inheritable components of mental aspects – to generalise depending which mental aspects we are really talking about; 40% inherited, 10% taught (authoritatively), 50% learned (circumstantially). These differences should be source of interest for all to learn from. The furore should be judged in terms of Watson’s actions and motives I’d say, of which I have no inside knowledge. Chris at Mystic Bourgeoisie will not doubt let me know if he’s a facist / nazi.

The taboo reaction gets more ridiculous with Craig Venter’s comments about race in terms of skin colour not affecting intelligence, and that from a scientist. Potential correlation with a common third variable, cannot be denied surely.

5 thoughts on “Less is … perhaps the wrong word.”

  1. I sent this response to a group of folks I communicate with on a regular basis.

    just a couple of things….

    exactly what social policies are based on the assumption that their (african) intelligence is the same as ours (white, western european?)? and how would those policies change if it were assumed that their intelligence was different?

    It seems to me that one would need to be a seer of the most extraordinary type to be able to fashion social policy (whatever that means) to suit intellectual differences.

    As far as the other statement,(the one about peoples being geographically seperated…), I find nothing to quibble with except with his assertion that we want to reserve equal powers of reason. Again what the heck does this mean? It seems to me that this is only a criticism of some kind of egalitarian philosophy which Watson finds wanting.

    I found this little nugget on the BBC website.

    “He was further quoted as saying that his hope was that everyone was equal but that “people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true”.”

    So Watson himself was one who is “hoping” that everyone is equal, but unfortunately and regrettably now has to inform the world that he and it are wrong. And his scientific proof for this is that anyone who has had to deal with black employees will agree.

    This guy needs to stick to his microscope.

  2. Thanks Alice, looks like Watson has picked up his language anyway … avoiding statements of supreriority or inferiority he says … but pushing against the political correctness that denies any relationship between heritable genetic differences and mental / behavioural differences.

  3. The “relationship between heritable genetic differences and mental / behavioural differences.” is not the issue in my opinion.

    As you state there are differences and I doubt that most serious people will disagree with this.

    The question then becomes what to do about it, if anything.
    Surely what has been done about it in the past has turned out to be heinous in the extreme (see eugenics). Who is wise enough to attempt to ammeliorate these differences and what would their intentions lead to?

    In my opinion, Watson isn’t offering anything constructive and to my knowledge has never been involved in the debate.

    He was just making wild assumptions about what “we” think and feel, making outrageous statements and casting aspersions, which can never help.

  4. I think we agree Alice. We agree what he said was ill judged and not necessarily constructive. We both said it’s about what people do and their motives, and neither of us “to my knowledge” have seen any specific intentions from Watson.

    The only (possible) positive spin, given that Watson is probably not stupid, is that he possible wanted to create the taboo debate. As an old man with his career succes behind him, he’s probably comfortable with such controversy. I was making that speculation – with constructive intent of course 😉

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