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Does anyone know of any serious scientific opposition or response to the ideas Pinker puts forward in the book - in general, and specifically in regard to the lack of influence of the home environment as a child on the adult character - a point that is particularly difficult and counter-intuitive (I'm not saying it's wrong - just interested in hearing both sides).




Fri Aug 22, 2003 3:02 pm
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Post Re: opposition
Sean

I too am interested in this question.

Chris

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward,for there you have been, and there you will always want to be."



Fri Aug 22, 2003 5:06 pm
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Post Re: opposition
Reading about this made me modify my thinking about parental influence. I was a psychology and elementary education major in college. Adult(and child) character was always explained by home environment and rearing practices. Pinker's ideas really challenged all that I had been taught. I thought about it for a long time. I marked page 380 because the first paragraph states that the studies Pinker is referring to, "exclude cases of criminal neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and abandonment...". Since the studies don't include families with history of abuse, I concluded that maybe average parenting styles do not have effects on adult behavior, but extreme styles would have an effect. Average parents(meaning not abusive,and hence most) probably over-estimate the effects of and unnecessarily dissect their parenting. We teachers have a saying, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree"! Which doesn't have to mean that kids are like their parents due to environment. It's important to remember that children share their parents genes as well as their home.




Fri Aug 22, 2003 6:16 pm
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Post Re: opposition
Tara

Quote:
We teachers have a saying, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree"! Which doesn't have to mean that kids are like their parents due to environment. It's important to remember that children share their parents genes as well as their home.

I like your interpretation of that saying, even though it is typically meant as a reference to the childs home environment. People assume that its all about nurture - hence that saying.

Chris

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward,for there you have been, and there you will always want to be."



Fri Aug 22, 2003 7:14 pm
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Post Re: opposition
I don't know if the specific data Pinker uses to make this particular case has been (is being) challenged.

There is a lot of opposition to the general ideas put forward by the evolutionary psychologists (EP's). Some of it led by the British scientist Steven Rose. There is a series of essays : "Alas poor Darwin" which is edited by Rose and his wife Hilary Rose which critique the EP's and Dawkinsian ideas. Essays by Gould, and Mary Midgely are included in the book.

I have to say that I didn't find the book had much to offer. It was a lot of polemic without (I felt) much substance. I was so disappointed I wrote a review of it for inclusion on the Amazon website, but they never used it. I kept toning the language down and resubmitting it but in the end I reached a point where my principles would let me go any further. So I sent an email to Amazon telling them what I thought of them for not including it.>: .

I'm not sure whether Rose would thank me for describing him as a Marxist, but his views are left of centre, and I think he thinks of EP as being freindly to the right wing. (I have heard Matt Ridley described as a right-wing libertarian.)

Another strand of objection seems to be from social scientists who have been brought up in the SSSM tradition and are resistant to change. For these people EP is a massive paradigm shift.

When we went to the Simonyi "Blank Slate" lecture in Oxford, someone asked Pinker how she should deal with the old guard. And Pinker said that she shouldn't worry too much because he said (something like) "We have time on our side.":lol

I'll post my critique in the writing centre - but not now - My wife is telling me I'll be late for my daughter's wedding.:eek




Sat Aug 23, 2003 3:31 am
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Post Re: opposition
I've posted my review of "Alas Poor Darwin" in The Academy.

BTW the wedding went wonderfully well - She looked beautiful - and she never stopped smiling all day.:D

Peter




Sun Aug 24, 2003 11:57 am
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Post Re: opposition
I think it is important to note that the idea that parenting's impact has been vastly overrated is not Pinkers, but rather Judith Rich Harris' (to whom he gives due credit).

THE NURTURE ASSUMPTION


Science is neither a philosophy nor a belief system. It is a combination of mental operations that has become increasingly the habit of educated peoples, a culture of illuminations hit upon by a fortunate turn of history that yielded the most effective way of learning about the real world ever conceived. E.O.Wilson




Mon Aug 25, 2003 6:34 am
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Post opposition
I just find it difficult to believe that someone will grow up to have practically the same personality whether their parents are strictly authoritarian, or just let them do what they like.

I thought a point I found when looking back at that chapter was quite interesting. Pinker points out briefly that if the home environment had an effect by interacting with the genetic qualities (which makes more sense to me than each having distinctly seperate effects) it would show up as heritable variance rather than shared environment. Pinker seems to think this is inconsequential, but I believe that this makes it easy to misinterpret the data as showing the home environment to have no effect (a difficult proposition to accept) as opposed to not having a distinct effect from that of the genes (which seems to make more sense).




Mon Aug 25, 2003 2:51 pm
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Post Re: opposition
In retrospect - When I said:
Quote:
I don't know if the specific data Pinker uses to make this particular case has been (is being) challenged.
I had forgotten that someone did challenge Pinker about his data at the Simonyi lecture. He said that some of the studies Pinker had referred to were not valid.

As I remember Pinker simply told him he was wrong. It was impossible to know quite who to believe in these circumstances. (Incidentally: this was uncharacteristic of Pinker he is extremely good at dealing with challenges to his arguments - he is better than Dawkins in this respect. But Dawkins can be more confrontational as I've pointed out previously).


It seems to me that in this kind of situation - truth will out - it is the examination of the empirical evidence which will decide the matter irrespective of how counter intuitive it might seem.

I have to say that I do feel inclined to lean towards the Pinker/Harris view, because the studies (as described in the book do seem to be well designed. And the results seem persuasive.




Mon Aug 25, 2003 5:38 pm
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Post Re: opposition
By the way. Thanks for pointing out the Harris connection Jeremy. It is important to keep things as accurate as possible.




Tue Aug 26, 2003 10:36 am
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