Basics II

My web guru has assured me that the attention span of my readers does not sustain the long entry I posted on Basics. I’m trying to think of a way to break these up into smaller units without losing the thread. I can only say that if someone responds to one entry as if it is independent of the others and free-standing, I will just have to refer them to the other posts.
I began today a book of criticisms of evolutionary biology. Rather than read a book by an evolutionary biologist, I would rather read his critics b/c I’ll get what he has said plus comments on the distortions they feel he introduces to the topic. Evolutionary biology, of course, deals directly with the issues dealt with in Basics: how do we live, what is normal human behavior, what behavior benefits us? Evolutionary biologists posit a genetic code that preprograms us for certain behaviors; extreme environmentalists say it is our environment which determines our behavior; most of us would like to be in the middle somewhere: some genetic programming but a lot of environment, culture, nutrition, experiences, etc.
Let’s think of a few things: the consumption of sugar has risen dramatically in the last few centuries and has sky-rocketed in the U.S. in the last few decades. Mankind craves sweets but had access to few in prehistory and even in recent history except for the elite. Health professionals say the rise in diabetes is attributable to this overabundance of sugar and child specialists blame childhood misbehavior on sugar. What do we actually know? We know childhood consumption of sugar has increased dramtically and we know childhood behavior………. what? Has it changed? Were colonial children quiet and obedient? Old manuals for teachers from the 1800s indicate lots of behavioral problems. Could it be something else? How often in the past were eight year olds seated with 20+ other eight year olds in a small room for five or six hours a day? So what is abnormal, the children or their environment?
Another example: young American girls are dancing by bending over and shaking their pudenda and buttocks at young men. The received wisdom is that this will lead to sexual intercourse in short order. Does it? In traditional West African-based cultures, women always bend over and shake their buttocks when they move to music, even evangelical Christian choir members. Does that behavior lead to sexual intercourse? We don’t know, but given the Christian teaching about sexual morality, one might be inclined to see this as a dance style rather than a deliberately provocative sexual come-on. But we do have research on this among those American girls and it shows that for them it is a dance style and leads to sexual intercourse no more than any other dancing does. (My dad told me he used to go to the park in the 30s to dance to swing bands and the girls would get “hot and bothered” and you could take them out into the park and stand them against a tree…….. well, you get the picture. How true is that? My mom told me that the huge military base she worked at during WW II had German and Italian POWs there; the secretarial pool girls would bring wire cutters to work and break INTO the POW quarters but only of the Italian POWS….. did I mention I’m part Italian?) These behaviors are hard to investigate, yet we base major policy decisions on them e.g. expelling a student from school, restricting sugar intake and thus hurting the sugar producers. What is right, what is fair?
I’ll stop here for the faint of heart. Just ponder these before you grasp some new “research says” pronouncement and ram it down the throat of your colleagues.

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