"The interests of society often render it expedient not to utter the whole truth, the interests of science, never; for in this field we have much more to fear from the deficiency of truth than from its abundance." - Charles Caleb Colton
The old nature-vs.-nurture question comes up again in another context:
Poor children's brain activity resembles that of stroke victims, EEG shows
University of California, Berkeley, researchers have shown for the first time that the brains of low-income children function differently from the brains of high-income kids.
In a study recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, scientists at UC Berkeley's Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and the School of Public Health report that normal 9- and 10-year-olds differing only in socioeconomic status have detectable differences in the response of their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is critical for problem solving and creativity.
Brain function was measured by means of an electroencephalograph (EEG) – basically, a cap fitted with electrodes to measure electrical activity in the brain – like that used to assess epilepsy, sleep disorders and brain tumors.
"Kids from lower socioeconomic levels show brain physiology patterns similar to someone who actually had damage in the frontal lobe as an adult," said Robert Knight, director of the institute and a UC Berkeley professor of psychology. "We found that kids are more likely to have a low response if they have low socioeconomic status, though not everyone who is poor has low frontal lobe response."
[...] "This is a wake-up call," Knight said. "It's not just that these kids are poor and more likely to have health problems, but they might actually not be getting full brain development from the stressful and relatively impoverished environment associated with low socioeconomic status: fewer books, less reading, fewer games, fewer visits to museums."
Kishiyama, Knight and Boyce suspect that the brain differences can be eliminated by proper training. They are collaborating with UC Berkeley neuroscientists who use games to improve the prefrontal cortex function, and thus the reasoning ability, of school-age children.
"It's not a life sentence," Knight emphasized. "We think that with proper intervention and training, you could get improvement in both behavioral and physiological indices."
Before I read the article, I knew what the experts would say, simply from the headline: I knew they would say this, or something like this: 'Children from a lower socioeconomic status have inadequate environments, lacking 'intellectual stimulation' that better-off children get from parents, toys, books, and exposure to cultural events. The children from the lower SES also have deprived diets due to their poverty and thus they are malnourished.' And on and on.
And as you can see, the study follows the approved script:
Of course there is the obligatory statement that ''it isn't a life sentence" and that more 'training' (read: more funding, more $$) can bring these children up to the appropriate level.
This is always an article of faith with the 'culturalist' liberal egalitarians. The belief is that everybody is meant to function at an equally high level, and that the inevitable fact that not all are doing so means only that we have to try harder, intervene more, which means more social engineering, more social programs, all of which involve lots of government money.
It works the same whether there is a question of racial/ethnic disparities or economic disparities; the only differences that exist are the result of the environment, and thus we have to ''do more" to bridge the gap.
However this study does not mention race or ethnicity, only economic conditions. We have to read between the lines and presume that the majority of these children are nonwhite, and I say that because liberals constantly tell us that the great majority of the poor and 'disadvantaged' are People Of Color. So I take it that the majority of these children are also ''of color."
The experts always assume that poverty causes intellectual stunting. People who lag cognitively or intellectually are always assumed to have developed that way because of poverty. Poverty means that families have no money to buy books or stimulating toys or culturally enriching experiences for their children. According to the liberal stereotypes, poverty also means that parents are so harried and distracted that they can't spend time talking to their children or encouraging them to learn and develop.
Have these experts ever once considered the possibility that poverty is sometimes caused by lower intelligence? Sure, it's true that many highly intelligent people do not become rich by means of their high intelligence, but in many cases, smart people find ways to succeed or to improve themselves. Most smart people from poor families do not stay poor, unless there is some other problem, such as substance abuse or other character flaws that prevent them from rising out of poverty.
There is undoubtedly a hereditary factor in intelligence.
Few scientific discussions generate so much heat as those regarding intelligence. Argument rages as to whether there is a genetic influence over IQ and whether IQ is in turn related to intelligence. The similarity of IQ in twins reared apart certainly supports the view that genes have influence. Thomas Bouchard (chapter 5) reports five studies of identical wins who were reared apart and gives the weighted average correlation as 0.75, suggesting that a massive 75% of the variance in the twins' IQ can be related to their shared genes.''
So why is the simple idea that intelligence is to a considerable extent hereditary 'controversial'? Because of political correctness, for the most part. Even many of the FReepers discussing this story insist that it's a matter of 'culture', not heredity.
At the heart of liberalism is this blind faith in the environment and 'culture' as being the primary shaper of who we are or who we become. A cardinal tenet of egalitarianism is that we are all potentially capable of anything, and that any differences among us as individuals or as groups are due to environmental disparities. The rich are always at an advantage, according to this school of thought, and Whites, especially White males, likewise. Everybody else is ''held back'' by their environment to some extent, with ''women and minorities hit hardest", as the old cliche goes.
I generally don't believe that we can disprove a rule by citing exceptions, though it is true that many intelligent people come from ''deprived'' homes and that some dimwits come from 'privileged' backgrounds. Again, I would say heredity will out. Some people do get rich by sheer luck, and some people end up poor because of a series of misfortunes, but in general, people from better-off families tend to have better habits. They tend to have more of a sense of personal responsibility than people from poor families where there is a habit of shiftlessness, or substance abuse or poor money management.
Income level and intelligence go together and it is not necessarily to be blamed on 'inadequate environments.' It's a chicken-or-egg question: why DO people from poor backgrounds tend to have 'inadequate environments'? Might it be because they don't value things such as learning, reading, 'cultural experiences' such as concerts or museum visits? And might that be because they are, from birth, not inclined that way?
Surely there are some poor families that value learning and cultural activities. The idea that poverty necessitates intellectual or cultural deprivation is absurd. Maybe centuries ago, when books were scarce and precious, when poor people worked from dawn to dusk, when they lived rather limited lives, there might have been more of an understandable correlation between poverty and mental deprivation. Nowadays, books and reading material of all kinds are ubiquitous. Everybody can use the public library, and if there is no library handy, many thrift shops offer used books dirt-cheap. Children have access to all kinds of learning materials in school, although schools seem to do little real teaching now. Televison, for all its trashiness these days, does provide some edifying programs if you look hard enough. There are free events in every community to stimulate children's (and adults') minds. The person who is eager to learn finds something from which to learn everywhere.
Talking to children and interacting with them at an early age is important, and many people nowadays seem to ignore their children, which may be one reason why there appear to be more dull-witted, inarticulate children around. But the notion that only wealthy people have the time to talk to their kids and spend time teaching them is silly; many poor people have nothing but time to stay at home with their children and talk to them, teach them, but I suspect that their priorities are often elsewhere.
Personally I think that some people are born with an innate curiosity and a hunger for learning and knowledge, and that a child who has this tendency cannot be held back. He (or she) will seek out materials or experiences to satisfy that curiosity and hunger, regardless of the economic circumstances of the family.
Conversely, many children are not the least bit interested in books or academics, and will rebel if anyone tries to interest them in such things. Some are not cut out to be scholars or educated people. You can lead a horse to water, etc.
The liberal 'experts' will forever be running up against brick walls in trying to mold people into something they are not, by nature or heredity. We are not all meant to be intellectuals or white-collar workers or professionals. We can't measure everybody against one universal standard.
Just as individuals differ in abilities and interests, so do groups of people. Why should this be controversial at all?