Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nature, Nurture, and ... ?

The ancient psychological debate, which aspects of our mind are primarily formed by genetics and heredity, and which aspects are mainly formed by our experience of objects and events in our environment, is being renewed by developments in the field of prenatal psychology. A recent book by Annie Murphy Paul, with the title Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives, explores how everything from our taste in music to our body weight is influenced neither by our gene pool, nor by our life experiences, but rather by our prenatal encounters.

The fact that babies can hear, and hear well, long before birth, and through an inch or two of maternal flesh, means that children are born having already heard much: music, voices, etc. Psychologists have long known that infants are able, upon birth, to recognize the voices of their mothers. But it is now clear that familiarity with, and tastes in, music are also so formed.

Separately, experiences in the womb also act as switches, turning on or off various individual genes. Thus the diet of the mother with shape the metabolism of the child. An adult's weight problem may due, not his psychology and environment, nor strictly to his genes, but rather to events which activated some of his genes, but not others, in the nine months he spend in the womb.

The field of prenatal psychology will cause much re-thinking of various sub-disciplines within traditional psychology and psychiatry.

Multiculturalism Creates Hatred

In accord with the law of unintended consequences, official efforts to promote harmony and tolerance actually foster the very opposite: attempts to generate acceptance instead give rise to bigotry and hatred. Although this occurs mainly in America, we can see it in other nations too, as Anthony Daniels writes:

Of course, a large part of the problem is that patriotism in Britain has been left to the brutes: the kind of ignorant savages who tattoo a bulldog on their biceps and “Made in England” round their nipples, and who in equal measure revolt and terrorize the cheaper resorts of the Mediterranean. The intellectual’s equation of patriotism with xenophobia, and pride in past achievement with an arrogant superiority complex, has left a population demoralized and without any belief in its own nation. George Orwell saw this happening a long time ago; it has created a vacuum for the English Defence League to fill. Multiculturalism is the other side of the English Defence League coin.

In a well-meaning attempt to discourage a nasty form of nationalism, multicultural gurus have instead inhibited a healthy type of patriotism. Multiculturalism has deterred the educated classes away from a nuanced and intellectually perceptive appreciation of one's native land - which is healthy patriotism and never excludes a sincere appreciation of other nations. While the intellectual classes are embarrassed to point out anything remotely good or positive about their native land, the brutes and bigots rush in to claim superiority for the homeland over others. The growth of a healthy patriotism would have prevented the expansion of nasty nationalism. Multiculturalism

is a sentimental and harmful doctrine that turns the mind to mush, is evidence of an underlying indifference to the real lives of people, and is a provider of pseudo-work for lots of people such as community organizers.

Those who allegedly promote multiculturalism are, themselves, both ignorant of culture in general, and lacking in the desire or the ability to cure that ignorance:

Multiculturalists are seldom really interested in the culture of others. Very few of them read book in foreign languages, for example, let alone immerse themselves in the Pali scriptures or the writings of the Sufi. I don't blame them for this: it is the work of a lifetime to be able to do so, and we each have only one lifetime, to say nothing of the limitations of ability and inclination. But let us at least not pretend that our interest in other cultures extends much beyond their cuisine.

Not only does multiculturalism, then, promote a brutish form of nationalism among those who perceive themselves as "on the defensive" or "host cultures," but among those who view themselves as "immigrant cultures," it promotes a cynical view that those who claim to understand them in fact do not understand them. Those who claim to speak on behalf of an immigrant ethnic group are discounted by the majority of that group, who see the lack of cultural understanding, and exploited as dupes by a minority of that group, who see them as useful fools. Modern multiculturalism is largely an ideology of those who lack precisely that cultural understanding which they claim to promote.

The net effect is that a greater distance is created between cultural groups: instead of a coming together, more obstacles to community are created.