Thursday, January 26, 2006

Dangerous Ideas

Caught just a snippet of Christopher Lyden's Open Source last night, on Dangerous Ideas, especially got my attention because one of my favorite thinkers/authors, Steven Pinker, was on. So I listened to all of it today from the Web site, good show.

One of my favorite dangerous ideas was from Pinker, the idea that science may one day (soon) find substantive genetic based differences between human races. I for one wouldn't be surprised — it certainly appears that a disproportionate number people from central Africa seem predisposed to world class distant running. And I've worked with enough Asian people to wonder if they have naturally superior intellects. I think it's even been shown, fairly definitively, that Ashkenazi Jews are of superior intelligence due to natural (or artificial/social) selection. Imagine how crazy people would go it was shown that blacks were genetically intellectually inferior to whites, or the other way around; as Pinker says, society is just not currently equipped to deal with such things.

I also appreciated the notion (attributed to O.E. Wilson, I believe) that religion may not simply be a strange artifact from our ignorant ancestors, but that the human desire to believe in God/religion is itself a characteristic which evolved through natural selection, because it has survival power, and further, the notion that God Himself set things up that way, precisely so humans would strive to know Him.

Pinker says we may just come to view our belief in religion sort the way we recognize our own limitations when being fooled by optical illusions, or accepting the way talk about the sun rising when we know it does no such thing, or about the table being solid when we know that the physicists tell us it is mostly empty space. I wonder.

I just finished listening to Freakanomics and one interesting or dangerous, certainly controversial idea discussed there is that Roe v. Wade, the legalization of abortion in 1973, was the primary cause of the precipitous drop in crime in the mid 1990's. Reasoning (based on data, say the authors) that the many thousands of aborted fetuses would have disproportionately been born into households known to raise troubled kids (low income, single parent, drug abusers, etc.) A little sobering.

Okay, so this is a running blog, so my dangerous idea is the idea that I stop running, rest day today, giving the shin a break (ouch, I hope not), and I'm antsy already; maybe run tomorrow, maybe elliptical, who knows. 500 sit-ups, 50 push-ups.

Oh look at that, John Kerry has a blog, congressional blogging is catching on apparently. About a dozen members of congress are now blogging, some allowing comments, some not. Interesting, I like it.


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