In the beginning there was creationism. Then knowledge expanded and science proved itself useful and people realized that many of their original ideas were wrong. Evolution was a fine advance in the theory of everything. Since then though progress on that theory has stopped and people have replaced it with endless waves of confirmation bias.
Both creationism and evolution are unprovable, after all, it’s not like we can recreate either one in a lab. Any evidence that comes up can be cherry picked and rationalized, I can come up with several plausible theories on why birds have feathers, why women are (supposedly) more monogamous than men, why we have genders, etc. But it seems like Darwin came up with the theory of evolution lo those many years ago, and everyone stopped looking for theories on the origin of the species, and just set out to defend it against creationism, and never put any effort into coming up with something better. It’s as if someone discovered that it was easier to haul crops into town on a wagon, and then committed himself to the wagon, and no one ever thought of the truck.
Why hasn’t there been anything new?
I was going to write a post about the evolution vs creationism debate, specifically about this post, but why? Granted, a lot of people really do care about their side of the debate, but what they really like doing is nagging other people about a matter with no consequences at all. What makes it more interesting is that no one denies the basic theory (adaptation, survival of the fittest, etc) but the origins of life are in question.
The religious impulse is strong in a high percentage of people, whether they believe in a higher power or not.
One of my grand unformed theories is that the 20th century’s genocides and ethnic cleansings have acted as a categorical shift in evolution, both social and biological.
A significant part of that theory is that talent leaves one country for another (AKA – a brain drain, as part of the Ricardian Triangle of Land – Labor – Capital) but I’ve never formed the thoughts that much. I made a comment on Dan Tdaxp’s blog on a related post noting that I was surprised he hadn’t written anything about it either.
Imagine my surprise when a day later he writes The Consequences of Brain Drains in Developing Countries. Life is much easier when other people do all the work…
An interesting story on IQ and birth order appeared in the New York Times recently. It makes sense, and jibes with my experience. Money grafs:
The average difference in I.Q. was slight — three points higher in the eldest child than in the closest sibling — but significant, the researchers said. And they said the results made it clear that it was due to family dynamics, not to biological factors like prenatal environment.
“Like Darwin’s finches, they are eking out alternative ways of deriving the maximum benefit out of the environment, and not directly competing for the same resources as the eldest,” Dr. Sulloway said. “They are developing diverse interests and expertise that the I.Q. tests do not measure.”
This kind of experimentation might explain evidence that younger siblings often live more adventurous lives than their older brother or sister. They are more likely to participate in dangerous sports than eldest children, and more likely to travel to exotic places, studies find. They tend to be less conventional than firstborns, and some of the most provocative and influential figures in science spent their childhoods in the shadow of an older brother or sister (or two or three or four).
Interesting stuff. The older sibling is the best situated to take advantage of the existing structure, so they take advantage of that, and the younger sibling is shielded from the consequences of risk taking, so they consume more of it.
Mathew Yglesias links to a Charles Murray article in Commentary about the apparent brainpower edge of the Jewish people. For the most part, Yglesias’ commenters go off on the notion of implied inequality with a few dissents.
To me this is partial proof of evolution. The world has changed to a mostly urban lifestyle, and Jews have been living in cities for much longer than most groups. That would make them more suited to score higher than other groups on what we measure on IQ tests. Jewish culture essentially “chose” the right path to the future.
Throw in non-random mating and the fact that Jewish culture values literacy more than most other cultures and it seems quite reasonable that Jews would score higher on whatever test the psychologists can throw at them.
None of this matters much (yay minimalist view of politics) but it is interesting. I imagine it is as unprovable as are most other evolutionary theories.