Re. Innate Skills?

Subject: Re. Innate Skills?
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 10 May 1995 19:12:26 PDT

Geoff Hart says,
> This debate is sterile, folks, and is approaching the status of a
> religious argument. Perhaps another one to take off line? No one has
> satisfactorily won the nature vs. nurture argument in the biological
> community...

I think the "scientific racists" can be said to have lost. There's
an excellent book by Stephen Jay Gould, THE MISMEASURE OF MAN, which
gives a fascinating account of several hundred years' worth of "science"
that "proved" that things such as intelligence and character were
"innate abilities." Lack of training and experience was consistently
discounted as having any relevance to the debate. For example, thousands
of illiterate black recruits were given intelligence tests in World War I.
These recruits, many of whom had never held a pencil before (and thus could
be presumed not to know how to draw), were given tests which required that
they complete the missing elements in pictures. To add a special
aura of lunacy to the proceedings, many of the pictures involved objects
and activities that impoverished, rural blacks had no experience
with: a picture of two people playing tennis, with one raquet missing;
a picture of a gramophone, with the horn missing.

Prior test-takeing experience, experience with drawing, and familiarity
with the lives of the middle class were not considered significant by the
testers: these tests were held to test "innate intelligence." Needless
to say, the recruits did rather badly, and the "scientific racists"
considered their case to be vindicated.

-- Robert

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