October 28, 2007

From Rena Faye Norby:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): No surprises about James Watson coming across as a bigot. He didn’t give Rosalind Franklin any credit for her part in discovering the structure of DNA, even though she contributed substantially to the direction the research needed to take, which led to the discovery. If he wouldn’t give an intelligent accomplished woman credit, why assume he wouldn’t dismiss the intelligence of an entire continent?

Watson is a natural scientist, not a social scientist. When he pretends to be knowledge about IQ testing, he’s venturing into a field of statistics about which he apparently has little training and no instinctual knowledge.

Dr. Rena Faye Norby
Science Educator
Mercer University
McDonough, GA 30253

From Evelyn Haskins:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): Watson may or may not be racist.

But his comment shows his utter ignorance!

I would hazard a guess that Watson himself would do very, very poorly on an intelligence test devised by Africans based on THEIR cultural traditions and environment

Should he have beed sacked? I don’t think so, because he field is NOT education, intelligence, social science, psychology, neurology or nutrition.

But I do think he should be censured. And required to get at least a basic education in these above sciences.

And then advised to keep his mouth shut about things he knows nothing about!

From Bill Dickinson:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): Personally, I am offended by Watson’s comments, but I am pleased that so many prestigous scientific centers have cancelled his speaking engagements to show their disapproval of what he said. Mr. Watson, it appears, should not have been credited for co-discovering DNA. He and Crick stole and a key photgraph made by Rosalyn Franklin, without which they would not have been able to figure out the structure of DNA. Rosalyn was never credited for her hard work, let alone asked to share the Nodel prize with them.

Arrogance is a nasty thing, but it caught up with Watson.

From Marshall E. Deutsch:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): Thank you for giving me a chance to express my opinion on this without being smeared as a racist. I think “The Bell Curve” presents a good deal of evidence on racial differences in intelligence, and this is confirmed by the observations of Stephen Gould (who would smear me if he were alive and aware of my opinion) on the relationship between neoteny and intelligence and the fact that blacks mature faster than whites. He presented this evidence, but didn’t draw the obvious conclusion. When I discuss this subject, I try to address mainly the fact that certain Asian groups (Japanese in general, and certainly Asian immigrants to the U.S.) are obviously smarter on average than people of European descent. Of course, some of the most intelligent people I am aware of are blacks, e.g. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who claims that she does poorly on intelligence tests because of poor mathematical ability.

Marshall E. Deutsch
Sudbury, MA 01776-2328

From Pieter Folkens:

Re: Researchers: warming could cause mass extinction (Oct. 24): The presentation of the article on mass extinctions due to climate change was supremely disingenuous int he context of the modern global warming debate.

The predicted worst-case scenario coming from the IPCC is a sea level rise of less than 1 meter. The Late Holocene interstitial maximum was only 3 meters higher than now. The rise since the Pleistocene climate minimum was 125 meters, yet that rise caused no mass extinctions. Indeed, from the Late Pliocene to the present, swings of more than 100 meters in sea level flux occurred many times though which we have our modern species assemblage.

Considerable extinctions occur when there are greater climate swings of, say, 200 meter + as measured in sea level flux. Further, the extreme greenhouse effect at the KT boundary was caused by the mass extinction of dinosaurs, not the other way around. Many of us who rightly criticize the present global warming rancor note that everything about the paleo-record suggests warming comes first, followed by the increase in greenhouse gasses. The presentation of that article implies that continued global warming under present condition will result in mass extinctions. It won’t.

From Betty J.Rodman:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): I thought his comments were too stupid to even bother with. When you are as small-minded as he obviously is; the things he says are just a reflection of his ignorance and bias. Many people priviledged to have an education are nothing more than a fools with a piece of paper, called a degree. I will pray for his pathetic soul. He has a lot to learn.

Betty J.Rodman
Holistic Counseling (mind, body, spirit and soul)
Falmouth, MA

From Marcia Cox:

Re: Paper takes swipe at bedrock law of physics (Oct. 14, 2006): Riviting stuff guys. Come on do some high tech tests. There were always great thinkers and great scientists before PHD’s were invented. Any good scientist should test first before dismissing an hypothesis.

Marcia Cox BA BSc. PGCE
aka TheEnergyLadyUK

From Girdharilal Kuchroo:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): Race is intimately linked to habitat, habitat will mean a house, clothing, food etc etc over and above what we understand of habitat. Add to this a father and mother educated in sciences. In ten thousand years a lot can be done, we can not only breed stallions but may be some kind of talking horse. so why loose our shirt unless you feel it is habitat improvement. Dr Watson is right in having his opinion and we must be thankful to him for giving it to us when he alive, imagine if he had carried his convection to his grave. That would not have given us his correct picture.

October 25, 2007

From Isa Kocher:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): Given the history of intelligence studies, Watson is welcome to his opinion among the many, but to throw such an opinion out without overwhelming incontrovertible irrefutable evidence, as an opinion, in the known context of the scientific history and the highly contestable nature of all intelligence research to date, is an unprofessional, unacceptable, unforgivable political, as well as an anti-scientific act.

He has profoundly damaged science at a time when science is being politicized by well funded and politically powerful anti-science and anti-human rights, irrational, fascistic forces in every political arena in the world from the Dominionists, Neo-Cons and Intelligent Designers, to the bin-Ladinist Wahhabis, Christian, Talaban, Budddhist, Scientologist, granola faerie cult, and radical astrologist reactionaries on all sides.

At a time when Global Warming, ecological collapse, and world conflict face us, it is irresponsible to throw out unproven and essentially, fundamentally unprovable suppositions and speculations of a blatantly a priori racist nature into the tight competition for resources. it just makes decision making more difficult and for no good reason.

As a scientist, it is clear from 200 years of biological study that neither intelligence nor race are conceptually sound or useful as scientific categories. After Darwin and Watson and everyone since, we are no closer to defining either concepts unequivocally than we were before Darwin, at the dawn of biology. That can only mean that whatever they refer to as common sense terms, here is something other happening which we have not yet managed to articulate in a meaningful way as a research. They are relicts of an age of parsing verbs, phrenology, and canals on Mars.

Mr. Isa Kocher

Following are additional com­ments on this ent­ry. Type your own in­to the space right of the first one.

From James Easley:

Re: A predisposition to pedophilia? (Oct. 23): Two comments: 1.2 cm in adult male height doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy. 2. As a short male, I’d suggest the difference is sociologic, not biologic. All of the factors mentioned in this article, except more head trauma in childhood, could cause more social isolation and less acceptance by females. I suspect that shorter males are more marginalized by females, which may make them more prone to sociopathic sexual behaviors. Marginalized individuals appear to be more prone to sociopathic behavior to me.

From Robert Gerlai:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): I am not nearly knowledgeable about all the facts that surround the question of differences in mental characteristics among major racial groups. And I also do not know what exactly Professor Watson said. However, there are numerous issues that have been, and I suspect will be, debated with regard to the so called “race differences”. First and foremost, the racial groups are not well defined genetically. That is, there is tremendous genetic heterogeneity within a racial group, and some argue that the genetic differences between racial groups are actually smaller than within. Second, it’s been quite difficult to separate socio-economic status, i.e.the other side of the coin, the environmental effects, from genetic effects. In other words, the difference between races may have a cultural origin, at least to a degree. Simply put, it’s the geneticist’s nightmare to disentangle how the environment and genes may contribute to the observed differences. Last, and perhaps most importantly, the differences themselves are not well defined. The often cited IQ, which proudly converts one’s complex cognitive function into a single number, may be misleading. Human intelligence is arguably (although not all scientists would agree) multifactorial and multifaceted. For example, the more we learn about memory, the clearer it becomes that it is not a unitary process. It has several forms, phases, and mechanisms. Thus the problem becomes: does IQ, or any other simplifying psychometric method, capture the full complexity of cognitive characteristics typical of a human being? And if it doesn’t, how can one line up the races on a linear scale?

Again, the point: I do not know nearly enough to answer the above questions, but I suspect the experts will need to work on these, and numerous other, questions before the answers may be obtained. However, irrespective of the answers we will get, I suggest we treat each other with dignity and respect and remain sensitive to human feelings. A little tact can go a long way and actually may help science and scientific freedom. It will allow the diligent workers on the field of sciences to gather enough data and to develop appropriate analytical procedures and it will help avoid infuriating the public and policy makers with statements that are controversial even among the experts.

Prof. Robert Gerlai
Behaviour Geneticist

From Elly Sherman:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): was it not enough that he cheated Rosalind Franklin from what rightly was recognition of her work, i.e., the DNA structure? He is a blot on sciences and should return his Nobel prize.

Following are additional com­ments on this ent­ry. Type your own in­to the space right of the first one.

From Ghand hiwas right@a ol.com:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): I believe what Dr Watson has said fits too many Africans, but my belief comes from knowing a bit about how post traumatic stress can effect one’s mental capacity, being a survivor myself of PTSD. It is extremely difficult to concentrate on school work when you are on alert.

I believe there is a substantial majority of Africans that probably suffer with PTSD as will generations of the people from Iraq. When one isn’t helped with recovery, it leaves the person wide open to become abusive as a parent or spouse, thereby traumatizing their own family and the behavior of abuse gets handed down to subsequent generations. If that person is in a position of power they can traumatize a whole country.

I believe handing down abusive behavior is why African Americans have historically had such a problem with school and social circumstances. The lucky ones are the ones where their parents were able to break the abuse brought on by slave holders over 100 years ago and were allowed to let the natural intelligence shine through.

It’s not a matter of race that effects one’s intelligence, but a matter of abuse & the world has been terribly abusive to the African continent. I believe it is for that reason that Dr. Watson has arrived at his observation.

I’ve copied the following short excerpt from the first edition of the The Post-Traumatic Gazette, (May June 1995).

Real physiological changes occur in the brains of survivors which make them quick to react. In order to live through the trauma, survivors may develop the capacity to go from fine into a killing rage in seconds. That helps them live. They may stop sleeping soundly. Sleep can get you killed. Survivors may be uncannily able to read the moods of those around them because the moods of their abusers defined their lives. They also become hyper vigilant, searching for physical danger all around and all the time. Due to hyper vigilance and lack of sleep, it is hard for them to concentrate on everyday things. They may do poorly in school and believe they are stupid when what they have is a symptom of PTSD. Survivors react faster and more completely to sudden noises. These are lifesaving skills as long as the survivor is still at risk, still in combat, still living with the batterer or the molester, still living in the bad neighborhood, the bombed city. These are reality based, effective survival skills. They keep you alive.

From N. Ianeva:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): Well done to the Science Museum! I actually read the interview in the Sunday Times and couldn’t believe my eyes. I’m glad that there are institutions, like the Science Museum, that can take actual steps towards showing what they think of this person’s comments and not just rage privately as I did.

N. Ianeva, London

October 21, 2007

From Liz Hensley:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): Concerning James Watson’s comments concerning women having the right to abort gay babies. Homosexuals quite naturally won’t want babies aborted just because they are gay and will do what they could and should to put a stop to that. But right now in many parts of the world, women can abort for any reason what-so-ever including the mere inconvenience of carrying a child for nine months. It is going to be a VERY interesting political situation with unusual alliances formed when (and I say when, not if) we do find a prenatal test for gayness. Will people of the many faiths who believe not yet born babies have rights and homosexuals be teaming up to get laws passed protecting these not yet gay, but gonna-be kids? I believe they should. Science shows Life does not begin at conception: it continues at conception, one long, unbroken, evolutionary chain that goes back to the first self replicating cells and has not and will not stop until we evolve into Something powerful enough to preserve all life indefinitely. It is the hope and belief of faith that there is eternal and infinite life. It is the goal of science to make that belief reality. I do not know when links in that chain suddenly or gradually became, “Human” but we do know it happened long ago, and we are all precious and valuable, every last one of us, gay and straight. There are no other primates on Earth like us, and we are worth protecting.

From Al Montgomery:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): The ever increasing militance of the PC Police is becoming oppressive! When they can destroy an eminent scientist such as Watson, think of the chilling effect they have on ordinary scientists and researchers. The scientific world will forever have to be looking over their respective shoulders and a great deal of fear of one’s work being attacked by these thought fascists will be extremely detrimental to open and honest research and scientific debate. The “thought police” must be stopped now! All scientists need to speak up now whether one agrees with Watson or not.

Following are additional com­ments on this ent­ry. Type your own in­to the space right of the first one.

From Mike Armstrong:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): A science fact is a fact untill proven otherwise. Instead of being being cowards try being scientists. Prove James Watson’s findings false scientifically instead of being afraid of what the truth may be. Who knows, you may find out that the earth is really round after all. If James Watson is right about the races of man and intelligence then that’s an important fact about human evolution from ape to man.

From Michael Loughlin:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): This is really well worn and stupid stuff. Watson refers to ‘testing’ but you know very well that an empirical test has only as much validity as the conceptual assumptions that frame it, and the assumptions behind the tests Watson and his supporters refer to have been comprehensively discredited. If you accept the methodology of the ducking stool then you can ‘prove’ that many people were really witches, but the associated conceptual framework has for so long been discredited that one simply has to question the motives of anyone wanting to revive it.

Watson and his supporters like Gottfredson are clearly racists. Their conclusions conflict with the experience of any reasonably well travelled person. When one thinks of all the white Europeans one knows, and all of the Africans one knows, it is just plain obvious that there is no systematic difference in intelligence based on race, where ‘intelligence’ is defined in any credible way, eg in terms of the ability to comprehend and formulate logically valid arguments. Any ‘test’ that causes us to question this undermines its own credibility and invites us to look at the assumptions behind it, just as Zeno’s paradoxes, which purport to ‘refute’ our common experience of motion and change should lead us not to question the reality of motion and change but to look critically at the assumptions that generate the paradoxes. (Here is my ‘intelligence test’: anyone who fails to grasp this basic point about the status of such tests has failed a fundamental test of intelligence, however many letters s/he may have after his/her name.)

Dr Michael Loughlin
Reader in Applied Philosophy
Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
MMU Cheshire

Following are additional com­ments on this ent­ry. Type your own in­to the space right of the first one.

From Tyler Hannigan:

Re: Trip to beach a milestone in human evolution: study (Oct. 17, 2007): Not being trained as an anthropologist I found your article fascinating and reminiscent of a book read and enjoyed about 30 years ago that presented a marine oriented background in human evolution: “Descent of Woman” by Elaine Morgan. (Barnes & Nobel online Synopsis: “This pioneering work, first published in 1972 and revised in 1985, was the first to argue, intelligently and irrefutably, the equal role of women in human evolution. The book’s influence has been profound and lasting - on the terminology used by students of prehistoric anthropology, on the theory of evolution and, above all, on the biblically fostered attitudes towards women as an afterthought and an amenity. It remains the key book in any discussion of women’s place in society.”)

Tyler Hannigan
Owner & site administrator
Silverhawk & Taos Artist Guide

From Ano nro bt@ao l.com:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): Watson is right, and all the cries from those who do not know science matter not, when the truth remains. Politics should be cashiered out of science, and egalitarians should be cashiered along with them. The world is not as such equal, and never was.

From Michael A. Crawford:

Re: Trip to beach a milestone in human evolution: study (Oct. 17): my colleagues and I welcome this paper which happily quotes our work. In 1972 we published data which for the first time perhaps identified arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids as determinants of brain growth and function. From comparative studies we drew conclusions linking these brain specific fatty acids with the evolution of the mammalian brain.1 Later, I recognised the implications for human evolution.2

This recognition led to several other papers,3-6 including a book7 proposing the coastal origins of humans as essential for cerebral advancement and a competitive advantage in the development of cognition. A crunch paper was on Dolphins8 in which we made the comparison with a similar body weight land based mammal, the zebra, which has 350g brain and the dolphin with 1.8 Kg.

As far as we were concerned there was no parallel example of cerebral advancement on land as all land based species lost brain weight in relation to body size as they evolved larger and larger bodies (chimps 0.45% rhinos <0.02%). Only H. Sapiens (2% 1.4 Kg) has the similar brain body weight ratio compared to small mammals like squirrels and Sykes monkeys. The only evidence of sizeable brain evolution apart from H. Sapiens is with the marine mammals, dolphins in particular but up at the top you have the sperm whale with 8 Kg brain!

Our many papers on food composition described the paucity of DHA in the land food web. And of course the richest source is the marine food web which is where the brain evolved using DHA 600-500 million years ago and still uses it today for its neurones and synapses.

That is the primate leading to H sapiens must have found an ecological niche which would have provided the limiting docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in abundance and so maintained a harmony of brain and body growth.

The paleoanthropologists have consistently ignored or found spurious arguments against the biochemistry based coastal hypothesis. So this new evidence, not unlike the Klasies estuary shell middens in South Africa described by Parkington and others of 125 kya. Add strength to the coastal origins of humans. 9, 10

Philip Tobias (with John Parkington et al) is the only one I know who accepted the coastal/lacustrine hypothesis when he said at the Dual Congress in South Africa 1998 "We can throw the savannah hypothesis out of the window" and then in his special way crystallised the whole idea and tons of research by saying "wherever man was evolving he had to have water to drink!"

Michael A. Crawford, PhD, CBiol, FIBiol, FRCPath
Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition.
North Campus, London Metropolitan University
166-229 Holloway Rd.


1. Crawford, M. A. and Sinclair, A. J. (1972) Nutritional influences in the evolution of the mammalian brain. In Lipids, malnutrition and the developing brain: 267-292. Elliot, K. and Knight, J. (Eds. ). A Ciba Foundation Symposium (19 21 October, 1971). Amsterdam, Elsevier.

2. Crawford, M. A. (1992) The role of dietary fatty acids in biology: their place in the evolution of the human brain. Nutr. Rev. 50: 3-11.

3. Crawford, M. A. , Cunnane, S. C. and Harbige, L. S. (1993) A new theory of evolution: quantum theory. IIIrd International Congress on essential fatty acids and eicosanoids, Am. Oil Chem. Soc. ed A. J. Sinclair, R. Gibson, Adelaide, 87-95.

4. Leigh Broadhurst C. , Cunnane. S. C. and Crawford M. A. (1998) Rift Valley lake fish and shellfish provided brain specific nutrition for early Homo. Br J. Nutr. 79: 3-21.

5. Crawford MA, Bloom M, Broadhurst CL, Schmidt WF, Cunnane SC, Galli C, Ghebremeskel K, Linseisen F, Lloyd-Smith J and Parkington J (1999) Evidence for the unique function of DHA during the evolution of the modern hominid brain. Lipids 34, S39-S47

6. Leigh Broadhurst C, Wang Y, Crawford MA, Cunnane SC, Parkington JE, Schmid WE. (2002) Brain-specific lipids from marine, lacustrine, or terrestrial food resources: potential impact on early African Homo sapiens.comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; 131 (4), 653-673.

7. The driving force: food evolution and the future by M. A. Crawford with D. Marsh. W. Heinemann (UK), 1989. Harper and Rowe (USA), 1989. Paperback edition: Mandarin 1991. Nutrition and Evolution: American edition: Keats Publ. Inc. New Canaan, CT, 1995

8. Williams, G. and Crawford, M. A. (1987) Comparison of the fatty acid component in structural lipids from dolphins, zebra and giraffe: possible evolutionary implications. J. Zool. Lond. 213: 673-684.

9. Klein RG, Avery G, Cruz-Uribe K, Halkett D, Parkington JE, Steele T, Volman TP, Yates R. (2004) The Ysterfontein 1 Middle Stone Age site, South Africa, and early human exploitation of coastal resources. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A;101(16):5708-15.

10. Parkington, J.E., 1990. A view from the south: Southern Africa before, during and after the Last Glacial Maximum. In: Gamble, C., Soffer, O. (Eds.), The World at 18,000 BP: The Low Latitudes, Vol. 2. Unwin Hyman, London pp. 214–228.

Following are additional com­ments on this ent­ry. Type your own in­to the space right of the first one.

From Ossian Foley:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): At first, Watson’s invocation of paternalistic condescension makes me feel icky and discouraged. But on thinking a little more, his comments make me hopeful. Not that he is right, but that such controversy shows that science proceeds not by one’s personality, but on the strength of one’s evidence and conclusions. Watson gets noted now for saying anything at all because the work he did then as Co-discoverer of DNA’s structure has proven invaluable.

With all the concern today about different but equal “ways of knowing” and the not-necessarily-popular-but-certainly-present notion that science is an indoctrinating conspiracy (maybe I’m overstating some of the things I’ve heard) this sort of flagrance can maybe show folks how scientific activity is remarkably different from other “ways” in that it is better at isolating the personality from the work, and that the work matters, not the personal opinion of it.

Another, perhaps less celebratory, example is Einstein both making atomic weapons possible and strongly arguing against developing them. Again, the findings mattered, not the opinion of it.

From Fred Colbourne:

Re: Trip to beach a milestone in human evolution: study (Oct. 17): The Mossel Bay finds dated 164,000 years ago and other later finds near shorelines around 125, 000 BP do suggest the presence of modern humans. These finds fit the time-frame provided by genetic evidence indicating that modern humans evolved earlier than 100,000 years ago and later than 200,000 years ago.

But is it plausible that the modern people identified at Mossell Bay left any descendants? Two problems stand in the way of plausibility, both related to climate change. The period 164,000 years ago was followed by colder and drier conditions for about 40, 000 years. The later finds were followed by the depths of cold and drought of the last glaciation. This can be seen clearly from the data presented by Martrat and others (Science 317, 502 (2007). Data from lake Malawi and other lakes illustrate the same point. So did these people have enough fresh water to survive millenia of drought?

Did the Mossel Bay people did have enough water to survive until the the warm interglacial that started around 125,000 years ago, the one before the one in which we now live? That’s the problem and why the inferred bottleneck in human population around 70, 000 years ago is so important. At the time of the bottleneck, the climate plunged to become cold and dry, some say triggered by the eruption of Mount Toba, an event that probably only made matters a little worse and only for about 5 years or so. In any event, the genetic evidence has been interpreted as a bottleneck occurring 70,000 years ago, when the “effective” size of the human population declined to about 10,000 pairs of adult men and women. The actual total population may have been 100,000 people or more, spread over an area larger than a million square kilometers. Until recently, Ethiopia was a possible candidate refuge area, but recent evidence from Lake Malawi now points to the big African lakes as possible refugia. Unfortunately, lake levels may be slightly higher now than 164,000 years ago.

Nevertheless, the coastal areas of some African lakes may be the key to puzzle of modern human origins. Louis Leakey and his generation were not so specialized that they did not take into account paleogeography, something that seems to have been lost today.

Fred Colbourne

From Ross Blick:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): As a biologist and one who accepts evolution as a fact, in a similar vein to that of Earnst Mayr, I share Dr Watson’s view that distinct races exist in almost all species including Homo sapiens. The real question is not whether one race is more intelligent than another, as that question has no meaning, the question really is; How well adapted a particular race of humans is with respect to how well that race lives in harmony with its environment? As Dr Watson must realize, Americans cannot continue for much longer with their life style as the oil runs out. Just who will survive into the next century is a moot point. However all objective biologists accept that races vary in their fitness for survival, irrispective of whether they are blue-green algae, amphipods, or any other species of living organism.

Ross Blick
White Cliffs, NSW, Australia

From George Dawson:

Re: Study: Neandertals had “language gene” (Oct. 18): The distinction between articulation and language needs to be emphasized. Language, or the use of symbols to communicate within a species, is fairly common. Although other species have far fewer symbols (sounds, posturing) than we, they still have language. Even deaf mutes have language, though they can not articulate well verbally.

I propose that language proceeded verbalization altogether, and is far more ancient than primates. Dogs know that. They can learn to understand us, and we can distinguish differing meanings in the sounds they make. This is communication. It is language. Dogs do not have a lot to work with compared with humans, obviously. But to say they do not possess language is to diminish the meaning of the word language.

The higher brain works by associating symbols with memories, emotions, and actions. This trait is common to mammals, birds, and some of the aquatic species. We humans have a lot more capacity for memory and thought. But what separates us from the other animals is this combined with the ability to articulate.

That said scientists would believe that “language” could be turned on or off with one gene is highly disappointing. That one gene could be responsible for a human’s inability to articulate is believable. But supposing that this one gene would perform the same function in a Neanderthal as it does in a human is, well, presumptuous. And this is where science differs from reporting.

Thanks for the great articles.

From Barry Goldman:

Re: Nobel scientist suspended from job over race comments (Oct. 18): Three points are relevant.

1. If we accept evolution, and that intelligence has evolved, ergo there has to be differences between people (and groups of people) for the evolutionary process to work.

2. There is a relevant adage that “one cannot solve a problem unless one recognises it”. It won’t help those with different (note no mention of superior or inferior here) intelligences if we refuse to acknowledge that differences exist.

3. It is disturbing to see this encroachment on freedom of intellectual expression.

Dr Barry Goldman
Centre for Fishing & Fisheries Research
School of Earth & Environmental Science
James Cook University
Townsville, Qld. Australia 4811

From Joanne Conington:

Re: Hormone found to predict mother-child bonding (Oct. 15): I’m surprised you highlighted the maternal bonding result - it has been well-known in the animal world for a few decades or more that oxytocin plays a pivotal role in maternal behaviours so it’s unsurprising that it happens to humans as well. Also - animals with higher litter sizes have higher circulating oxytocin levels - so studies between twin-rearing mums and single-baby rearing mums will probably show higher maternal behaviours for twins vs singles. Surely the human science world has done worlk on this??? As a scientist, and a Mother of both a set of twins and then a single baby - I am testimony to this finding!

Joanne Conington
Bush Estate
Penicuik, Midlothian, Scotland

From Aju Mukhopadhyay:

Re: A language dies every two weeks, researchers say (Sept. 18): The report is disturbing indeed. I strongly feel that this should not happen for the harmonious growth of the languages and cultures. Every language group should be encouraged to speak or write in their own languages and if the group is big translators should be engaged so that they can communicate with other groups, central authority, etc. They should not be compelled to communicate in other languages than their own other than where it is unavoidable or in official communications.

October 08, 2007

From Beatriz Luna Chacón:

Re: Pain relief without the numbness (Oct. 3): As What I first see on the page is a picture of a tiny defenseless creature, and the text that goes with it: “In a new study with rats, sci­en­tists claim to have fi­nally fig­ured out how to knock out the pain-sens­ing cells only, potentially re­vo­lu­tion­iz­ing pain treat­ment.”

Are you aware that more than 115 million animals in North America are needlessly tortured, poisoned, maimed, and killed in laboratories every year. Dogs, cats, monkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, and other animals suffer through cruel chemical, cosmetic, pesticide, and food-additive tests—among other harmful experiments—every day?

Helpless animals, some just babies, live their lives inside cages in labs. They are force-fed, injected with toxins, inflicted with diseases, have aerosols sprayed into their eyes, and have electrodes inserted in their brains. Some have tissue cut from their bodies without any anesthesia. The animals who manage to survive are left severely damaged—physically and emotionally.

Animal testing, also known as vivisection, is not only cruel—it’s pointless, unreliable, and bad science. We know that more effective and humane alternatives are available that are both more reliable and less expensive. The U. S.government’s own scientific advisory board, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), recently reported that many animal tests are useless and should largely be replaced by superior non-animal methods.

Please STOP supporting and advertising any product that is animal cruel. People are now informed and we will not consume any product that is manufactured under such shame. Thanks for listening. Please visit peta.org for more info.

(Editor’s note: We see two issues here. (1) Do you think it is wrong to use cosmetics tested painfully on animals? Yes, you say you do. This is a conscientious position and we applaud it. (2) Would you stop using a life-saving drug for yourself, or your mother or father because it was tested painfully on animals?...

You are correct that the National Research Council recently reported that animal testing could be reduced. Unfortunately, they were mostly not talking about medical research.)

October 04, 2007

From Erik E. Santiso:

Re: Built-in brain “templates” may clue tots to threats (Sept. 18): I read your article with interest, but I was a bit surprised to see some statements like:

- A “venerable philosophical notion” holds that newborns’ brains are “blank slates”.

- This is part of a larger body of “new” research into this kind of phenomenon.

Now, I know that the views of experimental and behavioral psychology have been extremely prevalent in the US for a long time. This is probably due in part to a (in my opinion, mistaken) belief that the methods of the early psychoanalysts like Freud and Jung were not “scientific”. However, the idea of inherited behavioral traits is not new, and it is certainly not against any venerable philosophical notion - it was introduced about half a century ago by Jung. He has been repeatedly dismissed, unfortunately, by some in the scientific community mainly because of his acceptance that spirituality and other “anti-scientific” ideas are an inherent part of the human psyche (a conclusion that, ironically, was obtained by applying the scientific method), and his ideas are too often forgotten by people in the science community. Anyway, I’m happy to see that experimental psychologists are finally coming to the same conclusions that Jung came to about 50 years ago, but I would like to see him be recognized for coming up with those ideas in the first place.

From Alberto Portugheis:

Re: Good fences make good neighbors, scientists find (Sept. 13): Your piece on the above mentioned subject makes me sick, apart from being very disappointing. The last thing I’d have expected from World of Science is a war-promoting piece of news.

New Eng­land Com­plex Sys­tems In­sti­tute is located, as you know, in Cambridge, Mass. The whole Boston area, you must also know, , with MIT at the lead, is home to scientists dedicated to create wars in the world. A majority of military contracts, from the US Armed Forces, CIA and FBI, go to scientists in Mass.

Not only weapons, but new materials for uniforms that soldiers will wear in the future, when fighting wars in hot countries or in space, are being developed in Mass.

The article claims researchers say: “par­tial separa­t­ion with un­clear bound­aries fos­ters con­flict”. It proceeds to give as an example former Yugoslavia and India. What the researchers fail to describe is how well and happy people different ethnic groups live together, until politicians, forced by their paymasters or controllers, the Church, Banks, Freemasonry, weapon manufacturers, corporate Press, etc, educate societies to prepare them for war, then organize the war.

Countries big and small, whether occupied by people from the same religion or 30 different religions, live together, have no problem in living in Peace, but they are not allowed to do so. WHO buys the weapons for the Armed Forces? WHO trains and pays Armed Forces personnel? WHO decides “we’ll have a war”? the People????? NEVER !!!!!! do soldiers follow “Peoples’ instructions”? NEVER. Wars exist because Governments and politiciasns want them.

Serbs, Croats, Slovenians, Macedonians, lived all together in Peace for many years.come US and EU, tell them - and help them - to separate and that’s it: wars starts. US Governments follow the Roman’s - and the Vatican’s - law “Divide and Rule”. This is the best way to keep the War Machine going and making lots of money.

In Britain, the Pakistani and Indian military train in the same schools, spend their study time together, have their meals together, at weekends go to the cinema together, etc, but Governments spend money sending them to train, so that they can go back to their respective countries and kill each other.

Why don’t you tell scientists at NECSI to study politicians’ minds? to see why they are so avid for power and fame? why they are prepared to corrupt themselves in order to gain fortunes, big and small? Tell scientists to study WHY politicians and Churches do everything they can, through education, to keep societies divided? why couldn’t scientists analize WHY politicians insist on giving an education to children and teenagers that will make them violent, lovers of violence and weapons?

Well, much more I could write, but it is time I stop. My blood’s starting to boil.

From Nance Ross:

Re: Built-in brain “templates” may clue tots to threats (Sept. 18): Why should it be so surprising that humans would have such defensive templates built in? I watch my baby pigeons cower if a crow or hawk flies over, and have observed puppies making swimming motions when held over water, without ever seeing their parents in water, or swimming. We are part of the animal world, and I am sure that no baby is a “clean slate” at birth. I will pick up mice, snakes and have even handled a bat that got stuck in the attic, but come apart with panic when I see even a tiny spider... bet that was there from a long line of ancestors who programmed it over the eons.

Ms. Nance Ross

From Ruth Rosin:

Re: Built-in brain “templates” may clue tots to threats (Sept. 18): All individual traits (including behavioral traits) develop under inseparable effects of both genes & environment. There is no such thing as genetically predetermined tendencies to develop specific behaviors.

Human babies do not begin to develop at birth. They begin to develop at conception, and they experience moving, and kicking their limbs, as well as sucking their thumbs before they are born. Obviously their brain is not a tabula rasa when they are born. But the idea that they have a genetically predetermined tendency to learn to fear spiders, but not dogs, is utterly preposterous; all the more so since wild predetors the size of dogs are far more dangerous to humans than spiders.

Following are additional com­ments on this ent­ry. Type your own in­to the space right of the first one.

From Howard Shevrin:

Re: Built-in brain “templates” may clue tots to threats (Sept. 18): Fascinating. Five months seems pretty old. Studies using time of attention have been done with much younger infants. That should be their next step. Funny they don’t cite the Spitz research identifying a smiling template at a very young age. The survival value of a baby’s smile is obvious. It appears very early, about 2 weeks I think.

So you won’t misunderstand about my not signing the letter: 1) I do think the att/rel is mainly your baby, 2) as you know I still have misgivings about the fundamental basis for the distinction that as yet I cannot fully and persuasively justify, but it’s there and I devote much thought to it and the whole issue of similarity.

From Edward Medalis:

Re: Built-in brain “templates” may clue tots to threats (Sept. 18): Related to this article is a personal experience. I bought a miniature Schnauzer dog as a pup. Very soon after bringing her home I was watching her play in the backyard. Earlier, a chair had been spray painted in the yard and a snake like black line was left in the grass. When the pup romped close to the black line it all of a sudden jumped high sideways away from the line and her previous direction of travel. This pup had never seen a real snake and was not startled by any noise. It was very apparent that the pup was dramatically frightened by the line. I concluded that it was highly probable that this fear was realized due to factors not learned by experience in its young life.

From Opeyemi Salawu:

Re: Built-in brain “templates” may clue tots to threats (Sept. 18): I quite agree with your findings and it is not a new thing that babies are afraid of these creatures (spiders or snakes) even without seeing one. Well, when it comes to heredity, I would say ‘the history of mankind is written in the genes’. I also want you to consider the fact that infants would cry at the sound of a roar. This is not because they have never seen a lion but because their brain signals ‘DANGER’. Why? It’s written in the genetic configuration. Why is it written specifically in the genes? A non-scientist (a religious man) would tell you that it is ‘reincarnation’-the believe that we were once in existence and when the body dies, it gets reborn in a new life’. In his previous life, he had encounters and nobody dares to forget his deepest fear. It is only natural that a new born cannot speak instantly. Language is not a test.

Well, in the more rational sense, it is not a surprise that human brain is not blank, I mean it has never been blank. It contains hidden information and has infants grow up, they either add to it or develop what’s already there. You might what to consider ‘Environmental factors as the main focus point.

From John C. (Jack) Garner:

Re: Arctic ice disappearing (Sept. 20): I have enjoyed reading practically every article in WORLD SCIENCE since I discovered the magazine serendipitously over a year ago. Generally, the reporting has been well within ‘neutral boundaries’, e.g. reporting factual data and properly assigning commentary to those who said it. However, I get very frustrated when I read articles by reporters/editors who pass on statements by others as if they were factual when they are not. Usually I will “bite my tongue” and remain silent. But not this time. The following errors in reporting are too blatant to ignore.

In particular, several comments in this article ‘rile’ me. --Third paragraph: “Sci­en­tists have at­trib­ut­ed the van­ish­ing ice to glob­al warm­ing and said it could dis­ap­pear in sum­mers by mid-century.” Who are these “scientists”? What are their qualifications? Do their writings represent scientific fact or their own personal agenda-driven opinions? Are those opinions written, reflecting the fact that their research/opinions are paid for by politicians/political groups with an agenda (such as the UN Council on Global Warming)? - Also third paragraph: “Ris­ing con­centra­t­ions of heat-trapping green­house gas­es in the at­mos­phere, mostly due to hu­man ac­ti­vi­ties, . . . OH, REALLY?? Where did this come from other than from some politically correct sheet of ‘talking points’’? The statement is not even attributed, this time, to that generalized “scientists”. We are in a time when those “scientists” cannot get a local weather forecast correct beyond a 50/50 guess, when the existing woefully inadequate climate models cannot repeat results consistently, when again, those same “scientists” cannot explain long-term climate change: (Which of them has explained how the Ice Ages started or how they stopped?; which of them has explained why for approximately 90% of Earth’s history the global climate has been warmer than present day?) How, then, can the claim be made that global warming is “. . mostly due to hu­man ac­ti­vi­ties, . . “?

As a smaller side issue in the first paragraph: The statement by Mark Serreze “. . ab­so­lutely stunned us. .” I suppose can be understood within the context of a personal, first response. However, This statement has me puzzled: “. . ap­pears to have reached a min­i­mum on Sept. 16, shat­ter­ing all pre­vi­ous lows. . “. It also is an un-attributed comment. Most articles I read containing this type of verbiage, and then only rarely in headlines, is confined to publications such as THE ENQUIRER. In scientific reporting, the use of these adjectives is generally considered inflamatory and is not allowed! Is this because your magazine is oriented more toward the general public? I had previously viewed your reporting standards as adhering to a slightly higher scale.

The remainder of the article is well-written, confining reporting to factual statements and analysis with no other commentary.

I sincerely ask you to evaluate your reporting standards and consider avoiding these types of reporting pitfalls. Please don’t make me write comments again in the event that I read: “Melting Sea Ice Raises Ocean Levels”!!

My comments are my own and do not reflect the opinions of the staff or management of my company.

Thank you, otherwise for your publication.

John C. (Jack) Garner
EnviroGroup Limited
7009 So Potomac St., Suite 300
Centennial, CO, 80112-6026

(Editor’s note: We thank Mr. Garner for his compliments on our other articles. For this story, too, we believe an attentive reading will show that all statements within it are attributed. If we attribute a claim generally to “scientists,” this means we’ve found that at least the great majority of scientists in the field agree with it. World Science stands by the article in full.)

Following are additional com­ments on this ent­ry. Type your own in­to the space right of the first one.

From Graham Reinders:

Re: Good fences make good neighbors, scientists find (Sept. 13): This article is not valid and based on non relevant assumptions. Mixed neighbourhood violence is absolutely about human prejudice, human greed and human opportunism. We the Species will do whatever we think we can get away with to gain advantage over another. When dictators hold the big stick nobody dares to cheat. When any one group holds the power no other group cheats them. It is all in the perception of what we think we can get away with.

From Chuck Lorentson:

Re: Built-in brain “templates” may clue tots to threats (Sept. 18): As I was reading the report/research, I kept thinking of expectant mothers, and how they would play certain kinds of music, and then at birth or there after, the child/baby had a leaning/liking for the same kind of music. Could the fear/dislike of the parent somehow be reflected in the baby/child early upbringing???

Seems more likely. The “uptake” of a baby is pretty amazing, if you think about it.

From Jedidiah Palosaari:

Re: Good fences make good neighbors, scientists find (Sept. 13): You’ve got to be kidding me. Regardless of the experimental results and the science behind the article presented, were you and the scientists in question that clueless about Robert Frost’s poem? It is quite obviously deeply ironic and sarcastic- and this is well known by literary and poetical analysts. His whole point in that poem was that fences do not make good neighbors. It might well be that good divisions do make good neighbors, as the study suggests- but that’s a very different thing from a fence, or a wall; and very different from what Frost was trying to suggest.

Jedidiah Palosaari
Seattle WA

From Alex Kaivarainen:

Re: What is consciousness? Study aims to settle debate (May 20): Just a few days ago I submitted to the arXiv (International e-print archive) the paper, entitled: “Elementary Act of Consciousness or Cycle of Mind, involving Distant and Nonlocal Interaction” here.

The proposed model of the origination and role of nonlocal interaction in brain is a background of new fundamental Bivacuum mediated nonlocal interaction, like mind-matter, mind-mind (telepathy) interaction and remote vision (out of body experience).

The corresponding physical mechanism is described in my other paper: “Unified Theory of Bivacuum, Matter, Fields & Time as a Background of New Fundamental Bivacuum Mediated Interaction and Paranormal Phenomena” also online: here.

From Graham Reinders:

Re: Finding said to show “race isn’t real” scrapped (Sept. 3): Race may be the wrong words to use becasue it is politically charged.

I am a a plant prof. and a keen observer in 22 countries.

I am absolutely sure we will find group genetic evolutions for dealing with ancient environments. Some will be mental and some will be physical.

Race is too arbitrary a definition because world travel has spread genes pretty far into people claiming to be a certain “Race.”

Canada, I believe, says 1/16 blood makes one an “Indian” for legal purposes. Does Australia have any 100% pure, 100 generation, Aborigines??. The Chinese were trading there extensively in the 1300’s, who else?

From Jason W. Smith:

Re: “Spooky” atomic links could lead to “quantum internet” (Sept. 5): I read with considerable interest your article on the feasibility of quantum computing. I simply wish to point out that there is an existing “real world” explanation for how such a computer might be built and it is in my work at the website below, entitled New Perspectives in Physics. I am tempted to try and present it here, but it requires an understanding of a new concept of atomic structure and therefore considerable explanatory theoretical buildup before we get to the idea of practical applications. At any rate in the event anyone is interested all four papers are at this website and have been for some seven years.

Jason W. Smith, Ph.D.

From Dr. Tom Anderson:

Re: Surge in youth bipolar disorder diagnoses seen (Sept. 4): No one, child or adult, has “bipolar.” It’s a mythical illness. It doesn’t exist. There is no set of symptoms supporting such a diagnosis, no medication to treat any such condition. Everything from schizophrenia to hiccups has become “bipolar.” People suffering from chronic depression are called “bipolar” because of the mood swings caused by their antidepressants. Those without mood swings are called “unipolar.” Are the rest of us “nonpolar”? The whole thing is silly beyond belief. The shrinks have all gone daffy.

Dr. Tom Anderson
Health Sciences Research Institute
Summerland, British Columbia