Clash of the Titans IX: Nature v. Nurture

03/30/2007, 11:30 am -- by | 4 Comments

In this corner, defending the primacy of nurture, is Chloe!

And in this corner, fighting for the power of nature, is Tom!

There are many good reasons to support the nurture theory, though I can only outline two here. The first reason is the Flynn Effect, named for the psychologist who pinpointed the phenomenon. The second has to do with individual socioeconomic status.

The Flynn Effect is the overwhelming worldwide IQ increase over the last several decades. In 1932, the average IQ was 100; 110 was considered intelligent. By 1997, however, the average IQ had climbed to 120, with 130 classified as intelligent. If we know anything about evolution, micro- or macro-, we know that it takes a very long time for such a drastic change to occur. It shouldn’t happen in 65 years.

What caused this jump in IQ, if not nature? Why, it must be nurture! In the past century, the boom of knowledge about healthy eating, child rights and education has revolutionized the way we treat children. No longer do our sons and daughters work in factories or fields instead of going to school. No longer do our tots go days without eating. And thank goodness, no longer do our spawn eat potatoes meal after meal after grueling meal. Today’s kids study till 18, eat all types of vegetables, and beg money from Mom and Dad rather than working. The environment in which today’s children are raised has improved drastically. They’ve been given the tools (green beans, a pencil and a law against working before 16) to go further than any child before them. And where does nature come into this? Well — it doesn’t.

The second reason nurture is the more vital developmental process is socioeconomic. I’ll focus on America, though this could be applied across the globe. There are three major classes — upper, middle, and lower. The majority of the upper class attends your Harvards, most of the middle class goes to your Houghtons, and the lower class is lucky to mix a GED in with the criminal records. A sweeping generalization, but bear with me.

Now look at the genetic makeup of each class. A large portion (81%) of the upper class is…you guessed it — white! The middle class has nearly the same percentage of all races as the population, but the lower class has higher percentages of blacks (21%) and Hispanics (13%). According to the nature argument, these groups are in their position because genes determined their intelligence. That stinks of eugenics to me. Not all proponents of nature are eugenicists, but the implications about race and intelligence are frightening.

How can the classes be explained by nurture? Many members of the lower classes have been oppressed in myriad ways, like being displaced into vastly different cultures, and their environment has done little to help them reach their greatest potential. The middle class has not faced such opposition; if individual members have, they’ve overcome it. Meanwhile, their environment allows the upper class to devote more time to studies, politics, the arts, etc. Their surroundings — nice homes, private schools, country clubs — make it remarkably easy to reach their full intellectual potential.

Silver spoons, ladies and gentlemen, have nothing to do with DNA.

Any and every human being is a complex, miraculous creation. As any dating-site spokesperson will tell you, there are innumerable aspects to any person’s personality, all of which can be adequately expressed by a picture and a short paragraph.

This complexity develops from a dizzying array of factors, both internal and external, the interaction of which eventually weaves the tapestry of a human life. While it would be absolute folly to ignore the input of external, artificial affects, the fact remains that the natural aspects of a person’s constitution are the more important.

In order to explore the dominance of nature over nurture, it’s vital to consider where to draw the line between the two. For the sake of this argument, nurture’s realm can only extend to the arena of the senses. In other words, we’ll consider a human being to be like a computer. In this example, the “nurture” component would be the programming. Education, beliefs, language, television, radio — these are what make up the realm of nurture. The hardware itself, and the electricity that causes it to run and function properly, is nature.

The human machine is admirable on a number of levels. However, which aspect of humanity has been most lauded in story and song historically? Our plasticity. Call it whatever you’d like — mastery over the elements, triumph in the face of adversity, what have you. Evolutionary theory has classically been based on the ability of an organism to adapt to its surroundings, but man has been the world’s only creation able to bend that rule back upon itself on a large scale, drastically changing his environment to suit himself.

Given the enormity of cultural differences among societies that have accomplished amazing feats individually and collectively, we clearly cannot consider mere cultural programming the key to unlocking the secrets of humanity’s greatest accomplishments. The Middle Eastern cultures that brought into being the Great Pyramids differed a great deal from those who constructed the equally Great Wall of China. The society which oversaw the manifest destiny of the United States resembled only in passing the same nation that first landed men on the moon.

All these people were different in culture, were different in color, and were different in education, beliefs, and values. The only concrete similarity shared among these vastly disparate peoples is the 1.2% of their genomes that differs from that of a chimpanzee.

The soul. The breath of G-d. Self-actualization. Whatever it is that makes us think, “What if?”

It is that aspect of humanity which has birthed the cultures, societies and ideas that have so radically changed the world over the past six millennia.

Not the other way around.


Going Home Again

03/30/2007, 10:00 am -- by | No Comments

One afternoon the three of us decided to set out on an expedition to rediscover one of our old forts. It had been two years since it had been in active use; we had moved on to new territory. Our reasons for the search are long since forgotten, if we ever had any. Maybe we thought we’d left something useful there, maybe we were on a greatest forts tour. Whatever the case, we headed to the campfire circle and out into the woods.

Not too far down the path we came across something that vaguely looked kind of like where the fort maybe should have been. But it couldn’t be; we vividly remembered it being much more impressive. So on we went.

As we got deeper into the woods, we began to wonder why it had never seemed to take this long to reach the fort before. But we couldn’t possibly have passed it yet. Surely we would recognize our own fort.

As we journeyed deeper into the brush, a tree branch knocked off my glasses. My surroundings became a blur. I can’t see anything without my glasses.

“What kind of bush is that?”

Continued here!

Joke of the Day, 3/30/07

03/30/2007, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

Two Baptist ministers were talking about the immorality of the country today.

One of them said to the other, “I’ll tell you one thing — I sure didn’t sleep with my wife before we were married! How about you?”

And the other says, “Well, I don’t know — what was her maiden name?”

Is belief offensive?

03/29/2007, 4:19 pm -- by | 4 Comments

This week on my campus, the several Christian groups have all participated in a campaign called “I Agree With Craig.” Junior Craig Jones printed a statement of faith as an ad in the campus paper on Monday, hundreds of signs were posted, Christian students wore “I Agree With Craig” T-shirts all week, more ads were taken out where students, faculty, and staff said why they agreed with Craig, and several events have been, or will be, held — including a praise celebration, Craig’s public testimony, and a forum discussion on Christianity.

This campaign has unified the Christians on campus, many of whom were not aware how large their numbers were, or who else in their classes believed as they did. But naturally, the campaign has also caused a bit of controversy. Today’s “point-counterpoint” section of the newspaper concerned the campaign, and the featured columnist argued — well, I’ll let you see just what he argued. Go ahead, check it out. I’ll wait.


*twiddles thumbs*


Wow, huh? Pretty stunned? So was I!

Let’s go through this guy’s argument. First of all, public displays of personal faith — apparently ranging from street preachers to written testimonies to unobtrusive clothing — make him “anxious,” much like you might squirm in the face of face-sucking on the bus. Fair enough so far. But what’s his solution? Well, it’s not to get a thicker skin, or to engage the actual ideas involved — no, this brave and brilliant gentleman has a problem with something far more fundamental — the very right of others to express what they believe in a public place, provided it has anything to do with the “binary” message of right and wrong. A full-blooded assault on at least two of the First Amendment’s underlying themes!

In Ben Peskin’s world, any statement you make, any belief you have that someone might reasonably disagree with, is best saved for your bedroom, late at night, behind closed doors, maybe even under your covers with a flashlight — and even then you ought to whisper it, because there’s a chance he might overhear and get a little uneasy down in his tummy. I’d love to see him teach a math class. “Class! Everyone got an A again, unless, of course, you don’t think that particular symbol represents an A, in which case you got whatever grade you want! Yes, 3 times 3 equals whatever you want it to, provided of course you don’t arrogantly stand up for your answer as right!”

Metaphysics and religion are different from mathematics, but closely examine Ben’s argument. He’s not arguing Craig is wrong; he has no interest in even considering Craig’s beliefs. His problem is strictly with the fact that Craig, and thousands of other Christians, stood up and shared them. Apparently in Ben’s world, it’s better to actively silence any messy discussion of religion, morals, diet soda or (one would imagine) politics, than allow such conversations to be shared publicly — through any means. Just think of all the Pepto-Bismol Ben would need if people were allowed to argue! It’s much better to just stay home and stay quiet, Christians, rather than “rolling around nude on the quad making out” with your four-word T-shirts. For Ben’s sake. Please.

Is it arrogant to share your beliefs, as Ben suggests, especially if they imply that others are wrong? I don’t think so. But if it is, then lo and behold, Ben is the most arrogant — after all, he’s the only one with both the courage to take a hard position and the intellectual confusion to order his opponents to just shut up and obey.

Ask Bweinh! Poll — Comedians

03/29/2007, 10:30 am -- by | 4 Comments

Yes, it’s another Ask Bweinh! poll, brought to you today by your friends at the Scooter Store. Did you know you may be eligible for a FREE powerchair? Don’t be limited by your mobility! Call the Scooter Store now and request a free Mobility Consultation! Wilford Brimley did, and after ten days, we were able to get him off the couch!

Here are’s favorite comedians.

Rank Comedian Points
1. David Letterman 12
2. Jim Gaffigan 7
3. Jerry Seinfeld 6
4-6 (tie) Bill Cosby, Stephen Wright, Scott Adams 5
7-9 (tie) Steve Carell, Andy Rooney, Will Ferrell 4
10-13 (tie) Jimmy Kimmel, Rodney Dangerfield, Stephen Colbert, Bob Marley 3
Other Conan O’Brien, Diane Sawyer, Frank Caliendo, Dave Hopping, Chris Rock, Andy Samberg, Carrot Top, Lewis Black 1-2

Quote of the Day, 3/29/07

03/29/2007, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

“. . . human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”
– T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

Some More Announcements

03/29/2007, 1:16 am -- by | 6 Comments

— Starting with next week’s Bible discussion (Genesis 19-22), our contributors will be joined by a different visiting pastor each week, to give additional insight into the passage. Next Wednesday’s minister will be Captain Steve Carroll of the Stapleton, Staten Island corps of the Salvation Army.

— A new feature is coming this weekend!

— An update on the NCAA Tournament Pool finds this humble correspondent in the lead — on the strength of four correct Final Four picks. In fact, I’m the world’s newest huge Ohio State fan, as tonight I discovered that a Buckeye victory over Georgetown will almost guarantee me a victory in the Law Review/Science & Technology Journal pool at the law school! And if Ohio State and UCLA both get it done, I’m a lock, and I may or may not be a little richer next month.

Evolution Evolution

03/28/2007, 7:06 pm -- by | 4 Comments

Regardless of your opinion on macroevolution, microevolution is a well-documented phenomenon. In this process, gradual genetic changes that naturally accumulate in a population manifest themselves in changes in an individual’s ability to pass genetic material on to subsequent generations. If the changes make individual reproduction more successful, they become more frequent in the population; if they do not, they are less likely to become common in the population. In this manner, traits which make an individual more likely to reproduce successfully are considered “good” by the population, and those traits (if genetic in nature) become more common.

By its very nature, this system works best in a population exposed to an outside stress. A situation that makes life (and thereby reproduction) difficult reinforces even the slightest changes in the population, enhancing their effect. As a result, populations that face difficult situations over long periods of time change more quickly, relative to their brethren in more idyllic environs. A classic example takes place in hospitals, where antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria develop and crowd out their fellows much more quickly than in the world at large.

The problem with this process, which has worked quite well for millennia, is the same problem that affects us all — complacency. Once we become comfortable, we find motivation difficult. If a fellow can graduate from sixth grade and walk into a six-figure job, why would he endure ten more years of schooling? It works the same for large populations — when any given individual in a group can pass on his genes, and expect them to survive at the same rate as any other member, how can the group evolve?

Conventionally, evolution cannot continue, in the way referred to as “nature.” There are ways in which a population can change, but they bespeak the other crucial aspect of human development — nurture. Friday, in the next Clash of the Titans, Chloe and I will debate the nature vs. nurture argument. Bearing that in mind, until next week this article will remain:

To be continued.

Battle of the Bands IV

03/28/2007, 1:00 pm -- by | 2 Comments

Because of how close the fight is, I’m declaring that both A Separate Lot and Say You Are My Sister have advanced to the next round! Here are this week’s combatants; the winner will be announced Saturday.


Bible Discussion — Genesis 15-18

03/28/2007, 10:00 am -- by | No Comments

This week, looks at the next four chapters of the Bible, Genesis 15-18.

Read our take on Genesis 1-4, Genesis 5-9, and Genesis 10-14 here!

Contrary to what I heard a bohemian college boy tell two adoring Gothic lady friends in an all-night diner on Monday, the God of the Old Testament really is the same as the God of the New Testament. In these chapters, we see the same love and desire for fellowship that sent salvation in the form of Christ, expressed in an intensely personal covenant with Abraham and his tribe.

Mike, Josh J:
God here chose Isaac to bear the precious covenant, while at the same time blessing Ishmael, though he was outside the covenant.

Hagar was the Egyptian boomerang. From there, it was her descendants that would bring Isaac’s back to the Nile.

Abraham cut a ram in two pieces. What did that look like? How hard must it have been?

God asked Hagar to return to a situation where she was being treated in a hostile fashion by her mistress and to “submit to her” — not that this is a prescription for people to return to abusive households, I just never noticed it before.

Interestingly enough, God knows and tells Abraham precisely what’s going to happen to his as-yet unborn descendants, as well as the future iniquity of the current inhabitants of the land — not yet complete, but just give it about 400 years.

Sure, it takes place before the Kosher laws were handed down, but I had to notice the meal Abram prepared for the three men (or angels, or G-d), was decidedly NOT kosher. “So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.” Maybe that law got thrown in there because G-d didn’t like the pairing when Abram served it?

Continued here!

Joke of the Day, 3/28/07

03/28/2007, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

The Pope was visiting town and all the residents dressed up in their best clothes and lined up on Main Street, hoping for a personal blessing from the pontiff. One man put on a three-piece suit, and was certain the Pope would stop and talk with him. He was standing next to a downtrodden old bum who didn’t smell very good, and as the Pope came walking by, he leaned over, whispered something into the ear of the bum, but then walked right by the man.

He couldn’t believe it, but then he realized — the Pope won’t talk to him because he’s most concerned about the poor and the unfortunate. So he quickly gave the bum $20 to trade clothes, ran down the street, and lined up for another chance for the Pope to stop and talk with him.

Sure enough, the Pope walked right up to him, leaned over close, and said, “I thought I told you to get the **** out of here!”

For Mr. Slevenzinkin, Wherever You May Find Him…

03/27/2007, 10:10 pm -- by | 2 Comments

She and I had this game we’d play, you see. We called it “Tumult,” where we’d talk for lengthy periods of time about two different topics. It was a give-and-take conversation with pauses and eye contact as normal; you just weren’t allowed to engage the other person’s line of conversation at all. This included laughter, eye rolling, and — if I was “on” — even blushing. If you did engage the other person, you lost the game, and the $2.85 for the banana split. Banana

“So Ernie, from Sesame Street, died of AIDS,” she’d begin, turning her coffee mug in a slow circle. “Bert’s sad and all, but he likes the extra closet space.”

“It was like no other town I’ve been to,” I’d respond, flashing my eyes for emphasis and picking at imaginary lint on my sleeve. “The ’57 Chevy’s looked, for once, like they actually were from 1957. Rusted through, door hinges re-welded countless times, but still dutifully making their daily trips to the Circle K for cigarettes. The 15-year-old girls ever plotting their escape while unwittingly taking the steps that would inexorably keep them there forever. 40 ounces. 40 ounces can change a life, they say in Banning, California. Or, rather, can keep it exactly the same.”

“Gum?,” she offered, sliding the silver-wrapped piece out at me in a fluid motion. I was no fool.

“The President has his own movie theater in the basement of the White House, ya know? I bet he’s watching something right now, too; I know I would be. Newsies – the director’s cut.”

She paused, but not enough for me to claim. She always defended Newsies.

“Radiohead’s new album? I hear it’s just going to be 12 tracks of straight static. But angry, artistic static.”

I was the one that paused this time, but only because I contemplated claiming victory. I always defended Radiohead, and she was returning my volley, a plausible bungle. Not now, I cautioned myself. You can get a sure victory.

“See this?,” I asked, pointing to my forearm. “That’s where it bit me. Latched right on and started to roll, carrying me down into the dark depths of the swamp. I screamed and screamed, but still we sank, leaving my world for his — wanna know how I got out?”

“If something ever happens to me,” she responded, thoroughly unimpressed, “I want you to take this to a Mr. Slevenzinkin in Prague. Hotel of the Revolution, room 214.” She slid me a butter knife. “He’ll know what to do. Then head to Haiti and never look back.”

“Job? Never look back.”

She peeled the bananas by saying my name like that, looking me in the eyes. I knew I had to strike before she regrouped.

“That’s a nice shirt you’re wearing . . . does it come in your size?”



Laughing, eye-rolling, blushing and kicking me suddenly in the shins — all ice cream where I come from…

Clash of the Titans VIII: Violent Video Games

03/27/2007, 11:00 am -- by | No Comments

In this corner, defending violent video games, is Djere!

And in this corner, attacking violent video games, is Steve!

I’ve been stomping n00bs like Steve for years now. They’re all the same — whiny, liberal, gun-controlling, solitaire players who want to limit our choice in video games.

I submit there is only one option: violence.

Much like there can be no salvation without complete submission to the pope, in the same way Hot Topic couldn’t exist without teeming throngs of unwashed emo kids, and just like you can’t dominate an Enemy Territory server without being prepared to pistol-whip each and every member of the opposing clan — there can be no gaming without violence.

But you know this already. Did you ask, the first time you tried to rescue the princess, why it was that Bowser had to die? Or did you roll up your sleeves, loosen up your thumbs, and do what desperately needed doing? You didn’t sit him down with the UN Security Council, allow him to retain most of the land he had invaded, impose heavy economic sanctions on the Mushroom Kingdom, then provide the Li’l Goombas and Bullet Bills with airlifted food drops?

Did you?


You didn’t.

You waited for him to throw his hammers, and then — and only then — while he was triumphantly jumping in the air, you dashed underneath him, released the lever that supported his brick bridge, and then watched him flail and fall, screaming all the way, into a terrible grave of red-hot, unforgiving lava.

How about when those ghosts came chasing after Pac-Man? You didn’t cower in fear, right?

No! You chomped your way over to the power pellets and you digested the ectoplasm out of those spectral fiends, then you followed it up with a nice cherry for dessert.

And when Dig Dug started pumping those monsters full of whatever bizarre radiation he pumped into them, you didn’t cringe! No, you did your best to beat the high score!

If we weren’t decrying violent games, we’d be decrying violent TV; if not TV, then violent literature. If we follow the trail back far enough, pwned fools like Steve would be trying to outlaw the very history of our nation and our world — even the Bible.

Humans are violent creatures, and in moderation, venting that violent urge allows for healthy expression of our natural instinct to fight.

There are only two types of non-violent video games — the card game and the simulator. And if it comes to the point where the only social interaction you maintain throughout your week is among your Sims, not only do you need a few friends, but there’s probably a whole lot more wrong with you than with the average Medal of Honor player.

I proudly support pixel-on-pixel violence.

Now where did I leave that Tanooki suit?

What you see and do changes you.

I have a bit of an addictive personality. When I start playing a game, like gin rummy, I play it a lot. Once I play it enough, maybe a day or two, I see it when I go to sleep. The more time I spend on it, the more I train my mind, and the better I get. What I choose to experience sticks in my brain.

But as I drift off to sleep tonight, debating which club to discard, I’ll pause to wonder what’s sending others off to dreamland.

According to the New Scientist, those who play violent video games show diminished brain response to images of real-life violence. Other researchers scanned the brains of kids who played a violent video game and found increases in emotional arousal and a corresponding brain activity decrease in areas of self-control, inhibition and attention. And an APA-published study found students in the study who played a violent video game behaved more aggressively than those who played a non-violent game.

“Violent video games provide a forum for learning and practicing aggressive solutions to conflict situations,” said Dr. Craig Anderson. “In the short run, playing a violent video game appears to affect aggression by priming aggressive thoughts.”

What you see and do changes you.

I could parrot back scores of studies, but I don’t need to. You understand on a fundamental level — what we experience changes how we think and look at the world. Movies, TV shows, video games — all are growing more violent. It’s obvious that those who consume them will change, especially when the most impressionable experience the increase via an intensely personal method.

Please be very sure you understand my point. I blame video games for nothing and I don’t wish to see them banned or regulated. They are only a reflection of our desensitization to all types of sin. I also know correlation does not imply causation, so exposure to violence — even repeated, continual exposure to gratuitous violence — does not guarantee any behavior. Thank God. But high levels of violent video game exposure among youth have been linked to delinquency, fighting at school, and violent criminal behavior. Why encourage that?

Meanwhile, the industry quotes hilarious statistics (the mean age of video game players or buyers couldn’t be more meaningless) and funds its own studies, which (surprise!) fail to see the link to violence, but helpfully point out benefits of violent video games, like “identity construction,” improved reaction time, and “fantasy validation.” Who needs well-behaved, self-controlled kids when the alternative is rejecting inhibition and validating every blood-drenched fantasy? Put the computer in their room and they might never again interrupt your “me” time with pesky ‘conversation!’

Out of the heart come evil thoughts and murder, Christ said; it’s what’s in the heart makes a man unclean. And how’s it get in there? “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also . . . If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:19-24)

What you see and do changes you.


You know it’s true…

03/27/2007, 8:31 am -- by | 8 Comments

If food and beverages were people, I’d totally want to hang out with V8.V8 Logo

Go on, take a sip. There’re layers there, am I right? Texture, color, pasteurization for premium quality. Not a boring taste at all, but fun and mature. Not overly sweet like Sour Patch candies, which are fun for a while but then suddenly over-the-top, like that friend you borrow DVDs from Friday night, then avoid come sunrise.

V8 would totally give you a lift to the airport and tell you an interesting story along the way. V8, I’ll bet, can cook up a storm and has a lot of hidden talents, like being able to touch its nose with its tongue and play the banjo.

If you planned a road trip with V8, a NutRageous bar, Quaker Toasted Oatmeal and Hot Pockets, and then everyone bailed at the last moment, V8 would still insist on going without them because hey — you only live once. And when you break up with somebody, V8 doesn’t sit there and lazily tell you what an awful person your ex was — V8 helps you plot to win them back.

V8 won’t flake when there’s work to do, but will pitch right in and help. I’ll bet V8 would whistle while working too…some fun melody from an alt-rock song too, not something stupid like “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

V8 calls its mother regularly. V8 drives stick. V8 says, “Sure, go ahead and borrow it anytime.” V8 voted Bush/Cheney ’00 and ’04.

V8 does all its own stunts.

I would hang out with V8.

But I would totally date Ferrero Rocher.

Quote of the Day, 3/27/07

03/27/2007, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” – C.S. Lewis

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