Sunday, October 30, 2011

Liberal war on Childhood Aggression

I just have time for a quick post about a G&M article equating aggression with behavioural problems.  I don't know if liberal media  and research community make this mistake on purpose in order to further the anti-bullying agenda or whether they just don't understand that aggression is a natural behaviour, whereas, behaviour problems are the result of poor social conditioning.

Aggression is a useful trait for sports, business and social circles if channelled and trained properly.  If a child is taught proper self-discipline and empathy, aggressiveness will help him or her succeed in the world.

The NYU study, which seems problematic because it is based on parental reports and observation - how much and what type of observation is not stated - really points to socialization by parents.  Of course parents who have difficulty socializing with their children will have children with difficulty socializing in school.  Acting out, defiance and hostility are the result of poor social skills and self-control.  These are learned behaviours. 

There are countless ways that an aggressive nature can be expressed.  This is shown by the lack of correlation between infant temperament and difficulties in Kindergarten and Grade One.  With proper parenting, the children with aggressive temperaments quickly adapted to the school environment and showed no behavioural problems.  Poor parenting resulted in problems no matter what the temperament was.

Confirmation bias is astounding amongst Blank Slate believers is astounding.  The scientific method cannot filter it out of sociological studies.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pinker Raises the Hackles of Indignant Liberal Professor

 I was working on another posts, but I had to stop when the Globe published this questionable review of Pinker's latest book (which I have on hold at the Library).  Whitehead charges right at Pinker with his best shot.
Those theoretical claims are nothing new and have been extensively discredited by social scientists, although Pinker engages none of that literature.
Discredited by so called scientists are they?  Please don't be so 'flippant' about how you dismiss his theories. Don't keep us in the dark.  Please explain further. I believe they were pretty well laid out in The Blank Slate.

However, Pinker uses a very questionable definition of violence and, in dismissing our perception of violence as irrelevant, completely overlooks the fact that reporting and representations of violence are not just “about” violence but are actually part of it. He characterizes media coverage as: “If it bleeds, it leads,” but this fact actually tells us a lot about how important violence is to our society, not that it is illusory.
Perhaps violence not illusory, but the fact of the matter is, that violence is trending downward, while our perception is the opposite.  Perception is a part of violence?  So, you are arguing that I am actually assaulted when I read about an assault in the paper or see it on the news.  Interesting.

Not only are numbers notoriously difficult to establish accurately in periods before the 20th century, as Pinker quietly admits, but deaths in wars were only partly due to direct homicidal violence. In the past at least, as many died of disease and untreated wounds.

Maybe his statistics are problematic, but it's far closer to reality than the notion of the noble savage that he's combating. He merely paints a different picture than the idyllic societies championed by critics like you. Truth is, although 60-70 million people died in WWII, the ratio of deaths to the total number of people was lower than prior periods. Read the Iliad for a good idea of what ancient wars were like. Brutality is decreasing steadily.  Also, a states ability and willingness to heal wounded soldiers is yet another example of a nicer world.

Whitehead seems to think that since Pinker states that things are better than ever, that he's means that war is actually nice nowadays. He mentions PTSD as if ancient cultures didn't suffer some from post-traumatic stress after violent confrontations. The stats for deaths prior to the 20th century may be problematic but PTSD was not even invented yet.

The writer has completely made Pinker's case that the world is nicer with his explanation of torture.

Another significant example of this failure to think through what “violence” actually is becomes evident in the discussion of torture, paradoxically enjoying something of revival. While the Grand Guignol of medieval torture may no longer be with us, the use of torture has not abated. Pinker’s timeline for the abolition of judicial torture thus overlooks how extra-juridical “touchless” torture, enhanced interrogation and rendition are a persistent feature of the post-Second World Wart world. Similarly, although incarceration may have supplanted bodily mutilation and execution, it remains a violence nonetheless.
While it is true incarceration does fall in the category of violence, today's incarceration is nothing near as frightening as body mutilation, execution or the horrific forms of torture that have been used in days past. Whitehead wants to refute Pinker's assertion that the world is getting better, by saying that until it is absolutely perfect, we can't count that as progress.  Earlier he tries to call incarceration of blacks a mass atrocity.  Is it really on the scale of the holocaust or the enslavement of Jews by the Egyptians?  Can't we compare the past with the present with our judicial system, welfare and human rights and at least admit that we have it pretty good?

Now, I haven't read this book yet, but I have read and heard enough Pinker to doubt that he means that our world has no problems with violence. The Blank Slate argued that we can't change our basic natural instincts and denying our nature to try to hoist some idealistic perfect society on us will fail and leads to misery. Tackling the serious problems that Whitehead mentions, requires a real understanding of human nature which he can't seem to accept.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Three Random Guys With Swords in France

I remember sitting around with my fellow English Lit. majors at university wondering what we'd do after we graduated.  I was a bit lost in my youth, so I didn't think too much about my career except to say that I'd be a writer (well, this is it).  One of my friends said the ultimate job would be to collect her PhD and go to Hollywood to consult on films.  While that did sound like a cool career, there was something unappealing about trying to convince some hotshot Hollywood director how to get a nuanced reference to classic literature just right when all they wanted to do was flash boobs and guns across the screen and wait for the box-office returns to roll in.

Seeing trailers like this for Paul W.S. Anderson's version of The Three Musketeers confirms all of my worst fears.  It pains me to think that several people with a PhDs were probably used in the background for this film, although Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies get credit for the screenplay.  I could not have stomached working on a piece of crap like this - shot in 3D, of course.

It's long been known that nothing is sacred in this world.  People who hold passionately to truth or accuracy are basically dismissed as snobs and told to lighten up.  But what is more disturbing than the desctruction of truth and culture?  Nobody really takes things seriously, but the messages underlying movies like these are not subtle.

I haven't seen the movie and hopefully, will never have to part with my own money in order to see how bad this movie actually is.  Maybe I'll forget about my mini-rage when I saw 17th century swash-buckling air-ship captains and female assassins in this little trailer. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

OWS Is the Appitome of VNP

OneSTDV outlines the media's different responses to OWS compared to the Tea Party.  One group seeks to bring down civilization and it's "broken" systems while the other is trying to save them.  Yet, the one seeking a violent overthrow (cleverly disguised as a "non-violent protest") is portrayed as a struggle for justice by a patriotic group of intelligent, passionate youth while the Tea Party is painted as a sinister, backward group of hate-mongers. 

The Reason is Very Nice Politics.  The left is full of Very Nice People(VNP) with Very Nice Politics(VNP).  The media is full of VNP with VNP.  If you ask a person why they like the ideas of Leftist politics, you'll usually get something like, "I think we need to do what we can to help people/make things better/make things fair/make things safer."  So, any government action is justified as long as its intention is to make the world a NICER place.  The catch is that the actions do not necessarily make the world better for most people in the long run.  The desire to do nice things, however, gives politicians an easy way to get votes and portray themselves in a nice light.  Even if the action is horribly wrong-headed and the result is disasterous, the politician a hero because he was trying to do something nice.  To criticize the results and point out how wasteful or useless it was is to say that you don't care about the people or cause he was working so hard for.

So OWS, even though their ideas,when they are coherent, are generally ridiculous they are treated as heros.  While, I am glad that people are causing us to take another hard look at the excessive liberties taken by members of Wall Street, I'm annoyed that so much credit has been given to the VNP's of OWS, while the Tea Party, who actually have some coherent, realistic messages, are dismissed as crazy.

I'm including the picture on OneSTDV's post because it just says it all.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thanksgiving Shall Now Be Called Thanksguilting

Dear Globe,

My children and their friends are being brainwashed by sermonizing environmentalist hypocrites and their attention craving friends and now they have this notion that our species is evil and deserves to die out. When they try to say that "our love of barbecued steak and grilled shrimp" are ruining the planet, they really mean that we have no right to feel good and be healthy while other people are working so hard using images of the poor and destitute to gain wealth and fame while undermining our way of life.

I am pretty sure that I can deprogram my own kids but unlike them, I don't think I have the right to tell other people's children how to think.

NOTE:  Canadian Thanksgiving is the second Monday in October, unlike in the USA.