Tuesday, October 15, 2013

More than a mere science discussion

The American citizen thus lives in a world where fantasy is more real than reality, where the image has more dignity than the original.
(Daniel Boorstin, American historian)

Blissfully ignorant

Watching the United States commit its self-inflicted unraveling (budget and debt ceiling nonsense being merely two of many reasons), ought not to give any real comfort to those outside the U.S. Waiting in the wings to “take over” is nothing to make one gleefully optimistic.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently issued its 2-year study, which included 23 countries and thousands of adults. The study tested for skills in literacy, basic math and technology. We Americans—along with the British--didn't do so well, especially in technology and math. See blow for the actual results.

One of the many things the study concluded is that poor educational opportunities in school as children continues on through adulthood. Inequality of access to good education is “harmful” to adults, and the increasing inequality in America is only making things, overall, much worse. While a lot of information that is in the study may appear to be obvious and the correlations striking, it clearly has not translated into any wide scale public policy changes. If anything, we're going in the opposite direction in the United States.

The DNA thing

Shortly after the OECD study came out an interesting article appeared in the NYT entitled, Are OurPolitical Beliefs Encoded in Our DNA? The article was about the new field of genopolitics, which this blog has written about previously. Did my genes make me do it or was it all my mother's fault? I will be surprised if we don't see more articles about this subject, outside of scientific journals.

The science however, as the article points out, is only in the earliest stages and disagreements abound. To say the least, it's complicated. Political scientists have now joined the field along with evolutionary biologists and molecular geneticists. Will we have to understand human biology in a “sociopolitical context.” Did the human brain develop to solve social problems—which are political? But as Thomas Edsall, the author of this article points out, “If genopolitical analysis holds up under continued scrutiny, its explanatory potential is enormous.”

Edsall is right. A better understanding of all sorts of conflicts in the U.S. and across the globe is absolutely essential if we humans have any real chance of succeeding as a species. The “chickens” are coming probably sooner than we think.

Additional Reading: