Notebook entry, February 24, 2001

A news story from The Washington Post, by Peter Finn, as reported on the top fold of The Denver Post, Feb 23, 2001 issue: 3 Serbs Guilty of War Crimes:  As mentioned in my notebook entry of Feb 18, 2001, The verdict in the war crime Tribunal from The Hague is in and has found three Serbs guilty of crimes against humanity for the rape, torture and enslavement of Muslim women during the Bosnian way. It was the first time an international court ruled that rape is a "crime against humanity." Presiding Judge Florence Mumba was quoted as saying: "What the evidence shows is that the rapes were used by members of the Bosnian Serb armed forces as an instrument of terror." The decision is considered as significant, not just as rape as a war crime, but because it may signal the beginning of the end of a double standard in regards to males' domestic violence against women and being generally ignored throughout the world in many cultures and thus, the criminal courts. A long time on the evolutionary timeline as far as humans are concerned.

Notebook entry, February 23, 2001

An interesting little piece in Business Week, February 26, 2001, issue, Marketing section, p. 92.  Title: Consumers in the Mist: Mad Ave.'s Anthropologists Are Unearthing Our Secrets, by Gerry Khermouch in New York. It tells us the story of three companies, 3Comm, Best Western, and Moen, in using hidden cameras to study humans in their nature habitats, (with their permission, of course). The ethnographic research was found to be more effective than study groups.  OK, all you grad students!  A new avenue is opening up for you -- and hopefully, we will strip away at the hidden facades that Homo sapiens show to other people.  I have always suspected that hiding our true feelings to others (deception) may be one of the most difficult challenges for evolutionary psychology to crack -- but the most rewarding to open.  

Notebook entry, February 19, 2001

The Editorial pages of The New York Times were graced by the presence of Stephen Jay Gould with his piece: Humbled by the Genome's Mysteries, The New York Times, February 19, 2001, as found on Time's web site. Gould relates that the news announced on Feb 12 was so important, that for only the second time in teaching his classes at Harvard, did he drop his intended schedule. -- the other time was in the late 60's when students seized University Hall and ejected the deans. 

He began by telling his students that all of us were sharing a great day in the history of science and of human understanding in general. The great day that Gould is referring to is the that with the announcement  that only 30,000 genes in the human genome are active, and that the 142,000 protein messages that come from these 30,000 genes and make up human chemical; result in the conclusion that the assumption that each protein message comes from a distinct gene is now considered false.

Gould is quoted: "The implications of this finding cascade across several realms.  The commercial effects will be obvious, as so much biotechnology, including the rush to patent genes, has assumed the old view that "fixing" an aberrant gene would cure a specific human ailment. The social meaning may finally liberate us from the simplistic and harmful idea, false for many other reasons as well, that each aspect of our being, either physical or behavioral, may be ascribed to the action of a particular gene "for" the trait in question." If you have read any of Gould's works you know that what he is talking about is "genes for intelligence," which some Social Darwinians cite as the basis for their suggested eugenic "improvement" campaigns. Now that the genes that they point to as "possible" causes of low intelligence will have to undergo a complete revision and more detailed analysis.

This deflation of the Homo sapiens hubris belief that the reductionism movement, in sway since the late 17th century, has been defeated in attempting to explain the complex human animal.  Again, I quote Gould: "So organisms must be explained as organisms, and not as a summation of genes." ...The failure of reductionism doesn't mark the failure of science, but only the replacement of an ultimately unworkable set of assumptions by more appropriate styles of explanation that study complexity at its own level and respect the influences of unique histories."

Most of this news comes as no surprise to me.  It gives strength to my continued arguments that we are a combination of genes and local environment, (nature plus nurture), with nurture, or culture, taking the lead in a dance.  Then on top of all this, we must draw inevitable conclusions that on top of this dominate nurturing, we must consider the exact location on the planet of the human behavior under study; down to the longitude and latitude, in minutes and seconds.  Everything is a Piece of Cake once you know how to do it.

Notebook entry, February 18, 2001

This news item from THE HAGUE caught my eye: War Trial Verdict Due in Mass Rapes, by Marlise Simons, The New York Times, as posted in The Denver Post, Feb 18, 01, p. 20a. The story focuses on one female, who, at the age of 15, was kept for several months imprisoned in a "quasi brothel"  in the Bosnian town of Foca during 1992.  Known as the Foca Trial, it is the first attempt at convicting mass rape, or "sexual slavery," and sexual violence against  women as a war crime; the ruling could have a significant effect in future rulings. A legal advisor, Patricia Sellers, is quoted as saying: "After World War II, tribunals dealt with slavery only in the form of slave labor, but forced prostitution was never tried."

The significance of this trial is important because it broadens the scope of what is a war crime; it chips away at the double standard of violence against women and males as separate acts, and sends a message to future male warriors that women are no longer to be considered as spoils of war to be taken, either physically, or sexual, for their pleasure, revenge, or material advantage. Here, here.

Notebook entry, February 18, 2001

A news item for Knight Ridder News Service, as found in The Denver Post, p. 38a, 2-18-01. Intelligence Found Among Many Animals: New Studies Uncover Their Skills.  Nothing new here for those of us who have been following the science news, but important because it was found in my local paper, and I  assume  picked up by other local papers. The major points covered: Problem Solving, Tool Use, Self-Awareness, and Communication.  The last that I feel is the more important of the discoveries: That prairie dogs make an alarm call that signal danger to others in their clans.  Studies have found that the prairie dogs have signals that tells whether an intruder is a human, coyote or domestic dog.  Calls also includes information about the size, shape, color and travel speed of the predator.  That sounds like intelligence to me, and of course, gives strong suggestions that all living things are not separate from our human species.  We are all connected, and we should value that.

Notebook entry, February 10, 2001

Here's an unexpected news item: "French Women Asked To Join The Party." by Suzanne Daley, The New York Times, Sun, Feb 4, 2001.  Call it term limits for men in politics.  Well, that would be a minor miracle.  No, it just seems that since a law was passed last year in France which attempts to share representation more evenly between men and women. Starting with municipal elections scheduled in March, the new law obliges all political parties to field an equal number of male and female candidates in almost all elections. 

What has happened is that parties of all stripes are courting and urging women to run for political office. But all is not perfect.  Some women understand what is really going on: A 42-year-old secretary and union worker: "In a lot of cases, they don't really know us.  They don't want us to say anything.  Really, they just want us to be quiet and sit on their lists."

But, to those of us who know who is really running things, how long to do believe that these elected women will decide to sit on their hands and do nothing?  Stay tuned.  This looks like an interesting development.