June 1999 Notebook Entries

Notebook entry, June 21, 1999

News from the local front.  A New York Times story by Bill Dedman about Columbine High School and other scenes of violence.  The story tells us that a forensic psychologist and an agent from the Secret Service were interviewing Scott Pennington, who is serving a life sentence for his killing spree in West Paducah, Ky.  The goal is to develop training materials for police and school officials.  The plan is to specifically help schools and the police recognize which students are moving from interest in killing to weapon acquisition. 

Now, I agree 100% that any means should be used to make schools safe for our children, but I must raise a note of caution: That to focus on only the individual who may fit a certain "profile" is heading down the same slippery slope as white police officers "profiling" black and brown drivers who are pulled over for "reasonable" suspicion.  Creating a profile of potential student killers also leaves judgement in the hands of school officials who may be part of the problem of creating anger and feelings of isolation in students.   See the excellent story in The Washington Post National Weekly Edition, June 21, 1999, p. 29 titled: "At Columbine High, a Darker Picture Emerges: Were Athletes given preferential treatment and allowed to misbehave with impunity?"  The story is by Lorraine Adams and Dale Russakoff.  In the opening paragraph the writers tell us that "...the state wrestling champ was regularly permitted to park his $100,000 Hummer all day in a 15-minute space." Do you think that the Secret Service profile will have a section on Jocks parking their Hummer's illegally all day and creating discontent in law-abiding students?   Do you think that  school officials will not notice a $100,000 Hummer parked too long in a 15 minute parking zone but notice some kids wearing black make-up?

Do you want to know what is going on here from an evolutionary perspective? Read my thoughts about the Littleton shootings by Clicking here.

Notebook entry, June 18, 1999

The Associated Press story by Joseph B. Verrengia writes of this week's journal Nature and its study of 150 years of observing the chimpanzee and deciding that they do have culture.  It is the first time that scientists have concluded that a species other than man has culture. The study was conducted by primatologist Andrew Whiten of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and was co-authored by Jane Goodall who has been observing primates at Gombe Stream in Tanzania since 1960.  The research found at least 39 customs related to chimps' tool use, grooming and courtship. 

I think that this is wonderful news.  So much for the argument that science should not try too hard to attach human emotions to animals.  Once again science chips away at man's dominance on the planet and makes him pause to reflect on his actions.  We are all connected in one vast cosmic web and we had better understand that we should leave no creature behind in the dust of disrespect while we feast on the leaf of plenty.

Notebook entry, June 17, 1999

Several interesting cover stories relating to biology and behavior in two of America's popular magazines.  Do read them if you have the time.  1). 'Social Anxiety,' U.S. News & World Report, June 21, 1999, p 50. I found this subject of particular interest because I suspect that it may be part of many reasons why I am where I am today, and not where I should be....in terms of academic success.  Don't get me wrong,  I'm proud of what I have accomplished on this web site with the resources that I have, but maybe if....Well, anyway, I am studying the matter in more detail in the DSM-IV and on the Internet.

2). The second cover story you should read up on, is 'What's the Difference Between Boys & Girls?, by Deborah Blum, Life magazine, July 1999 issue, p. 44.  "...it's not just our culture that makes rules about gender appropriate behavior -- it's our own body chemistry."

Notebook entry, June 11, 1999

A follow-up to my Notebook entry of March 23rd. 99 concerning the MIT faculty newsletter admission of "subtle" but substantial discrimination towards its female professors.  A story in the June 11, 1999 The Chronicle on Higher Education, 'MIT & Gender Bias -- Following up on Victory', p. B4.  One of the female professors writes to tell of the excitement of being one of those who was discriminated against, and now has all the grant money and laboratory space she needs. Hold the paper at arm's length because of all the gushing.  ( I do apologize, I forgot to make a note of her name, and the copy of the paper has disappeared, and I have little time to return to the library....sigh....excuses, excuses).  Do read it if you have the chance, it is well worth it.

Notebook entry, June 10, 1999. 

Kosovo. The critics said that it could not be done, but by the grace of God, the 19 nation Allied air campaign against the Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic and his regime has ended.  It marks a very important watershed in our evolutionary history for a most important reason.  The raid into a sovereign territory was done not to profit from taking, nor win by killing one's opponent.  It was done to prevent ethnic cleansing with the goal of allowing the ethnic Kosovo Albanians to return home.  Many Allied lives were put in danger for this act of altruism; perhaps the greatest gift that the Allied force received in return is that not one Allied member of the victorious force was killed during the 80 day air campaign.  Who said that there are no miracles?  Perhaps there is hope for our species, Homo sapiens, after all.  We have come a long way in just a short moment in evolutionary history.   Read the quote below, and note the difference is attitude between nations from 1952 up till 1999, just 47 years.  Perhaps we are learning how to make peace.

"Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.    We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living."

Army General Omar Bradley addressing West Point cadets, 1952

Notebook entry, June 8, 1999

A New York Times story by Robert Pear tells us that Dr. Harold Varmus, the director of the National Institutes of Health has proposed that scientists disclose and disseminate on the Internet the results of biomedical research.  The full text of their reports would then be available at no cost to anyone with a computer.  This has created a firestorm of protests from the editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. He is quoted as saying, "[this] would have a disastrous effect on clinical journals.   Subscribers would have no reason for subscribing." The journal has for years a policy in effect that bars publishing manuscripts whose "essential substance" has been published elsewhere.  And that would include the Internet.

What happening here is simply the old guard standing in the doorway, attempting to preserve their happy resource pile of continuous money flow.  It is The Resource Retention Rule in full bloom that simply states: Those that have the gold, get to make the rules.  The advantage to make the rules is obvious in gene transference.  You have the upper hand.  And the Retention is the behavior to keep that advantage.  Hence, if The Resource Retention Rule is correct then we will see the medical journals banning any study that has appeared on the Internet, and subtle messages would be passed through personal networks to graduate students that this could effect their career's advancement. (read paycheck, etc)

And what about the advancement of science?  Well, it would just have to wait a bit longer if the journal editors get to have their ways.

Notebook entry, June 1, 1999

A New York Times story by Erica Goode reports that an explosion of research is demonstrating that social class -- as measured not just by income but also by education and other markers of relative status -- is one of the most powerful predictors of health -- more powerful than genetics, exposure to carcinogens, even smoking.    What matters is not simply whether a person is rich or poor, college educated or not, health seems to vary with which rung of the socioeconomic ladder one is in relation to others.  This would strongly suggest that each socioeconomic rung has its own hierarchies, and with them the struggles reaching for the advantages of being on top and the stress of avoiding the lower rungs; a result of millions of years of evolution.

The report continued to say that there have been a rush of recent publications of studies due to the now-classic study that started in the 1960s.  17,530 males of the in the British Civil Service were tracked for a period of ten years.  When the data were analyzed, the researchers were astonished to discover that mortality rates varied continuously and precisely with the men's civil service grade: the higher the classification, the lower the rates of death, regardless of cause.  Once again this adds strength to the argument that there is stress involved with the socialization process. 

One suggestion was that lower-ranked males might engage in more risky behaviors, like smoking.  Stress could pay a part in the figures, as stress can have an impact on a person's vulnerability to disease.  Studies are now finding that the lower one's social status, the more stressed people feel.  I agree with the assessment about stress within the socioeconomic group in which one finds themselves.   The stress that one feels, is the constant reminder of your status, and your inability and frustrations to make any changes in your life despite trying as hard as one can.  Being "put down" or derogated for just being yourself begins to add up and the stress can have a long term effect.  On the other side of the coin, we must remember that people who are in a position of power sometimes brutalize others because it makes them feel superior and reinforces their social ranking.  This in turn, could contribute to better health (not in such extremes of behavior, or course).   Rape is not about sex, but about domination and humiliation.

I think what needs to be done is to shift the blame for failure to assimilate into a group from the fault of the individual, and shift it to the group.   The hard part is trying to get therapists and psychiatrists to squeeze all those people onto a insurance form with the right DSM-IV designation.   Now, let's see....what mental problem does a group have that is anti-Semitic?   Hmmm....where does ethnic cleansing go?....You see the problem?  The DSM-IV is a cash transference device used by mental professionals to classify individuals who are having "significant" problems adjusting to their local environment; make the correct diagnosis, and place that order into the correct informational stream on insurance forms in order to receive monies from health insurance companies, which of course, the mental health professionals buy food, pay the mortgage, send the kids to privates school, etc.  This is not a conspiracy here people!   There are no errors in the DSM-IV -- only, a new interpretation of how individuals and groups interact with each other.  The error lies in the information we now have concerning socialization.

You can't get money from a company that allowed its employees to harass an individual until eventually that individual goes on a shooting rampage and kills 15 people.  If you are a security expert hired to make a workplace safer for all employees, do you tell the organization that pays you that they are the culprit?  No, Its easier, and it's to the advantage of the dominate culture to cull and cast out the loser, the loner, and the "creepy" individuals that the dominate culture thinks are capable of violence.  Is it the right thing to do?  Not to me.  But, hey, I'm just a  guy that has no clout.  Ultimately, its all about the resources, people.