August 23, 1991 Ronald K. Hoeflin P.O. Box 539 New York, NY 10101
Your comments on "Evolution" in Noesis #61 parallel some thoughts I have encountered by others that have impressed me. Specifically, you remark that the "unfittest" are often obliged to "blaze new evolutionary trails," particularly by achieving "some slightly higher level of awareness"--i.e., intelligence.
The alleged racist Nobel Prize winner William Shockley argued, for example, that studies of the visual acuity of blacks and whites show that blacks have, as a group, systematically higher visual acuity than whites. Shockley's view was that the systematically higher intelligence level of whites had enabled them to compensate for their visual weakness.
Studies of mathematically precocious youth show that the percentage of those with myopia increases with increased precocity, which seems to support Shockley's view that there is a connection between intelligence and compensation for visual weakness.
Rick's remark that "I want narrative evolution--evolution with heroes and a story line" recalls to mind the following passage from a book on aesthetics by the American philosopher Stephen C. Pepper (1891-1972), who taught at the University of Califomia at Berkeley (1919-1958), where he served as chairman of its Art Department (1938-1953) and of its Philosophy Department (1953-1958), and who was the author of nearly a dozen books. The following passage occurs on page 109 of his 1945 book, The Basis of Criticism in the Arts:
T'he representation of men as they are seen with the normal eye, penetrating to the traits that count, dwelling seriously on what is serious in life, laughing at what is silly, and altogether showing through the representation a balanced view of human values, that is the representation of the norm. That is what we sense in Shakespeare and Moliere, and Rembrandt, and Breughel, and, in another but not ultimately so different a way, in Bach and Beethoven. The representation of the norm is not necessarily in the manner of the direct, naive conception of the process--namely, a depiction of heroic man. A caricature can strikingly represent the norm if the artist's comment is implicit in the picture and tells just how abnormal the depiction is. And strangely enough a tragedy can represent the norm best of all. It is entirely natural that the tragic flaw theory of tragedy had its origin in Aristotelian thought. For how can you most effectively depict the power of the ideal or normal man? Not by depicting a thoroughly well adjusted man. He makes no mistakes, and the full potentialities of his nature are not made apparent. A weak man, of course, will not do. But depict a strong man who is almost normal but has some flaw. He is over ambitious, he is jealous, he is over reflective and acts too late. In all other respects he has heroic proportions, but this flaw throws him out of adjustment with his environment and precipitates a struggle. Then we see what man can do, and what he is like when he exerts himself to the utmost, and we become aware of man's complete potentialities by perceiving what he would have been without the flaw.
P.P.S. Regarding the remark on the last page of issue 61 that "Feynman issued especially strong cautions against trying to construct mental pictures of quantum events," I assume most members are aware that this injunction is now somewhat obsolete, since it is now possible to reduce fairly large globs of matter to temperatures just millionths of a degree above absolute zero, at which temperature one can see on the macroscopic level various quantum phenomena that previously were hidden from view.
Another P.S. I don't see the Editor's address in issue 61. I think the Editor should include his address in each issue. The envelope only gives Chris Cole's address.
Another P.S. Regarding my tests, I have nearly completed the fourth in a planned series of ten 25-problem trial tests leading up to a new Mega-like 48-problem test, half verbal and half non-verbal. But my larger aim is to produce a purely spatial test somewhere down the line that might be more "culture fair" than my usual tests, or at least fairer for those whose native language is not English.
With tangential regard to William Shockley's theorizing on race and visual acuity, I've tended to suspect that racial oppression could be a form of false unfitness which might force some of its victims to higher levels of adaptation. But this could be mistaken for the kind of thinking that got Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder fired from his sportscasting job. I don't mean to suggest that slavery is good for people.
What do other members think of the role of oppression in
the history of humans as a whole and races in particular? Are there analogues to racial
strife in the rest of the animal kingdom?