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Explaining Communication

I ran across this post from Bruce Charlton the other day – he does a nice job of describing the information we read – or watch -or hear.  Charlton is a retired psychiatrist, whose work was in evolutionary psychiatry.  He edited a journal that was not peer reviewed, and was somewhat controversial. 

His article begins:

“When you hear a politician speak, read a press release or a media headline; you are not dealing with an attempt to communicate the truth about reality; you are dealing with language as calculated manipulation (‘language’ here including visual, symbolic, audio and other media).

Manipulation is language intended to shape attitudes, thought-processes and actions.

Such language could also be termed propaganda – that is, language intended to have a particular effect on others; albeit the usage of ‘propaganda’ tends to be rather narrower than what I intend here by ‘manipulation’. 

This is why the Establishment are liars. They are not even trying to communicate information – let alone accurate information; They are always trying to affect our behavior.

Their purpose is to get us to do what They want. All ‘communication’ is just a means to that end.”

His book The Genius Famine: why we need geniuses, why they’re dying out, and why we must rescue them is online. It is an interesting read, stressing personality theory. 

Charlton, about halfway through chapter 1 explains “We will argue, indeed, that we have a Genius Famine. Genius has now all-but disappeared from public view; partly because intelligence (which is strongly genetic) is in decline in the West, partly because social institutions no longer recognize or nurture genius, and partly because the modern West is actively hostile to genius.”  Later, in chapter 2, he describes the conditions that made intelligence evolutionary:

“The message seems to be that in pre-industrial Europe (before about 1800-1850) natural selection on humans operated mostly via mortality rates – especially child mortality rates. An average of more than half of children would die before adulthood, but this consisted of near total mortality rates among the children of the poor, and ill, and of low intelligence or ‘feckless’ personality; whereas among the skilled middle classes (clerks, merchants, lawyers, doctors etc.) the mortality rates were lower and fertility (number of births) was high. Therefore in each generation most of the children came from the most intelligent group in the population, and over several generations almost all the population would have been children whose ancestors were the most intelligent (also conscientious, and relatively peaceful) sector of the population.

(This is why anyone English who has ever traced their family tree will find that by the sixteenth century – when records begin – their ancestors are, at the very least, wealthy though non-aristocratic farmers (‘yeomen’ or richer ‘husbandmen’).[25] And this is why every English person alive is descended from King Edward III – 1312-1377.).[26]

Clark argues that this harsh natural selection resulted in an increase of average intelligence with every generation, and ultimately culminated in the intellectual and social breakthroughs of the Industrial Revolution. It meant that there was a large percentage of the society whose intelligence was so high that the necessary breakthroughs could be made, and that the society as a whole was sufficiently intelligent such that it could maintain and even develop these breakthroughs.”

I have a feeling that his book may be no more politically correct than Murray’s The Bell Curve.  Charlton’s explanation

“Probably the most significant impact of the Industrial Revolution was in reducing child mortality rates from more than half to (eventually) just about one per cent. For the first time in history, almost all the population, including the poorest classes and those with the heaviest mutation loads, were leaving behind more than two surviving children. Over a few generations, the mutational load must have accumulated – fitness must have declined – and average intelligence must have reduced due to the effects of deleterious mutations on brain development and functioning.

Since intelligence is correlated with genetic quality, this inferred population level mutation accumulation implies that average intelligence should have declined since the Industrial Revolution.” 

His concepts seem congruent with demographic transition theory, and I’m going to have to finish the read and think about it.  This evolutionary psychology seems to be an interesting take.  The links are worth following – my mind is not made up.  If his thoughts of a genius famine are correct, it is definitely a social change issue.

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