The moon is waxing towards full this weekend. It seems a fitting time to plant things. Some would even do it deliberately in a waxing moon believing that it helps the crops. This theory of ‘biodynamics’ sounds implausible as the groundwater here in Ireland always seems high whether the moon if full or new. Maybe it is premature to be planting at the moment as it is not the seed moon or planting moon but it is the moon of winds. I put more trust in the old names than biodynamics. The old names are a guide to the changing faces of the months and the jobs that need done through the year. Then again, Mesolithic man did not have a greenhouse.
This coming full moon is a ‘supermoon’. Its distance to the earth is close at the same time that it is full. This makes it appear bigger than normal in the sky. It also means that predictions come forth about its effect from ‘astrologers’. The subtle spelling difference that says astrologers and not astronomers makes me dismiss these predictions as nonsense. After all, these same astrologers predicted that today I would do something about something vague and possibly meet someone important. Personally I think everyone I met today was important.
Last night the lovely Sharon and I watched a little bit of a Steven Pinker lecture. He was summarising some of the main points of a book called the Blank Slate. This was a book I read some time ago and I must admit I found myself struggling through it. It is a good book but a hard topic to wade through. Pinker tackles the evidence on some very tough topics including such heavy things as God, religion, racism, violence, gender, war, Marxism, etc. When Pinker published the book there were two topics that he tackled that received about 90% of the criticisms written. These two topics were the arts and parenting. Let me give you a glimpse of why.
Pinker looked at the current scientific evidence and drew the obvious conclusions no matter how difficult they were to accept. On parenting, the conclusion is the most hard to swallow. A lot of the evidence Pinker worked on points towards the concept that the parenting shapes the child. However, this research does not take into account the fact that parents pass on their traits and possibly personality by genetics. Once these genetic factors are taken into account the conclusions change and are a little frightening. Twins appear a lot in this research and they have very similar personalities even when brought up in different homes. In fact, they turn out just as similar when brought up in different homes as they are when brought up in the same home. You would have assumed that they would be more similar if brought up in the same home, but this is not the case. So, when summed up, the evidence points towards two conclusions:
- Everything that happens to you in a given home appears to leave no permanent stamp on your personality or intellect.
- Children are shaped not by their parents, over the long run, but actually in part by genes, and their culture at large and by the culture of their peers and, to a very large extent, by chance.
The lovely Sharon and I found these conclusions difficult to swallow. Especially as our own culture bombards us with ideas that we have to do this and that to stimulate the little man’s development. But, we are scientists and we find it hard not to ignore research. As Dara O’Briain said, and I paraphrase, “people think they can pick and choose science. They ignore the bits they don’t like but you never hear them getting onto a plane and saying “I don’t like the look of those wings. I want curly wings on my plane.””
In the end I wonder if Steven Pinker looked at the effect of cuddles, tickles and hugs. I would like to hypothesise that even though the little man’s personality is in his genes, culture and chance; I think that cuddles, tickles and hugs will bring out the best in him.