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View Diary: Rachel Maddow: Bill O'Reilly is "a race-baiting f*ck." (199 comments)

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  •  If only it were that simple (0+ / 0-)

    If dominant/recessive genes were the cause, then there would actually be more variation in fearfulness across the world, and more sibling rivalry in the arena of political fear mongering, right?

    I suppose it's possible (though I'm doubtful) that epigenetics might play a role. Epigenetics is an emerging field that suggests that stress (psychological as well as physiological) can actually damage gene expression, and this damage is passed on for several generations. Trauma from childhood abuse or exposure to the conditions of war, maybe?

    Various recent studies seem to indicate that external influences are much more influential to our upbringing than we had previously thought. What happens to us in the womb seems to effect us greatly, for example (Time magazine had a recent article on this). Early maternal separation has been linked to chronic adult stress (letting a baby "cry it out" demonstrates abstention from compassion that might manifest in the child as an adult).

    We're also learning that the relationship between language and thought might be quite different from what we believed. Language doesn't just express thought, it facilitates it. There's a great episode of RadioLab called "Words" that explores these discoveries. If we build our thoughts out of the words that we learn, then the way we think may be shaped by the vocabulary that we learn, both by its breadth as well as its implicit values (i.e. some words have greater weight to the mind than others, and this may influence our thought processes).

    You know, thinking about it, I wonder about how much variation of fearfulness there is in animals. I can't honestly think of any animals that don't express or act on fear. It's such a base emotion, so necessary for survival, that we all seem to be equipped with it. If we really want to advance as a society, we're going to have to learn to cope with it as one homogeneous culture, eh?

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