I was initially nonplussed by Ms. Iglesias’ criticism, but after composing a response, I realized that her note was an argumentum ad hominem and further response would not be in service of an honest intellectual interchange of ideas.
I would like, however, to respond to comments by Werner Schlapfer, who I have known for many years.
I think the issues involved are more complicated than he implied in saying that "recent developments in neurobiology…clearly show that people’s behavior is totally dependent on their genetic makeup and their environment from conception to the present. Nature and nurture. Neither is of their own making.”
1) I agree in principle with much of what Werner said.
2) I do not accept that my being a conservative is relevant in any way. That is a political issue, not a scientific one.
Whatever inferences Werner chose to extract from my earlier comments simply miss the point, which was that there is freedom of thought and freedom of action, within the bounds that nature imposes on human beings.
The use of those freedoms, limited as they may be in individual situations, is arguably open to choice. How those choices are pursued is an expression of the knowledge and ideas about how the world functions and the capabilities a person believes he or she possesses. While physical, intellectual, and knowledge limitations exist, those limitations only form channels through which a person is constrained to operate.
I offer Dr. Ben Carson, the world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, as an example of a person who made a decision of what he wanted his life to become and made it happen through hard work and study to achieve his goal.
Werner asserts that stories like Carson’s suggest that others, who do not evidence the drive and effort, are therefore considered “poor are lazy, lack ambition and did not get the education necessary, so their place in society must be their own fault.”
That is, of course, nonsense, as is much of the remainder of his comments. Awareness, education, location, self-confidence, innate capabilities and other circumstances of environment in one’s life certainly play a part in the choices one can reasonably make. Bad people can come from good circumstances and good people can come from bad circumstances. While the “accident of birth” does commonly play a rule, it is not totally determinant. Many of us are proof of that.