Thursday, September 6, 2007

495 The Butterfly Effect

Message no. 495[Branch from no. 493] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Sunday, February 25, 2007 12:50pm Subject: The Butterfly Effect

A very nice relational summary Daniela -- thoughtful and thought provoking and well referenced! Now we must figure out what it is in people's pasts that leads to these profound perceptual differences. How much of personality is under genetic control? We would have to do twin studies (and now, with fertility drugs, triplet and quintuplet studes!) to determine how much inheritence contributes to these differences, but of course even twins raised in the same family in the same room still see the world through different eyes -- even the subtle difference between being on the right or left side of the room as you grow up can have profound effects on our perspective.

Have you guys seen the film "The Butterfly Effect" with Ashton Kutcher (you can see the trailer here:

The movie site I've linked to above gives some great interviews with leading thinkers about the validity of this concept of "change one thing, change everything".

I have a backwards view of almost everything, you guys have probably noticed, so it seems to me that our genes are less responsible for our differences than our similarities. Think of it this way -- if the Butterly Effect is valid, and one slight change in our development can change "everything", how is it that there are so few archetypes? Why is it that we all know people who remind us of other people? What is it that makes it so easy to "stereotype"? How is it that we can classify ourselves into groups so easily ("I'm a city girl", "I'm a country boy".)?

If anything TYPES exist (and stereotypes are exagerrations of natural types) because something CONSTRAINS change. That something must be our genetic predispositions. Our genes mediate the affect our environmental experiences have on our perceptions.

How do we test this? Again, we have to go to twin studies and then, now that we have the tools from the human genome project, begin to assess what slight differences in gene clusters do to our ontogeny (development). Then we have to do comparative studies with other species of animals whose genes diverge from our by various percentage points.

As you know doubt are aware, we now know that we share roughly 98% of our DNA sequences with the chimpanzee. (see Recent work has indicated that we also share at least 5% of our genome with dogs and with mice. (

We know that genes are codes that build enzymes and other proteins and proteins build bodies and make all the other parts of the systems that make us who we are. Given the infinite possibilities for structures and behaviors and personalities, what is remarkable is HOW FEW WE ACTUALLY OBSERVE. So in a very real sense, we are CONSTRAINED by our genes to only develop along certain pathways.

It appears that despite our vast differences, we and our dogs perceive the world in rather similar ways, and exhibit similar personality types. We know that "abusive" environments are perceived by both of our species in similar ways, and that they can create aggresive or antisocial personalities in both of our species. That is rather amazing, no?

The question we must ask about people like you who "love the city" and your family, who love Hunter mountain, is what do these two different environments represent so that they elicit similar affectional responses in both of you (i.e. the end result of two different environmental stimuli is a similar feeling of joy)?

Interesting to ponder. And how to test it? Could it be age related? I remember when I was 23 being with village elders in a Dyak tribe in Borneo who lamented that the youth wanted to leave the rain forest and go to the big city. They said "the youth find the village boring, and the city exciting". I said, "I am also young, but I find the jungles of Borneo exciting and the city boring." We determined that we ALL found novelty exciting, and that youth was looking for adventure, which means stimulation. It may be that none of us are really "city" or "country" people, but that we seek environments that satisfy our needs for OPTIMAL STIMULATION (see chapter three).

What do you think?

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