The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Psychology of Taboo
Mike Rappaport

Steven Pinker once again asks the provocative questions.  What questions are taboo to even consider? Interestingly, one can easily imagine questions that upset both the left and right.  Neither is immune from this.  Excellent and very short.  

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Mike Rappaport
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Comments

Aw, come on, we can do better than that. First stir up dissension in a more focused way, e.g "Are Ashkenazi Jews on average smarter than Sephardic Jews because their ancestors had been selected for the shrewdness needed in money lending?" Then, if you wanted a dinner party to erupt, you could follow it up with "Are Ashkenazi Jews on average more heartless than Sephardic Jews because their ancestors had been selected for the heartlessness needed in money lending?"

Presumably Pinker can now take pride in prompting a taboo thought that had never crossed my mind before. Bloody Hell, you can see the social purpose of taboos. Yuck!

Anyway, there's a hypothesis for Pinker to ponder. The taboo doesn't just stop the expression of an uncomfortable idea, but acts to inhibit a whole line of analagous and even more uncomfortable ideas. Though I dare say he's thought of that already.

Posted by: dearieme | Oct 8, 2010 3:55:31 AM

You want taboo? I'll give you taboo. Right out of Jensen or Shockley. Cortical efficiency correlates with cold climate. Up to a point, evolution in a cold climate selects for both genetic and cultural traits which confer competitive advantages. Ich lehre euch den Ubermensch.

Forbidden knowledge: one must be safely retired to even think something like that. Now it is probably well that such knowlege remain taboo, for, as History has shown, it so easily becomes a pretext for injustice and evil.

Posted by: Lou Gots | Oct 8, 2010 4:48:04 AM

Indeed, absent a cold weather-induced cortical efficiency hypothesis, how else could one explain the historical and modern world domination by the Eskimo, or the Nepalese sherpa? And it also explains why the Romans, sun-baked mouth breathers that they were, never could form an empire of any substantial size or duration.

Posted by: Torreysurfer | Oct 8, 2010 6:34:54 AM

Eric Blair--

Spaniards are cruel to animals, Italians can do nothing without making a deafening noise, the Chinese are addicted to gambling. Even the fact that Englishmen have bad teeth can tell something about the realities of English life.
When nationalism first became a religion, the English looked at the map, and, noticing that their island lay very high in the Northern Hemisphere, evolved the pleasing theory that the further north you live the more virtuous you become. The histories I was given when I was a little boy generally started off by explaining that a cold climate made people energetic while a hot one made them lazy, and hence the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Posted by: james wilson | Oct 8, 2010 8:30:42 AM