Prefrontal Cortex and Evolution

Nick Medford nick at hermit0.demon.co.uk
Fri Oct 27 17:39:01 EST 2000

Hi Richard

I typed out a similar response to yours (although my language was less
restrained... congratulations on keeping your cool) but deleted it before
sending. The reason being that when this topic reared its ugly head over on
sci.cognitive a couple of years ago, the newsgroup became flooded with racist
diatribes and (understandably) angry responses to them. This went on for
months on end, and that newsgroup has never fully recovered. Even well-
constructed and reasoned posts can fan the heat of a flame war.

However you are 100% right that such pernicious nonsense should be
vigorously opposed by scientists. The original post in this thread was a
transparent attempt to hijack scientific discourse in order to give spurious
credibility to baseless racist "theories" (I use the term loosely). It is quite
clear that the writer knows next to nothing about neuroscience: many of the
statements are hopeless over-simplifications, some are just plain lies.  It is
important that those of us in the "trade" point this out whenever this
rubbish is paraded as "scientific fact".  

Nick Medford  

In article <kAlK5.8$zr1.10524 at typhoon.mw.mediaone.net>, Richard
Norman <rsnorman at mediaone.net> writes
>"Xuxa Thorson" <Xoxana at webtv.net> wrote in message
>news:6622-39F99CFD-14 at storefull-161.iap.bryant.webtv.net...
>I refuse to include the text of this message in my reply because
>I believe it to be offensive and racist.  I do not know how else to
>interpret a message that claims that "The main difference
>between a human brain and that of other animals is the prefrontal
>cortex. Most mammals have little or no prefrontal cortex." and then
> two sentences later "It has been said that the prefrontal cortex is
>what makes us "human" only to follow a few sentences later with
>"The largest difference between Caucasian and Negroid brains
>is that Caucasians have a much larger and better developed
>prefrontal cortex."  The clear assumption intended from this is
>that "Negroids" (whatever that may mean) are not really human or,
>perhaps, a type of human but clearly "lower" than "Caucasians"
>(whatever that may mean).
>I, a rapidly aging white male, am one of the "Liberals [who] make
>the false claim that there is no correlation between intelligence
>or behavior and the size or condition of the brain. "
>There is so much wrong with this posting it is hard to know where
>to begin.   It certainly won't be enough simply to repeat that there
>is no such thing as a biological "race" in the human population,
>that what we call the african- asian- or european- groups of peoples
>differ more within groups that between groups.  It may be clear that
>humans differ from other mammals, but I dispute your argument about
>"Negroid" brains as well as your claims about the relation between
>brain condition and "intelligence".  There certainly is some relation
>but the acquired, learned, cultural aspects of intelligence are so
>predominant as to virtually blot out any biological aspect.
>I also believe that it is not enough to simply ignore or overlook
>racist propaganda.  It must be vigorously denied and opposed.

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