Location: Texas

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Liberalism and Critical Periods

Libertarian Girl blogs about Brain Immaturity. She linked to the WaPo version of the story, which I won't link here. Here is the same story at MSNBC.

A National Institutes of Health study suggests that the region of the brain that inhibits risky behavior is not fully formed until age 25, a finding with implications for a host of policies, including the nation's driving laws.


Sitting in his closet-size office in NIH's sprawling Building 10, he turns to his laptop, where the fruit of 13 years' work appears. It's an eight-second, time-lapse film of the brain, swept by a vivid blue wave symbolizing maturing gray matter. The color engulfs the frontal lobes, and ends, in "a direct hit," Giedd said, with the dorsal-lateral prefrontal cortex, just behind the brow.

About as thick and wide as a silver dollar, this region distinguishes humans from other animals. From it, scientists believe, come judgments and values, long-term goals, the weighing of risks and consequences -- what parents call wisdom or common sense and what science calls "executive functions."

While society and tradition have placed the point of intellectual maturity, the "age of reason," years earlier, the study -- an international effort led by NIH's Institute of Mental Health and UCLA's Laboratory of Neuro Imaging -- shows it comes at about age 25.


The pattern probably serves an evolutionary purpose, he said, perhaps preparing youths to leave their families and fend for themselves, without wasting energy worrying about it.

The findings imply that many life choices -- college and career, marriage and military service -- often are made before the brain's decision-making center comes fully online. But for young adults, "Dying on a highway is the biggest risk out there," Giedd said. "What if we could predict earlier in life what could happen later?"

I left a comment about critical periods of development and speculated about the possibility of this braim immaturity being responsible for the liberal mindset. Critical periods are well recognized although most work in humans revolves around acquisition of speech in young children. Critical periods were first identified by the work of John Paul Scott during the 40's and 50's.

Some commenters on her post noted that America has an indulgent society and compared expectations for maturity in rural America to expectations in L.A. I speculated that a wealthy society that doesn't expect an individual to mature until 30 may find that the whole of society has become a population of permanently narcissistic juveniles. In fact, this points a finger at the Left which is "in your face" about their indulgence of children.

I found more here where John Ray links to a piece from The American Thinker:

The teachable lesson from Iraq is that this isn’t a very nice world. It’s a world full of conflict and killing in which there is often no option but grinding it out on the ground. War is the norm, and peace is the pause that refreshes.

In our modern era, it is easy to lose sight of this. Back in the good old days of wise aboriginal tribes that were close to nature, about 40 percent of men died from violent conflict. But in the Twentieth Century, an era we like to imagine as the very abyss of violence and war, only five percent of men died from violent conflict.

Our modern American elite has lived a life peculiarly free from conflict. Its defining moment of conflict was opposing the Vietnam War. But its battle was never a real war. Anti-war activists were cosseted and encouraged by their liberal parents and the liberal media, and indulgently made into heroes for striking a few elegant poses. Then they bravely took up arms against their liberal professors who were quite happy to cave in and grant all their demands without even the pretence of a fight. In consequence, our liberal elites imagine that everything can be decided with a telegenic demonstration and a TV-friendly spokesperson, or failing that, diplomacy and a peace process.

You can tell that liberals don’t have a clue about conflict by listening to their commentary on the war on terror. They are easily discouraged, and make every setback into a frightening quagmire. But any student of war knows that every conflict is a confusing and demoralizing grind that often seems to be an exercise in futility.

All of the liberal responses to responsibility or conflict, the desire for utopian perfection in society in particular, are the responses of a narcissistic, immature brain. Or so it would seem.


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