RE: The SSSM revisited

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Thu Dec 05 2002 - 12:15:57 MST

> > The views bundled into SSSM may have been moderately common,
> but far from
> > consensus. Reality is rarely as cleanly defined as our
> retrospective models
> > of it!
> Is the an implicit claim that there was no consensus model,
> fuzzy as it may be at the edges, in the social sciences?

"Social sciences" is a big category, the different social sciences are quite
different culturally as well as conceptually

I know that there was no consensus model in sociology in the 60's and early
70's. Rather, it was a time of upheaval, with a bunch of old conservatives
battling a bunch of young Marxists.

In psychology, there's been a pretty severe cultural split, between
experimentalists (who took a behaviorist and then later cognitivist
perspective) who refuse to even think about the mind as a whole, and
clinicians who rely on a variety of mutually conflicting intuitive
conceptual models of the mind. No consensus either...

> To this day the level of
> cultural relativism and belief in the power of environmental
> effects is quite strong in government projects.

Well, I see a lot of the government-project world, thru my mother who runs a
grant-funded social service program (, and who worked at
a high level in the Philadelphia Housing Dept. for a while.

I don't see very much in the work of her program or others like it, that
significantly reflects cultural relativism or belief in environment rather
than heredity.

While they do try to respect different cultures, the focus of her program
and others like it is on teaching people what they need to survive and
prosper in mainstream US society -- not on teaching people what they need to
survive in a particular subculture. It's pretty pragmatic stuff.

Regarding heredity vs. environment -- I don't see how social service
programs could really incorporate opinions on this issue, even if they
wanted to...

Clearly, improving childrens' environments is valuable. If kids are not
being taught to read, and if they're not being fed well, this should be

In a practical social service setting, one doesn't *know* much about the
heredity of kids ... we can't look at their genes and tell how to best help
them ... so all we can do is try to help people as best we can. Environment
can be improved; heredity, using current technology, cannot...

-- Ben G

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