Saturday, August 12, 2006


New Zealand's indigenous Maori population reacted angrily on Wednesday to a researcher's findings that Maori have a high representation of a gene linked to aggression, as the nation faces a domestic violence crisis. Rod Lea told a genetics conference in Australia that Maori men were twice as likely as European men to carry monoamine oxidase, describing it as a "striking over-representation" of what has been described as the warrior gene.

Media reports of Lea's findings outraged Maori leaders who said they only reinforced "Once Were Warriors" cultural stereotypes, a reference to a harrowing 1994 movie about domestic violence in poor Maori families. "I've been asked by reporters whether this gene is the reason why we're a violent race, why we feature so highly in criminality rates, that we're predisposed toward aggression," Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said in a statement. "Once were gardeners, once were astronomers, once were philosophers, once were lovers," she said.

Lea, a genetic epidemiologist at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research in the New Zealand capital, Wellington, said the gene had also been linked to such risk-taking behavior as smoking and gambling. "I believe this gene has an influence on behavior of humans in general, but I also believe that the influence is rather small," Lea told New Zealand's National Radio on Wednesday. "We have to be clear that behavioral traits such as susceptibility to addiction, aggressive behavior, risk taking, all those sort of things, are extremely complex and they are due to numerous factors including non-genetic environmental factors like upbringing and other lifestyle factors," he said.

Maori lawmaker Hone Harawira said he had been hearing similar descriptions for decades about New Zealand's indigenous people, who make up about eight percent of the 4.1 million population. "I've stopped listening to all that sort of carry on," Harawira said.

New Zealand's domestic violence problem, described by a government report as endemic and shameful, was highlighted by the deaths of three-month old Maori twins in Auckland, the nation's largest city, in June. Chris and Cru Kahui had both suffered severe head injuries but their Maori family has refused to cooperate with police. Prime Minister Helen Clark described the Kahui twins' family as a "'Once Were Warriors' type family". A UNICEF report last month found that between 18,000 and 35,000 children are exposed to domestic violence each year. The problem is so common that most New Zealanders know a child who has witnessed violence at home, it said. Government figures show that Maori children under five years old are being admitted to hospital with "intentional injury" at twice the rate of other ethnic groups.

Source. There is a report of similar research in the USA here. There is a scholarly article on the research concerned here. I have previously posted some excerpts from the scholarly article here.

Tolerance: Unraveling a befuddled concept

A book review of "The Truth About Tolerance"

Especially in a pluralistic society like the United States, tolerance of others and their quirks is essential for even a modicum of social harmony, and it's a personal virtue as well. But in America today the concept of tolerance, especially in those precincts most affected by political correctness like academia and the media, the concept has become rather confused – sometimes to the point of encouraging intolerance in the name of tolerance.

Brad Stetson, who lectures at Azusa Pacific and Chapman, and Joseph Conti, who lectures at Cal State Fullerton, perform a distinct service as they try to unravel the concept, which has received surprisingly little serious academic attention. They write from a Christian perspective, which makes them piquantly aware of the legerdemain often employed to use the accusation of intolerance to discredit not just Christianity but anybody who entertains the notion that right and wrong are something other than mere subjective preferences.

As an example of the muddled thinking common in this country, the authors quote one academic who defines tolerance as "the elevation of all values and beliefs to a position worthy of equal respect." From this relativistic perspective it is easy to see how those they describe as liberal secularists (I stick to the probably hopeless course of resisting the hijacking of the fine old term "liberal," preferring "statist," "socialist" or "leftist") can characterize anybody who believes that homosexuality or abortion is actually wrong as "narrow-minded," "mean-spirited" or – shudder! – intolerant, and therefore to be dismissed without serious consideration.

Taken to an extreme, combined with the encouragement of various people to feel victimized and offended at the slightest slight, this counterfeit version of tolerance can dismiss any criticism, or even serious discussion, of a belief system as "intolerant" and therefore short-circuit serious inquiry. Far from promoting the social harmony genuine tolerance facilitates, it breeds resentment and inhibits honest discussion.

Stetson and Conti point out however, that "Tolerance, rightly understood, is a patience toward a practice or opinion one disapproves of." The Philosophical Encyclopedia defines tolerance as "a policy of patient forbearance in the presence of something which is disliked or disapproved of." So the very concept of tolerance implies not a relativistic "anything is true if you think it's true" but a firm concept of what is true or untrue, worthy of approval or disapproval. To be genuinely tolerant starts not with indifference toward ultimate truths but with firm conviction combined with a determination to treat those with different convictions with respect and civility.

The authors trace the development of the concept of tolerance from the ancient Greeks through early Christianity, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and modern times. They close with 10 principles to help us think about the proper role of tolerance, of which the quotation above is the first. The second is that tolerance has limits, that to watch a rape without interfering or objecting, for example, or to be indifferent to racism, is not tolerance but moral cowardice.

Stetson and Conti not only skewer the secularists, they have gentle admonitions for their co-religionists. Christianity properly understood, they argue, entails tolerance, a humble respect for the opinions (and shared humanity) of others, and rejection of coercive tactics. The book's shortcomings are few and its strengths are many. It will help readers to think intelligently and responsibly about one of the keys to a peaceful and civil society.


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