The tragic consequences of biological determinism

biodetI’ve always been a zoology lover. I grew up watching Animal Planet and comparing the behavior of humans to that of other animals. I ended up not pursuing a career in the area, but reading and watching video-lectures about biology has been one of my oldest and most constant hobbies. I am a fan of Darwin, Dawkins, Frans de Wall and Sapolsky. I always try to find the biological origins of human social behavior and, although I recognize both sides of the nature vs. nurture dilema, I must admit I have a bias towards the former when it comes to personal interest and curiosity. Lately, however, I’m a bit disillusioned. I’ve noticed that many still rely on factoids of the field to defend racist and sexist claims, the inevitability of certain social hierarchies and the maintenance of the status quo, sadly causing many on the other side to, as a defense mechanism, reject behavioral biology altogether. But is it really the case that by giving credibility to this science we inadvertently give basis for these supremacist and deterministic arguments? Is to reject it altogether really the only solution? Continue reading

Why do Brazilians refuse to speak English?

brnetI have always noticed that Brazilians have a certain aversion to English. A certain tendency to switch to Portuguese whenever the majority is Brazilian, a severe reluctance to make a comment directed towards a Brazilian using English, even if the comment is in the context of an English conversation with people from all over the world, etc. Of course, many other nationalities act similarly, but I’ve been living in Romania for a bit over a year now and things are quite different, to the point that it’s really hard to dismiss this attitude as something normal. Though I haven’t had much contact with other Brazilians personally in this period, I still have a lot of contact online, mainly through Facebook, and the more time passes by, the more my impressions are confirmed and even reinforced. And I’m not counting those who don’t know English well, I mean people who speak quite fluently, who have lived abroad, etc. Why is it so? Continue reading