28 October 2010

Competition and the Level Playing Field

I figured I blog about this topic. I have been thinking about the topic of the human playing field, as to whether it is equal and level for everyone or not. Together with some comments from the previous entry, and my ruminations on this topic with other friends, I figured I write something about it.

So, the main question is, do all humans enter the world equal or not?

One variation of this is whether one believes in the theory of the tabula rasa: this is also known as the blank slate theory, where one believes that humans are all "created" equal: thus, all of our knowledge is the product of our perception and experience, that is individually shaped. This is the nurture side of the "nature versus nurture" debate: in other facets of human experience, this reflects in the belief that certain aspects of our personality and behavior are not due to innate specifications but due to the collective experience that we have accumulated.

I used to believe that this is indeed the case. I used to believe that everyone was brought to the world equal, and we could be anyone we wanted. If a baby wanted to be a musician, one could just go ahead and do it. If one wanted to be a rocket scientist, then one can just study in that direction.

However, as I gained experience in teaching, I realized that not everyone can be good at anything. There may be the possibility that people are good in some aspects more than others. One's talents can be collected in one aspect, but not in the rest. One can be a great mathematician yet suck in playing a musical instrument. If this is the case, then the blank slate theory may fall.

Okay, one can still argue that the differences in talents may be due to the different cultural upbringings that we all have experienced. The fact that I used to have the propensity for playing a musical instrument more than my sister may be not be due to the similar genes we have but because of the different social upbringing that we experienced: being of different genders, even though we grew up in the same household, we may have different social circles and that affected us.

Fine. So let's look at something else. IQ.

Not everyone is born with the same IQ. Yes, intelligence can be the product of hard work, and I am not questioning that. But people can be born with inherent congenital birth defects, and these can drastically reduce the potential of the person, if this birth defect has a cognitive component. People can be born with an extra chromosome, and that results in Down's Syndrome. That reduces the intelligence of the person. Now with this case, I think it would be hard to argue that this is cultural: I don't think one can reason that Down's Syndrome is due to the prenatal cultural experience.

So yes, I do not believe that humans work on a level playing field. Some humans are more fortunate than others, and I truly believe that. I guess this makes me more grateful at the current state in which I am in. I was fortunate enough to be raised in a good household, a household that was able to provide me good education, a household that allowed me to go to school instead of force me to be a child worker, a household that allowed me to pursue things that I want, instead of pursuing things because my survival depended on it.

I guess I should tie this to my previous post. I still believe that humans are inherently selfish, but what I don't understand is the stigma that people attach to selfishness. No, this is not something that is bad or negative. I guess this is the result of the mass indoctrination that religion has done to the human race: that humans should strive to be good and love one's neighbor. I think "love" for one's neighbor is also accounted for by the selfishness principle: if one doesn't "love" one's neighbor and simply attacks the next person, that will be reason for this person to be caught by the law, and I presume selfishness and its derivatives would not want the result of that, thus acting as a deterrent. But I guess that is topic for yet another blog post.

(Giant Corners, from my Saqsayhuaman Series)

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