Sunday, 27 May 2012

Please leave a comment or send me a message if you'd like to hear more about Stefan Molyneux and the effects of parenting :)

Hello! :)

Stefan Molyneux has made a video called "The Latest Science On Nature Versus Nurture", and he has anounced that there would soon be at least one more video on the same general topic. This was probably prompted mostly by Michael McConkey's recent article "Limits of Peaceful Parenting: Two Criticisms of Stefan Molyneux's Position", and perhaps to some extent by the interest that a few of his listeners have taken in my blog posts with very similar criticisms, which was exacerbated by JamesP's banning of members who linked to it on the FDR forum and deleting their posts or removing the links from them without any acknowledgement being given (to date) by any of the forum admins that those posts have been edited. (In FDR's - but not in JamesP's - defense, James' unilatterally banning forum members without first consulting with all the other admins was contrary to the agreement that Stef says the admins had made after the since-retracted ban of member Noesis, however long ago that was).

Michael McConkey had written his article after unsuccessfully trying to convince Stef to invite somebody with genuine expertise on behavioural genetics/differential psychology on his show to have them challenge his empirical claims about the systematic long-term effects of parenting. Sadly, Stef is now making videos like the one linked to above, instead. If you're somebody who follows Stef's work, I encourage you to second Michael's request to Stef :)

So far, Stef's video doesn't really give me anything to respond to. There wouldn't be much point in me reiterating my previous criticisms that apply to this video as much as to anything he has previously put out on the topic. While he had announced that he would respond to Michael McConkey's article, his latest video does not respond to or even acknowledge any of Michael's criticisms, or any of mine for that matter (and Stef certainly did not send any traffic our way by referencing us as people who have stirred up some consternation and debate among his listeners). In fact, sadly his video really gives the impression that the points Michael and I have raised and the evidence we have referenced are completely unknown to Stef. He has repeated some of the arguments that I have previously described as constituting gross mistakes, including in one post that he left a comment on yet shows no sign of having read (in particular, I mentioned my having been banned from the FDR forum in that post, of which Stef stated a few days later that he was completely unaware - hence another breach of agreed-upon rules by one of the admins which has still not been publicly addressed on the FDR forum).

I will be watching Stef's further videos on this topic, and if I find anything worth commenting on in them, I will. However, I'm going to be travelling for close to two weeks as of this afternoon (Austria, then Germany), and while I believe I should have some time, quiet, and internets when I'm in Germany as of June 1st, I don't know whether I'll really get to blog until my return on the 8th.

My disappointment with Stef's video as a "response" to the criticisms he has recently received has left me feeling like this is probably the end of my recent "coverage of his work" here on my blog. But I want to extend an invitation to anybody who may still be circling my blog in search of commentary on Stef's empirical claims to let me know if there's anything you would like me to address. I would be very happy to comply. I have spent a considerable amount of time studying this topic, as well as other ones that Stef talks about (both as part of the psychology degree I completed close to two years ago and on "my own time"), I now study level 3 mathematics and I understand the statistical methods involved, and I know Stef's positions and style extremely well, having listened to over 1800 of his podcasts in one year and two months. As you can see on my old "Introducing Mozz" thread, I was once very much a Freedomainer, and the contrast between this blog and my posts from two and a half years ago bear witness to some very radical shifts in my worldview. Evidently, the fact that I had suffered from depression and social anxiety for many years at the time of my discovering FDR played a very large role in my buying into it as much as I have.

Also, please do post this blog post on the Freedomain Radio forum (I can't do it myself, I'm banned). I really want to invite Stef's listeners over here. Yes, even the aggressive ones, as they give me stuff to comment on as well.

Thanks! :) And I hope to hear from you.



  1. Thank you for these comments. I taught developmental and social psychology for many years and also taught forensic, personality and abnormal psychology. Many of Molyneux's claims about psychology are laughable. His claims that most parents are abusive, that "all" people need therapy, that "the root of all evil is child abuse" simply do NOT correspond to the research in any of these fields. However Michael goes too far in the other direction. What individuals turn out to be is a complex interaction of genes, epigenetics, prenatal environment, upbringing, culture, social and physical environment, and unique events. At least. To say that it is all environment flies in the face of the consensus of research findings in psychology, neuroscience, and biology. But to say it is mostly genes also flies in the face of research in psychology, anthropology, sociology and history.
    --Sharon Presley

  2. Thanks a lot for your comment, Sharon :) I don't remember Michael saying it's mostly genes, and I certainly don't say that. I have some other posts on this blog that go into the interactivity of factors and what it means for Stefan Molyneux's claims. Many people don't seem to realise just how specific his claims are when it comes down to it. He says that parenting styles have *highly systematic* long-term effects. The evidence, however, shows that what parents you were raised by just doesn't turn out to be a useful predictive factor at all, at least on most measures; perhaps I should stress this more than I have so far: this does not mean that features of one's parental environment "don't have any effects", but it DOES mean that those effects are highly UNsystematic, and that Stef's claims which rely on the opposite being true are unambiguously wrong (at least when put as generally as he puts them).
    Do we disagree on any of that? :)

  3. Wouldn't parenting have the largest impact on a child because it affects environment, culture, and epigeneitcs (triggering and exposure to genetic dispositions)?

    Besides genes, doesn't the parent have the most control over the child's environment and culture?

  4. Hi, Tim. That's an empirical question, and luckily there is a ton of evidence to figure out an answer from, which happens to be surprisingly conclusive. You can refer to my previous post on Steven Pinker's account of the evidence, here

    You're right, of course, that parents have substantial control over other environmental factors like the ones you mention, and yet it turns out that who people were raised by tells you virtually nothing about what psychological characteristics they're likely to have as adults. That's not just true of parenting, it's true of pretty much all environmental factors that have been studied: Their effects are highly unsystematic and allow for very few predictions of outcomes or interventions. And so even by controlling other environmental factors, parents have very little power over what kind of person their child will grow up to be. It's not as simple a cause and effect relation as Stefan Molyneux says it is. It's a mess. Psychological development is a complex dynamic system in which gazillions of factors interact with each other.

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