Kitten Torturing and American Politics
[Astute observation from a friend of mine, Pete Larsen]:

Hey Rob,

On November 1st, I was attending a developmental genetics lecture and a Nobel Prize winning experiment by Hebel and Wiesel involving kitten torturing was described in excessively gleeful detail. Newborn kitten’s eyes were sewn shut and the effect of development of their visual cortex (by “cracking their heads open” according to the lecturer) was examined. Denied visual stimulation, the kitten's neural circuitry for vision failed to develop and could not be recovered even if their eyes were re-opened later. Their perfectly functioning eyes were connected to non-working brains. Additional experiments indicated that a kitten reared, for example, in a room without a particular color or only horizontal stripes would lack the ability as an adult to see that color or detect vertical stripes. The study goes on to show how an area of the brain usually specified for a particular function can be co-opted by some other process in absence of its intended stimulus.

On the same day, I saw the results of a political poll quoted. According to this poll, 72% of Bush supporters believed that Iraq harbored ‘weapons of mass destruction’™ and 75% believed that Iraq provided substantial support to @l Qaed@ (post Patriot Act and a second Dubya term, gotta watch these e-mails). This belief is held in spite of a preponderance of evidence to the contrary.

Are these aspects of a similar phenomenon? Could a neuronal deficiency, generated by lack or excess of stimulus during some critical developmental stage, explain how some individuals cannot ‘see’ some facts or process certain kinds of data? What blind spots might we all have?


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