Generalizations, Circadians, and Mammothrepts

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December 18, 2017 by libroshombre


“All generalizations are, when you get right down to it, false, including this one,” Mark Twain once wrote, but rules always have exceptions, and some more than others. Take for example “Why Night Owls Are More Intelligent than Morning Larks,” an article from, a veritable fount of generalization. “Virtually all species in nature … exhibit a daily cycle called circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm in mammals is regulated by two clusters of nerve cells.”

Geneticists have identified genes that regulate mammalian circadian rhythms and found that “humans, unlike other mammalian species, have the unique ability, consciously and cognitively, to override their internal biological clock … humans can choose what time to go to bed and get up. Humans can choose to be night owls or morning larks.” Scientists studying traditional societies report that those peoples carry out almost all demanding activities during daylight hours, and night owls’ “sustained nocturnal activities are largely evolutionarily novel.” From this it’s inferred that stay-up-late night owls are out-of-the-box thinkers and more intelligent. My early-rising wife takes exception.

“Night owls benefit from better memory, increased processing speed and cognitive abilities,” while “morning people are more persistent, self-directed and agreeable,” according to “Why You Shouldn’t Try to Be a Morning Person,” a recent by Amanda Ruggeri. “Research shows that morningversus evening types show a classic left-brain versus right brain division,” Ruggeri wrote. Only a quarter of us are markedly night owls and another 25% are morning larks. “It’s estimated that some 50% of the population isn’t really morning or evening-oriented, but somewhere in the middle … There is a peak shift toward being awake more [at night] at around 20 and a change back toward morning wakefulness at around age 50.”

We shouldn’t force things one way or the other, according to Oxford University chronobiologist Katarina Wulff. “If people are left to their naturally preferred times, they feel better. They say they are much more productive. The mental capacity they have is much broader.” However, “humans average a 24.2-hour clock, meaning everyone adjusts slightly each day to a 24-hour rhythm. But for night owls, the clock often runs longer – meaning that, without external clues to change, they’ll fall asleep and get up later and later over time.”

Science overhauls itself so often that’s it’s wise to take it all with grains of salt and not be mammothrepts, or “persons of immature judgment.” Consider the extensive and vague “Reasons For Admission” used by the West Virginia Hospital for the Insanea century ago. Psychologists back then could commit you for “grief,” “hard study,” “egotism,” “Salvation Army,” “desertion by husband,” “marriage of son,” and, God help us, “novel reading.”

A similar vagueness surrounds the decision-making process for banning books in Texas prisons. 10,073 books are banned in the state’s prisons, including “Where’s Waldo,” “The Color Purple,” Shakespeare’s Sonnets, and “Homer Simpson’s Little Book of Laziness,” according to, “Why Do Texas Prisons Ban ‘Freakonomics’ But Not Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf?,” a Dallas Morning News article published this month. Meanwhile, Hitler’s works, two books by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, and James Battersby’s “The Holy Book of Adolph Hitler” are all A-OK. Civil libertarians argue that censoring any books violates the prisoners’ Constitutional rights.

So who makes the decisions and why? Mail room staff review books and kick out those that they think contain information about topics like weapons and drugs, illegal sex acts, and “information on criminal schemes.” Books can also be banned for how they’re manufactured, such as “uninspectable covers,” “multi-layered pages,” (the Homer Simpson book), or they “contain stickers” (the Where’s Waldo book).

Our local library once loaned books from its collection to Fairbanks Correctional Center inmates but had to stop when it was discovered that prisoners’ accomplices were identifying rarely borrowed books, inserting drugs and tobacco into the spaces between the interior hinges of the covers, inside the headbands (the spaces behind the books’ spines), and so on, and then telling the prisoners which books to request. Now the library distributes random donated paperbacks and magazines at FCC.

Some prisoners truly want education, and some have other desires. Either way, as William Blake noted, “To generalize is to be an idiot.”


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