Nice guys in Binghamton:
There is a book (The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve my City, One Block at a Time David Sloan Wilson, Little Brown: 2011) which has been reviewed.  (Kevin Laland Small-Town Utopia NATURE vol. 477 no. 7363 September 8, 2011 page 160)  A study was done in Binghamton, New York, and it was observed that some parts of town had a much higher sense of civic spirit than did other parts of the same town.  And tellingly, this did not simply reflect income disparities.  There were “caring” areas that were authentically different from “non-caring” areas.

Well the obvious thing to do is to try to convert the non-caring areas into caring areas.  And so it is proposed. 

However, it seems to me I recently reflected on the possibility that since infertility and mental illness seem very roughly to be correlated, both with the urban infertility phenomenon and the high rate of both in Europe, maybe “caring” follows the same logic.

Back at Harvard Medical School we were taught the importance of getting a patient past a period of grieving.  We were told to expect first disbelief, then a bargaining phase, then anger and finally balance.  Clinically the priorities were first to protect the patient from himself.  Once he was no longer a menace to himself, the next step was to get him to advance to the point where he could take care of himself.  Once he was independent, however, the job was not yet done.  Eventually he would start to do things for other people.  At that point one could declare the cure to be complete. 

Now “caring” and “doing things for other people” are indistinguishable in my own mind, although I imagine the criteria strictly speaking are different.  But if my shallow understanding is more or less right, then non-caring is abnormal. 

So it seems to me that the critical question is whether the people in the caring areas are marrying cousins more frequently than the people in the non-caring areas.  Of course some areas are likely to be more ethnically diverse than other areas, and whether this correlates with urban spirit or not might be interesting in its own right, but it is a different question.  It might be possible to extract both elements in a statistical analysis.

There have been 23,791 visitors so far.
Home page