Re: Offered without comment or warranty

Damien Broderick (
Wed, 13 May 1998 12:36:44 +0000

At 11:31 PM 5/12/98 BST-1, the glacial Tony Hollick wrote:
> I found this an amusing and thought-provoking 'read.'

>>A Study of Imagination Deficiency in Ten Cases of Skepticism
>>by David Quinne

Yes - funny, stylish and deft. And ouch-making.

I've been wondering about this paradox myself. Despite having been an sf
writer by profession for, um, 35 years, I'm clearly `Imagination
Deficient'. Part of this is what I would justify as
`Dick-Headedness-Intolerant', but part is quite close to what Quinne's
spoof parametrizes.

Example: I can cautiously consider the possibility that certain claims of
the paranormal are valid without my head exploding, but I get very, very
angry when my sister-in-law blithely reports that she and her friends can
change the traffic lights green when they wish to.

Leaving aside the question of rational adjudication of conflicting claims,
I've been musing on possible links between birth order, family dynamic
ecology, stress levels (measured by cortisol, say), temperament and
radicality. Frank Solloway's recent amazing work on birth order as a
predictor of response to novelty is a key datum. So is the recent paper
showing that first-born mice (and, I think, some other lab beasties) are
more skittish, easily stressed, than their later-litter sibs. Might have
something to do with uterine environment, or with the mother's inexperience.

It occurred to me that I (a first born) have a high probability - on
Sulloway's acount - of being narrow, conservative and opposed to change.
My brother Mick, 15 years younger and the family's `baby', should have
turned out neophilic and radical - as indeed he did, in a relaxed and
sardonic way (he's a scathing authority on nuclear tropes in movies and
TV). But I sort of muddy the picture, being gung-ho for change in some
directions and quite narrow and hostile to innovation in many others. (I'm
one of those people who find it hard to believe anyone except the mentally
infirm would choose to wear a baseball hat backwards - it mimics baldness,
never a good look, it leaves you with the sun in your eyes, not a lot of
fun, and it's a marker of herd mentality.)

I suspect this might have something to do with anxiety control. If your
stress set-points are low, from birth, you might arrange your reactions to
the world in a defensive, suspicious way, and if you're intelligent as
well, you might do this by constructing/adopting highly complex, organised
systems of categorisation, evaluation and expression. More relaxed people
might find it easier to break free, to explore `imaginatively' without the
risk of premature closure. (If that's true, there'll also be more paranoid
delusives - who might seem at first sight to be wildly imaginative - among
the non-`imaginatives' as well... which is one of the claims in the spoof

Are you a later-born, Anders? Max? Natasha? Greg? Keith? John? Anyone?

Damien Broderick