Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should we?

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Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should we?

Post by kennyc » Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:16 pm

Interesting article in Wired:

Why Are Some People So Smart? The Answer Could Spawn a Generation of Superbabies
BY JOHN BOHANNON07.16.136:30 AM

Barely out of his teens, Zhao Bowen is leading a multimillion-dollar research effort to solve a genetic mystery: What makes people like him so smart? And how can we make more of them? Photo by David Hogsholt

ZHAO BOWEN IS LATE FOR A SATANIC HEAVY METAL CONCERT. After haggling the doorman down to half price, he pushes into a Beijing bar with a ceiling low enough to punch. He follows the shriek of guitars down a corridor and into a mosh pit lit by strobe lights. It’s hot as hell and looks like it too: Men onstage made up as demons are slashing through a song about damnation—the lyrics are in English—while headbangers worship at their feet. Zhao dives in.

The strobes capture midair collisions of bodies, sprays of sweat. Someone’s glasses fly off and are crushed underfoot. Over the faces of the onlookers spreads that distinctive look of thrill and fear that tends to presage a riot. But just then the song climaxes in a weird screamgasm and the band takes a break. The crowd responds with the ultimate compliment, chanting “Niu bi! ” and pumping their fists. The phrase can be roughly translated as “{!#%@} yeah!” but it literally means “cow’s vagina.”

Zhao blends right in with all the Chinese teenagers in this sweltering rock dungeon. He has big wide-set eyes framed by dark eyebrows and a pair of silvery geek glasses. It makes him look like a friendly cartoon character, and the effect is enhanced by full cheeks that make his head look spherical. He is neither strikingly handsome nor unattractive. Zhao is of average height, average weight.

But he is far from average. After being identified early as a science prodigy, Zhao raced through China’s special programs for gifted students and won a spot in Renmin, one of the country’s most elite high schools. Then, to the shock of his friends and family, he decided to drop out when he was 17. Now, at 21, he oversees his own research project at BGI Shenzhen—the country’s top biotech institute and home to the world’s most powerful cluster of DNA-sequencing machines—where he commands a multimillion-dollar research budget.

Zhao’s goal is to use those machines to examine the genetic underpinnings of genius like his own. He wants nothing less than to crack the code for intelligence by studying the genomes of thousands of prodigies, not just from China but around the world. He and his collaborators, a transnational group of intelligence researchers, fully expect they will succeed in identifying a genetic basis for IQ. They also expect that within a decade their research will be used to screen embryos during in vitro fertilization, boosting the IQ of unborn children by up to 20 points. In theory, that’s the difference between a kid who struggles through high school and one who sails into college.

Zhao doesn’t talk about work tonight. He dives in and out of the crowd. He makes small talk with a girl, bums a cigarette off her. Tonight Zhao is a normal young adult. Tomorrow he will return to his multimillion-dollar experiment—one whose success could complicate the whole idea of what it means to be normal.

Some people are smarter than others. It seems like a straightforward truth, and one that should lend itself to scientific investigation. But those who try to study intelligence, at least in the West, find themselves lost in a political minefield. To be sure, not all intelligence research is controversial: If you study cognitive development in toddlers, or the mental decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease, “that’s treated as just normal science,” says Douglas Detterman, founding editor of Intelligence, a leading journal in the field. The trouble starts whenever the heritability of intelligence is discussed, or when intelligence is compared between genders, socioeconomic classes, or—most explosively—racial groupings.

Since the 1990s, when a book called The Bell Curve (coauthored by a psychologist and a political scientist) waded into this last morass, attempts to quantify or even study intelligence have become deeply unfashionable. Dozens of popular books by nonexperts have filled the void, many claiming that IQ—which after more than a century remains the dominant metric for intelligence—predicts nothing important or that intelligence is simply too complex and subtle to be measured.

For the most part, an IQ test—the most common of which today is called the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale—is a series of brainteasers. You fit abstract shapes together, translate codes using a key, sort numbers or letters into ascending order in your mind. It’s a weirdly playful exercise, the sort of test you would expect to have no bearing on anything else. But studies make it clear that IQ is strongly correlated with the ability to solve all sorts of abstract problems, whether they involve language, math, or visual patterns. The frightening upshot is that IQ remains by far the most powerful predictor of the life outcomes that people care most about in the modern world. Tell me your IQ and I can make a decently accurate prediction of your occupational attainment, how many kids you’ll have, your chances of being arrested for a crime, even how long you’ll live.

Critics claim that these correlations are misleading, that those life outcomes have more to do with culture and environmental circumstances than with innate intellectual ability. And even IQ researchers are far from in agreement about whether scores can be validly compared between groups of people—men and women, blacks and whites—who experience very different environments even within the same country. Variations within groups are often greater than the variations between them, making it impossible to draw conclusions about someone based on their group.

But on an individual level, the evidence points toward a strong genetic component in IQ. Based on studies of twins, siblings, and adoption, contemporary estimates put the heritability of IQ at 50 to 80 percent, and recent studies that measure the genetic similarity of unrelated people seem to have pushed the estimate to the high end of that range.

This is an idea that makes us incredibly uncomfortable. “People don’t like to talk about IQ, because it undermines their notion of equality,” Detterman says. “We think every person is equal to every other, and we like to take credit for our own accomplishments. You are where you are because you worked hard.” The very idea of the American dream is undermined by the notion that some people might be born more likely to succeed. Even if we accept that intelligence is heritable, any effort to improve or even understand the inheritance process strikes us as distasteful, even ghoulish, suggesting the rise of designer superbabies. And given the fallout that sometimes results when academics talk about intelligence as a quantifiable concept—such as the case of Harvard president Lawrence Summers, who in 2006 resigned after suggesting that science is male-dominated due not to discrimination but to a shortage of high-IQ women—it’s no surprise that IQ research is not a popular subject these days at Western universities.

But in his lab at BGI, 21-year-old Zhao has no such squeamishness. He waves it away as “irrational,” making a comparison with height: “Some people are tall and some are short,” he says. Three years into the project, a team of four geneticists is crunching an initial batch of 2,000 DNA samples from high-IQ subjects, searching for where their genomes differ from the norm. Soon Zhao plans to get thousands more through Renmin—his former high school—as well as from other sources around the world. He believes that intelligence has a genetic recipe and that given enough samples—and enough time—his team will find it.
....



http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/ ... ics-of-iq/
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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by Martin Brock » Fri Aug 02, 2013 6:49 pm

Intelligence is genetic to large extent. Maybe we can manipulate it usefully in the future. If we can, we should.

Also, I don't know what all the fuss over "doping" in sports is about. Aside from the arbitrary imposition of rules, why is it "cheating" to use a performance enhancing drug but not cheating to use performance enhancing exercise equipment or to have performance enhancing genes? If I could change my genes to be more like a top athlete's, would that be cheating?
People associating freely respect norms of their choice, and relationships governed this way are necessarily interdependent.

More central authorities conquer by dividing, imposing norms channeling the value of synergy toward themselves.

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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by Daedalus » Fri Aug 02, 2013 9:23 pm

Martin Brock wrote:Intelligence is genetic to large extent. Maybe we can manipulate it usefully in the future. If we can, we should.

Also, I don't know what all the fuss over "doping" in sports is about. Aside from the arbitrary imposition of rules, why is it "cheating" to use a performance enhancing drug but not cheating to use performance enhancing exercise equipment or to have performance enhancing genes? If I could change my genes to be more like a top athlete's, would that be cheating?


The issue as I understand it, pointless moralizing aside, is that it carries a number of risks to dope the way someone like Armstrong did. Given that, it means that the barrier to entry at that level is the risk of major illness from the doping, and every athlete doesn't want to do that. Given that... it can't be a level playing field without making the use of drugs and such nearly compulsory, which carries what we as a society deem to be an unreasonable risk to health.

Personally, I'd say we should just make a clean and a juiced league for sports, and let it go. I can't find it right now, but I recall a survey some time ago that asked people the following (paraphrased):

If you could take a pill right now that would make you the absolute top of your chosen sport for the next seven years, but at the end of those seven years you WILL die, would you take it?

Something like 1% of the general population said they would, compared to around 50% of professional athletes.

To me, that tells me a lot about what matters to them, vs. the average person. Let them do what they want, we already accept in the case of many sports, that they're trading the latter half of their lives' comfort in for glory now.
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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by Martin Brock » Sat Aug 03, 2013 7:13 pm

I believe that doping is risky, but competitive sports generally are risky. I dated a competitive biker once, on the BMW team, and while we dated, she was on a training ride with a guy who was killed when his bike hit something on a downhill grade and he flew over the handlebars into the asphalt. If society really cared about even riskier sports, like snow skiing, that frequently cripple participants, it would ban them outright.

Clean and juiced leagues is a very libertarian solution. I'm surprised at you.
Last edited by Martin Brock on Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
People associating freely respect norms of their choice, and relationships governed this way are necessarily interdependent.

More central authorities conquer by dividing, imposing norms channeling the value of synergy toward themselves.

"Every man for himself" is the prescription of a state, not a free community. A state protects the poor from the rich only in fairy tales.

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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by Daedalus » Sat Aug 03, 2013 8:36 pm

Martin Brock wrote:I believe that doping is risky, but competitive sports generally are risky. I debated a competitive biker once, on the BMW team, and while we dated, she was on a training ride with a guy who was killed when his bike hit something on a downhill grade and he flew over the handlebars into the asphalt. If society really cared about even riskier sports, like snow skiing, that frequently cripple participants, it would ban them outright.

Clean and juiced leagues is a very libertarian solution. I'm surprised at you.


Rejecting the totality of an ideology is not the same as rejecting many of its parts. The ideas put forth by individualists and libertarians often have a great deal of merit, if you're not forced to buy into all of it.

Hell, I like the golden rule, but I'm not going to become a Christian as a result.

Like you, I accept that sports are risky, often more than risky in fact. Play pro football (American or otherwise) and you're going to reduce your quality of life down the road at the bare minimum. Boxing is a great example, but we accept that some people want to do it, and we want to watch. If a further subset wants to use drugs and techniques that carry further risk, I don't mind that if we're honest about it and don't force EVERYONE into that position.
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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by clarsct » Sun Aug 11, 2013 11:41 pm

Hmmmmmmm.

I don't think we know enough about epigenetics yet to go around tinkering with our children.

Perhaps intelligence, or the associated genes, carries with it a burden.

I would argue for more research.

If we could, then I would think we would. Morally speaking, if, and only if, we can ensure there is no harm done otherwise, then we would be creating a net benefit. However, I also think we need to restrain ourselves from trying to create some 'Overman' race. I think that we don't, and can't, know enough to know what perfection is. We could very well breed out adaptability, genetic diversity, and robustness.

It's a fine line between improving a trait and trying to control the genome.
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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by scrmbldggs » Mon Aug 12, 2013 12:11 am

clarsct wrote:I think that we don't, and can't, know enough to know what perfection is..

^This.
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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by Daedalus » Mon Aug 12, 2013 12:22 am

clarsct wrote:Hmmmmmmm.

I don't think we know enough about epigenetics yet to go around tinkering with our children.

Perhaps intelligence, or the associated genes, carries with it a burden.

I would argue for more research.

If we could, then I would think we would. Morally speaking, if, and only if, we can ensure there is no harm done otherwise, then we would be creating a net benefit. However, I also think we need to restrain ourselves from trying to create some 'Overman' race. I think that we don't, and can't, know enough to know what perfection is. We could very well breed out adaptability, genetic diversity, and robustness.

It's a fine line between improving a trait and trying to control the genome.


Very good points... one that might be driven home keenly when people ignore that kind of advice and seek to "improve" their offspring. I wonder what fascinating new maladies will arise as a result of that? A higher rate of mental illness?

I pity those first infants, conscripted by parents who think they DO know what perfection is.
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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by Major Malfunction » Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:13 am

This being was produced using the same process as other beings, and therefore, may contain traces of nuts.

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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by fromthehills » Mon Aug 12, 2013 3:42 am

Major Malfunction wrote:Jim Jefferies.



Gotta be pretty confident to go on stage dressed like that.

But, {!#%@}, going out in public in America, you will run into a dumb {!#%@}. Somehow, I don't believe it's any different in Australia, or anywhere else in the world.

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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by Major Malfunction » Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:37 am

fromthehills wrote:Gotta be pretty confident to go on stage dressed like that.

But, {!#%@}, going out in public in America, you will run into a dumb {!#%@}. Somehow, I don't believe it's any different in Australia, or anywhere else in the world.

Statistically, every second person you meet walking down the street is a dumb {!#%@}.
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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by fromthehills » Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:54 am

Major Malfunction wrote:Statistically, every second person you meet walking down the street is a dumb {!#%@}.



Yes, I've seen an abundance of research in dumb {!#%@} (DC) studies that show a scientific consensus that 50% of humans are dumb cunts.

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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by Major Malfunction » Mon Aug 12, 2013 5:42 am

In my research, I've discovered they tend to congregate in certain areas. Late night bars, and public transport. And as Jim mentioned, churches. So I try to avoid those places if I can.
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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by clarsct » Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:05 pm

You forgot internet forums...

Truth is, we all do stupid crap at one point or another. The real indication, for me, is someone who is willing to learn and admit they were wrong. Unfortunately, our reasoning abilities evolved to win and be right, not to seek truth.

Perhaps we could, instead of focusing on intelligence, focus on critical thought.
With my above reservations, of course.
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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by kennyc » Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:15 pm

clarsct wrote:You forgot internet forums...

Truth is, we all do stupid crap at one point or another. The real indication, for me, is someone who is willing to learn and admit they were wrong. Unfortunately, our reasoning abilities evolved to win and be right, not to seek truth.

Perhaps we could, instead of focusing on intelligence, focus on critical thought.
With my above reservations, of course.



Not exactly. There are some good forums out there, but you are right they all have DCs as has been defined above. The goodness of the forum is dependent on the membership and the admins and moderators.

I disagree about human reasoning. I think that what you say is certainly true of the DCs but not of humanity in general, because it is truth that has allowed us to survive, not being right.

And no this thread is not about 'critical thought' it's about intelligence. If you want to discuss critical or rational thought then go start a thread on it.
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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by Luomo » Wed Aug 14, 2013 5:53 pm

Of course it's genetic, everything we are is genetic. But to rank one group of humans' intelligence above another is a conflict of interest (being done by a human).
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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by kennyc » Wed Aug 14, 2013 7:02 pm

Luomo wrote:Of course it's genetic, everything we are is genetic.



Uh, no, not everything is genetic, much of what we (and other living things) are is learned as a result of our environment.

Luomo wrote: But to rank one group of humans' intelligence above another is a conflict of interest (being done by a human).


Who else is going to do it? :lol:

No one said anything about ranking by group anyway as far as I know.
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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by clarsct » Thu Aug 15, 2013 9:15 pm

kennyc wrote:
clarsct wrote:You forgot internet forums...

Truth is, we all do stupid crap at one point or another. The real indication, for me, is someone who is willing to learn and admit they were wrong. Unfortunately, our reasoning abilities evolved to win and be right, not to seek truth.

Perhaps we could, instead of focusing on intelligence, focus on critical thought.
With my above reservations, of course.



Not exactly. There are some good forums out there, but you are right they all have DCs as has been defined above. The goodness of the forum is dependent on the membership and the admins and moderators.

Membership.... I do not believe that one can legislate morality, politeness, or intellect.

I disagree about human reasoning. I think that what you say is certainly true of the DCs but not of humanity in general, because it is truth that has allowed us to survive, not being right.

The tribal dynamic is all about getting everyone thinking the 'right' way. At first, being good observers ensured our survival, but once humans got agricultural, and maybe a little beforehand, getting everyone to see it your way became more important for securing mates, goods, et cetera.

In addition, I am saying we are all DCs at some point or another. It is our ability to recognize this and change our behavior in light of new information that lets us rise above. It's those DCs that never learn that give us all a bad name.

And no this thread is not about 'critical thought' it's about intelligence. If you want to discuss critical or rational thought then go start a thread on it.

I do not see how the two can be divided.
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Re: Is intelligence genetic and can we manipulate it? Should

Post by kennyc » Thu Aug 15, 2013 9:23 pm

Of course you don't.

:roll:
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