econintersect.com
       
  

FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.



posted on 22 April 2016

Genetics: What It Is That Makes You Clever And Why It's Shrouded In Controversy

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Daphne Martschenko, University of Cambridge

For nearly 150 years, the concept of intelligence and its study have offered scientific ways of classifying people in terms of their "ability". The drive to identify and quantify exceptional mental capacity may have a chequered history, but it is still being pursued by some researchers today.

Francis Galton, who was Charles Darwin's cousin, is considered the father of eugenics and was one of the first to formally study intelligence. His 1869 work Hereditary Genius argued that superior mental capabilities were passed down via natural selection - confined to Europe's most eminent men, a "lineage of genius". Barring a few exceptions, women, ethnic minorities and lower socioeconomic communities were labelled as inferior in intelligence.

Galton's controversial theories on race, socioeconomics and intelligence have been highly influential and shaped the ideologies of numerous researchers and theorists around the world.

In the UK, proponents of a Galtonian view on intelligence included educational psychologist Cyril Burt, who helped formulate the 11-plus examination, and psychologist Charles Spearman who is best known for his creation of the concept "g" - the innate general factor of human mental ability. Spearman's background as an engineer in the British army gave him a statistical sophistication that proved instrumental in shifting the direction of the field of intelligence study.

Spearman: statistician who delved into human intelligence. Eugène Pirou via Wikimedia Commons

Spearman hypothesised that intelligence is comprised of "g" - or "general intelligence", and two other specific factors: verbal ability and fluency. Spearman's extensive work on the use of "g" within the field of statistics meant that some used the "hard" sciences and maths as instruments to argue that there were biological differences between races and social classes. "G" as a representation of the biological basis of intelligence is still being used today in research within the current field of behavioural genetics.

Political currency

The concept of inheritance, and specifically the inheritance of intelligence, has carried over into political and educational spheres. A more recent advocate of Galtonian-inspired ideas is Dominic Cummings, who served as a special advisor to the former secretary of state for education, Michael Gove. Cummings wrote the following in a 237-page document titled "Some thoughts on education and political priorities":

Raising school performance of poorer children ... would not necessarily lower parent-offspring correlations (nor change heritability estimates). When people look at the gaps between rich and poor children that already exist at a young age (3-5), they almost universally assume that these differences are because of environmental reasons ("privileges of wealth") and ignore genetics.

The birth of twins studies

From the 1920s, when twin and adoption studies set out to determine the genetic and environmental origins of intelligence differences, the study of intelligence began to converse with the early stages of human behavioural genetics.

Are you copying me? Volt Collection/www.shutterstock.com

Under the presumption that twins experience similar environmental aspects, twins studies enable researchers to evaluate the variance of a given outcome - such as cognitive ability - in a large group. They can then attempt to estimate how much of this variance is due to the heritability of genes, the shared environment the twins live in, or a non-shared environment.

The 1980s and 1990s saw another rise in twin and adoption studies on intelligence, many of which were more systematic in nature due to advances in technology. Most supported earlier research and showed intelligence to be highly heritable and polygenic, meaning that it is influenced by many different genetic markers.

The researchers Robert Plomin, JC Defries, and Nele Jacobs were at the forefront of this new wave of studies. But this research was still unable to identify the specific genetic markers within the human genome that are connected to intelligence.

Genome - a new frontier

Genome sequencing technologies have taken the search for the genetic components of inheritance another step forward. Despite the seemingly endless possibilities brought forth by the Human Genome Project in 2001, actually using DNA-based techniques to locate which genetic differences contribute to observed differences in intelligence has been markedly more difficult than anticipated.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) began to take hold as a powerful tool for investigating the human genetic architecture. These studies assess connections between a trait and a multitude of DNA markers. Most commonly, they look for single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs. These are variations between genes at specific locations throughout a DNA sequence that might determine an individual's likelihood to develop a particular disease or trait.

Originally intended to identify genetic risk factors associated with susceptibility to disease, GWAS have become a means through which to try and pinpoint the genetic factors responsible for cognitive ability. But researchers have shown that intelligence is a trait influenced by many different genes: they have so far been unable to locate enough SNPs to predict the IQ of an individual.

Ethical questions

There's a long way still to go, but this field is receiving a great deal of publicity. This raises several ethical questions. We must ask ourselves if this research can ever be socially neutral given the eugenic-Galtonian history underpinning it.

This kind of research could have an impact on human genetic engineering and the choices parents make when deciding to have children. It could give parents with the money and desire to do so the option to make their offspring "smarter". Though genetically engineering intelligence may appear to be in the realm of science fiction, if the genes associated with intelligence are identified, it could become a reality.

Some researchers have suggested that schools which have a child's genetic information could tailor the curriculum and teaching to create a system of "personalised learning". But this could lead schools to expect certain levels of achievement from certain groups of children - perhaps from different socioeconomic or ethnic groups - and would raise questions of whether richer families would benefit most.

Whether calling it "intelligence", "cognitive ability", or "IQ", behavioural genetics research is still trying to identify the genetic markers for a trait that can predict, in essence, a person's success in life. Given the history of this field of research, it's vital it is conducted with an awareness of its possible ethical impact on all parts of society.

The ConversationDaphne Martschenko, PhD Candidate, University of Cambridge

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing










Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.



You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.





Econintersect Contributors


search_box

Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF


The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.


Take a look at what is going on inside of Econintersect.com
Main Home
Analysis Blog
The Problem With Obamacare Is That It Did Little To Reduce Overall Healthcare Spending
Joan Robinson’s Critique of Marginal Utility Theory
News Blog
Joe Sixpack's Situation in 3Q2016: The Average Joe Is Better Off
Why Are Some People More Delinquent On Loans Than Others? - Part 1
Gravity Returns To San Francisco Housing Market
Violent Bond Selloff: An Eye-Opening Perspective
Infographic Of The Day: Identity Theft: You Should Be Worried
Early Headlines: Russia Hacked GOP, Trump To Drain Energy 'Swamp'?, New Sec'y Of State Candidate, India IP Shrinks, India Has World's New Largest Solar Plant , China GDP Hides Volatility And More
Most Coup Attempts In Recent Years Have Failed
The Global Cost Of Diabetes
The Universities Churning Out The Most Billionaires
Five Amazing Ways Plants Have Created New Technologies
Where U.S. Weekly Wages Go The Furthest
What We Read Today 09 December 2016
How To Stop Using Filler Words Like Um And Uh
Investing Blog
The New Art Of Utility Investing
Investing,com Weekly Wrap-up 09 December 2016
Opinion Blog
Trickle-down Economics, Trump Edition
Looking At Everything: Trump's $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
Precious Metals Blog
Silver Prices Rebounded Today: Where They Are Headed
Live Markets
09Dec2016 Market Close: Wall Street Closes On A New High, Trump Sugar High, Crude Prices Testing Resistance, US Dollar Melts Higher
Amazon Books & More






.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government



Crowdfunding ....






























 navigate econintersect.com

Blogs

Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day
Weather

Newspapers

Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government
     

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed
Google+
Facebook
Twitter
Digg

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution

Contact

About

  Top Economics Site

Investing.com Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved