The gene pool and intelligence

Human Nature is shitting in your pants but we learned to do otherwise.  Professor Paul Oren who is dearly missed. 

Paris, Dec. 10, 2007 — There is a lot of talk these days about genetics and intelligence with behaviorists bending over backwards to show there is no evidence to back genetic traits in IQ (note they do not say proof) which seems to indicate somebody must be saying there is. 

Then there are those hinting at it and not coming out with it.  Gregory Clark (U of C, Davis) in his new book on the Economic History of the World seems to indicate that what he calls “the survival of the richest” in pre-industrial England may have allowed the population to become genetically more intelligent,  or as Benjamin M. Friedman (Harvard) puts it in his book review “the families that propagated themselves were the rich while those who died out were the poor.  Over time, the ‘survival of the richest’ propagated within the population the traits that had allowed these people to be more economically successful in the first place: rational thought, frugality, a capacity for hard work.” 

Richard E. Nisbett (U of Michigan) argues that “improvements in environment have great potential to bring about increases in IQ.  But he is a psychologist working in a variable environment while hereditarians maintain 60% to 80% of variation in IQ is genetically determined. 

Let us imagine genetics and intelligence are linked and that in a competitive environment with a large gene pool, the ‘best’ survived and improved the ‘race’ while the weak died out.  Then one could imagine that the secluded sheep herding mountains of Greece where my father was born had a limited gene pool since at least the Spartan times as compared to the ‘more advanced’ Hessian and English blood my mother’s ancestors’ genes competed in before further improving them over several generations in the US. 

I scored very well on my IQ tests (129 – 131) yet have spent my life confronted by those whom I know are more intelligent than I am.  But for no reasoning in the world would I allow myself to be treated as a lesser in society for that.  The question is, even if genetic explanations were true, why would that change the status of people or their treatment, or their right to vote, or to go on holiday, or to be given a second chance? 

I have yet to meet a person not afflicted with mental illness that I did not consider had enough free will to be held accountable for his acts or incapable of bettering his life if given the chance and demonstrated a desire to do so. 

Again, it is not whether you are more or less intelligent and whether it is genetic or not.  Will we grant people the right to vote based on their genetic composition; X% European, X% African, X% etc?  Will it determine their right to medical care, free basic education, equal employment opportunities and so on? 

Geneticists should just come out and spill the beans (if there are any) so we can deal with the real questions and get back to the basics of “all (men) are created equal, that they are endowed (by their Creator) with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.   

We have learned to live with the fact that we have 98.5% in common with our closest primate cousin: the chimpanzee.  When geneticists said earth worms have half our DNA structure, I came to the realization that we are just ants with electricity. We are not that advanced after all. 

The reality is there will always be those who are more intelligent, stronger, healthier etc. but not those who are more equal (note I do not say richer because some day we will do away with such social inequalities).  We are all accountable and have duties. 

Let us not confuse intelligence with stupidity which is certainly not genetic but learned.