Scientists discover hundreds of new genes that may affect cognitive ability

(Emphasis mine)

Do keep in mind that the attitude “these people are better than those people” is the basis for pretty much all discrimination.


Wow. “making people better than they are” refers to someone bettering themselves. Which would be a reason for Education and Good Health Choices. Or popping a Limitless pill. So are you against CRISPR being used to cure genetic diseases?

1 Like

I am against treating baseline humanity like a disease.


Oh, I get that. It sounds like if any easy solution was there to improve the cognitive ability of everyone, anyone, but that had a genetic component, you would be against it, is that correct?

1 Like

I don’t think everyone would go for it even if such a treatment was universally available, and I think in practice those who didn’t have the “upgrade” would be discriminated against by those who did. So no, I don’t think genetic tinkering is a viable solution for ending discrimination and bigotry.


Ah, you would outlaw such a thing. Dang. I would pop one in a heartbeat, just for my own shits and giggles. Though I think a universal lengthening of lifespan and intelligence would be a net positive. Oh well, we’ll see how well a prohibition of that sort of research will work.

I wouldn’t make a law restricting what consenting adults could do with their own bodies. I just don’t share your optimism that it would be any kind of catalyst for ending discrimination.


Or maybe the nature of their lives meant that everyone’s existence was very hard from an early age. Realistically, deducing either brutality or caring from a limited sample of bones is speculative.

I never said they were perfect. And really, what parent hasn’t contemplated that?


I am not optimistic about most of human nature, but I do think the people who would benefit from a technology that got “smart and long lived” genes in them, the most, are those who didn’t win the genetic lottery in the first place. A person going from an(And I use the term here loosely, not a big fan of old school intelligence testing)80 IQ to a 100 IQ stands to benefit more in lifestyle than a person going from a 120 IQ to 140 IQ.


But this isn’t talking about typical eugenics nonsense, like say, sterilisation.

If we could deploy a CRISPR-like technology to grant everyone an IQ of 140, would that be so terrible?

Though then there’s a question that would linger, is a high IQ (which thus far is generally predictive of financial success) really all that great? Are you that much happier? Is there some advantage to having a mixture of IQs in the population that we might not notice without testing the limits? Might increasing IQ have negative effects on other aspects of cognition?


I’ve heard Charles Murray say that the genetic research that’s ongoing will likely bolster his argument that there are real differences in IQ between groups. What if the research comes back that there’s a strong genetic reason why there is almost a standard deviation in difference between averages of various groups?

I still can’t figure out how racists can derive some kind of racist agenda even if this were true (if anything, if some populations of people have lower IQs, then you have an ethical obligation to HELP them, not reject them).

Nevertheless, I confess I am worried about this. I don’t know how the general public would receive this information (especially since the press water-down and hype-up scientific findings).

What are your thoughts?

I think that racists are going to find a racist lens through which to view literally anything, and when the science stops supporting them they will just lie. I just straight up don’t believe that a proper view of the facts will ever support racism. And that’s not blind faith or “just my opinion”: it’s completely bizarre to think that popular North American racial groupings (it’s not like there is one agreed on set of “races”) happen to align with anything.

Exactly what will be wrong with racist arguments is hard to predict.

They will probably try to reduce complex measures of cognitive ability down to a single number (like IQ). They’ll use a proxy that can be socially manipulated rather than a direct measurement (like IQ tests). They’ll make it sound as if an average of that one number represents a difference that can be extrapolated to individuals. They’ll take what the science actually tells us and equivocate through words like “intelligent” or “smart” to get to things the science doesn’t tell us at all.

But who knows, they could say anything. The path to make a compelling scientific case is pretty narrow, but the path to spouting nonsense designed at recruiting people to a hateful political cause is a mile wide.

I’m not that worried. I’m more worried about how bad things are now than how bad they might get when we know more.


Well actually…

Turns out that some of the most oppressed folks in the world actually faced evolutionary pressure for higher intelligence as a result of that oppression - backfire effect win.

1 Like

I heard an intelligence researcher say that we are very rapidly approaching insights that will be far more accurate than current psychometrics (personality measures, IQ, etc). But I don’t think that will necessarily undermine the conceptualisation of IQ, it may just make measurements more accurate. I Just read a paper about fractionalizing IQ, which argues there are a range of cognitive tasks that map onto areas of the brain, and may be a better way to account for intelligence – but I still couldn’t see how you would avoid value judgements under this conceptualisation (or how it really poses much of a threat to the concept of “IQ” since they are already measuring various skill sets).

The current research already shows that IQ is predictive of future financial success (and I think also “lower aggression” for those with higher IQs) – so if it turns out that we will eventually be able to measure IQ like how we think of hard drives now (storage space, speed, overall processing power, better and worse operating systems), I can see the racists latching onto that.

What I do worry about is some of my fellow anti-racists who pretend that IQ research is just utter nonsense – that simply won’t get us anywhere. Just because it’s an early iteration of the science, intelligence research is moving forward, and the data is coming, whether we like it or not.

So I’d rather encourage people to think about the ethical implications. I can’t see, for example, no matter what the research reveals about various populations, how you generate an ethical racist worldview.

And the other thing to contemplate is that we are actually seeing the stratification of populations not just by income groups, but by IQ groups that are selecting to cluster in certain geographic areas (the coasts, and Silicon Valley for an example). This is something that is a little troubling – might we see class divisions actually morph into intelligence divisions? (Is it already sort of like that now?)

I think IQ as it is popularly conceived is utter nonsense. The fact is that different brains are going to process different things at different rates. Some will be better suited for some tasks than others.

But the more we really understand intelligence the more we are going to be forced to see it as a physical trait much like how fast you can run. I know the multi-dimensionality of it doesn’t necessarily mitigate the ability to use it for racist purposes. There’s no good way to say whether the 100m dash winner or the marathon winner is “the fastest runner” but it’s pretty easy to say they are both faster than me.

But it’s also easy to say that your knowledge that certain racial groups win the marathon more than others wouldn’t wildly warp your assessment of who you think could run faster if presented with two individuals (or if it would that you are just being plain stupid). It’s easy to say that if you were hiring for a job that required people to unload boxes from trucks you wouldn’t see that one could run the 100m faster and say, “That guy is faster, so I should hire him because he will be able to unload boxes faster.”

Firefighters need to pass certain physical tests to get their jobs and for good reason. You need to be able to carry a person down a ladder to do your job. No matter how advanced genetics becomes, no matter how precisely we can predict a person’s genetic propensity to be strong, the best way to know if a person can run up seven flights of stairs while carrying 70lbs of gear is to put them in a 70lb weighted vest and tell them to run up stairs.

Honestly I’m not even sure that high IQ makes people less likely to be total dumbasses. A lot of people use their intelligence to make very convincing justification of their stupid thoughts rather than to actually examine anything they think. The fact that there are people with high IQ who think having a high IQ is something to brag about basically proves that high IQ doesn’t prevent you from being dumb as a bag of rocks.

I think focusing on ethics makes a lot of sense and likely sidesteps the arguments racists will make. But the arguments racists will make will end up being deeply flawed one way or another.

It’s not like that now. Chris Rock commented that he looks at his daughters and sees these two bright, determined girls and knows they could accomplish anything with their lives and thinks, “What, did history have no bright, determined girls? Weren’t there girls just like my daughters on slave plantations?” He asks if Barack Obama was the first black man in America who had what it took to be President. Like, if it just happened to take that long for history to produce a black man worthy of that position?

Rocket scientists and chemical engineers are going to be a pretty intelligent bunch because those are the mental “run up seven flights of stairs with this 70lb vest on” jobs. You don’t get them if you can’t do it.

But political leaders, hedge fund managers, activist billionaires, the people who run things? No one is checking whether you are smart enough to do those things well before you get the role, and there is no reason to think those people are terrible smart.

1 Like

Hmm, except some of this has been measured, and you should expect those people to have at least higher than average IQ.

To the notion of intelligence divisions – we are seeing clustering of populations in which people share more or less the same IQ (Silicon Valley, areas on the coasts)…

But all interesting points.

I still think even if we get to a “multiplicity of explanations for intelligence” – we’ll likely still be able to reduce that to a set of measures that will be meaningful, and that we can’t get around…

Intelligence isn’t an indicator of a persons life situation. That’s mainly luck. If there was easy access to smart pills everyone would apply their smarts to whatever they were doing already (doctoring, or dumpster digging). I think it’s inevitable they’d discover their world view depends on everyone else as a reason to be more compassionate.

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.