, , , , , , , ,

It’s funny almost. There are so many ways to look at the following story from MIT Tech Review. The average IQ of a group or society is kind of important. It kind of bears on how well, how advanced than group or society does or becomes. The “G” factor and all else is as natural, atavistic, and genetic as any physical marker. People have known (or suspected) this forever. Now it’s hard science:

For decades genetic researchers have sought the hereditary factors behind intelligence, with little luck. But now gene studies have finally gotten big enough—and hence powerful enough—to zero in on genetic differences linked to IQ.

A year ago, no gene had ever been tied to performance on an IQ test. Since then, more than 500 have, thanks to gene studies involving more than 200,000 test takers. Results from an experiment correlating one million people’s DNA with their academic success are due at any time.

The discoveries mean we can now read the DNA of a young child and get a notion of how intelligent he or she will be, says Plomin, an American based at King’s College London, where he leads a long-term study of 13,000 pairs of British twins.

Plomin outlined the DNA IQ test scenario in January in a paper titled “The New Genetics of Intelligence,” making a case that parents will use direct-to-consumer tests to predict kids’ mental abilities and make schooling choices, a concept he calls precision education.

As of now, the predictions are not highly accurate. The DNA variations that have been linked to test scores explain less than 10 percent of the intelligence differences between the people of European ancestry who’ve been studied.

Okay, it’s a hardening science. DNA is still relatively new as a measurement subject, a novelty we’re still grappling with. The DNA-IQ link is brand, spanking new, subject to bugs. But those will be worked out – for better or for worse.

Current inaccuracy aside, some have legitimate concerns about the new testing:

Several educators contacted by MIT Technology Review reacted with alarm to the new developments, saying DNA tests should not be used to evaluate children’s academic prospects.

“The idea is we’ll have this information everywhere you go, like an RFID tag. Everyone will know who you are, what you are about. To me that is really scary,” says Catherine Bliss, a sociologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of a book questioning the use of genetics in social science.

“A world where people are slotted according to their inborn ability—well, that is Gattaca,” says Bliss. “That is eugenics.”

Several of my buzz words were hit upon right there.

The above-cited funniness comes from the cultural ramifications. Most people, centered up in that great parabolic shape, just don’t care about this stuff. Smarter people on the right … uh … maybe aren’t that smart. And they may suffer from spinal deformities. It’s some on the left who give us the delightful humor.

Some – not all – on the left claim to love science, logic, and reason. That is, they love it until the science interrupts the narrative. We are not, it seems, all the same. One can almost see this just by looking. The lust for scientific truth ends when it suggests as much as the eyes sometimes do. DNA says a lot. Some don’t want it heard. It’s like they don’t appreciate free speech. Turns out they don’t.

You surely recall The Bell Curve by Charles Murray. Murray was ahead of his time, a generation earlier than the new tests. His work examined the means and ends of IQ differences. Some rejected his findings and opinions. Murray tries to speak to college audiences only to be shouted down and run off by militant leftists. What, exactly, happened to the Spirit of Berkeley?

I happen to share the deep, genuine concerns about eugenics. I have no idea whether Catherine Bliss fits the bill but many on the left, while decrying potential eugenics in some areas of social order, happily support actual eugenics in other areas. Margaret Sanger’s ideas and procedures came from somewhere.

Anyway, for now this science is developing. I would not recommend running to any new site for testing, for you or your children. I smell snake oil from these start-ups. Too soon. But it will evolve. If you’re curious, then make sure to cross-reference the DNA results with a reliable, full battery from an established source (Stanford Binet or Wechsler).

Even the older, normed assessments are not fool-proof. Remember that, whatever score one gets, it is a general indicator. It measures raw ability and potential. It’s a good overall estimate but: *Actual performance may vary.* Exceptions may be found anywhere in the curve. Oddities manifest oddly at both ends.

Whether DNA or test-based, the exceptions, oddities, and generality should dictate a little caution. Persons, high, low, and average, should be left free to attempt fulfillment of and to the best of their abilities. The potential problem, within and without eugenic concern, is the potential mandating of class or tenure based upon initial scoring. That kind of central planning is one of the unproductive hallmarks of some on the left. Funny?

**This ramble has been brought to you by the letters, D, N, and A, and by the number 4.


Herrnstein (forgot him) and Murray/Amazon.