From: Adam L. Beberg (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Fri Nov 24 2000 - 13:08:14 PST
[About forkin time... as long as they dont also give them beauty, we'll
soon have more people running around that can actually do something useful]
Genius of genes
By BBC science correspondent Pallab Ghosh
US researchers believe they have identified the parts of the human genome
involved in developing a person's intelligence.
This means scientists could soon test the potential intelligence of new-born
The discovery has been seized on by some on the Right who claim it backs
their view that the way people turn out depends more
on the genes with which they are born rather than on the schools they
Others have warned the discovery gives succour to those parents who would
wish to improve their children through genetic
The researchers, working for the US National Institutes of Health, analysed
the DNA of 200 of the brightest kids in America and
compared them with the genetic material from ordinary children.
The results are due out next year, but the BBC Newsnight programme has
learned that key differences have been found. In other
words, the scientists are homing in on the genes for genius.
The team believe more than one gene is involved - and that these genes can
make a big difference to a person's intelligence. The
research was led by Professor Robert Plomin.
Shift in political thinking
"I think we need to recognise that genetic influences are important and that
we will find genes for intelligence," he told the BBC.
"Each may account for a small piece of the action, but together they give us
a significant source of prediction for intelligence."
We have had the scientific community denying the obvious
The next step will be to discover what these genius genes do. One theory is
that they help make nerve cells. They help transmit
signals, our thoughts if you like, from one part of the brain to another.
Some fear that this type of research could undermine attempts to create a
more equal society.
They believe some groups will take the view that providing the entire
population with greater educational and social opportunities
is a waste of money if human nature is predetermined by our genetic
Right-wing thinker Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, believes
that the new biology will create a seismic shift in
In the future, the parent could become an architect and each child the
ultimate shopping experience
"We have had the scientific community denying the obvious," he said. "We've
had people saying that IQ is virtually all determined
by the environment and we can change it by the proper social interventions
and a whole bunch of other things that simply are not
The Nature-Nurture debate has always been at the heart of the political
battleground with some on the Right believing people are
born good or bad, intelligent or slow-witted. The Left believes things
depend more on social circumstances.
'Eugenics with a smiling face'
According to Charles Murray, the "new genetics" shows that the Right is
right and that social policies will have to be changed
But if there is one thing that has annoyed Professor Plomin more than the
fact that the Right has seized on his work, it is that the
Left have disowned it.
He argues that far from challenging left-wing policies, his research can
help those policies become more effective.
He explained: "Depending on your values, you can say 'right, genetic
influences are important in intelligence, therefore what I'll do
is not put my money into those kids who are going to do good anyway. I'm
going to put it into the lower end of the distribution to
make sure that we don't lose our citizens - that they don't fall off the end
of the curve and feel disenfranchised as citizens.'"
But, according to Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Bio-tech Century, the
greatest threat comes from prospective parents rather than
tyrannical or misguided governments.
"Every parent wants the best for their child," said Rifkin. "In the future,
the parent could become an architect and each child the
ultimate shopping experience.
"In the next 10 or 20 years we could have eugenics with a smiling face. We
will no longer require the lower classes to have fewer
babies; we will just have them have better babies as we learn to do gene
Professor Plomin believes that nightmare scenarios will only come to pass if
research is suppressed or banned.
"Some people say this kind of research should not be done because of the
questions it raises and the difficulties it raises are not
worth having to deal with," he said.
"You could continue with the comfortable view that assumes people are blank
slates on which the environment writes. But surely it
is better to know the truth."
- Adam L. "Duncan" Beberg
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