Err, yes, obviously

A chimpanzee’s intelligence is largely determined by the genes they inherit from their parents, reveals a new study.

It found Chimpanzees raised by humans turn out to be no cleverer than those given an ape upbringing.

Research into chimp intelligence could help scientists get a better handle on human IQ, say scientists.

Clearly genes have something to do with intelligence otherwise it wouldn’t have evolved in the first place, would it?

26 comments on “Err, yes, obviously

  1. You would be surprised how many people either cannot or will not understand this fairly basic point about how evolution works – and usually the sort of people who have the greatest of scorn for creationism!

  2. Very reassuring.
    So associating with Guardianistas is unlikely to cause long term intellectual damage.

  3. So associating with Guardianistas is unlikely to cause long term intellectual damage.

    Oh, it can cause long-term damage, even memetically inheritable damage. Just not genetically inheritable such.

  4. Hmm.

    My take is that genes (and pre-natal development) determine potential, nurture determines what percentage of that potential is reached. If the nurture is inadequate or inappropriate, full developmental potential won’t be reached. Conversely, even with the best nurture in the world, a chimp will never be more than one of the most intelligent chimps.

  5. When can we stop rewarding the thick antisocial and lazy from breeding: traits they will pass down either genetically or socially? Or does the economic interests of the bureaucratic classes who farm them take precedence?

  6. “Research into chimp intelligence could help scientists get a better handle on human IQ, say scientists.” They already have a pretty good handle on it, but it can be a career risk to talk about it.

  7. When can we stop rewarding the thick antisocial and lazy from breeding

    Evolution works over the tens of thousands of years timescale. There would be absolutely no point in doing that.

  8. This is the trouble with journalists reporting science. The Mail are treating “intelligent” and “clever” as synonyms, but they are actually quite different.

    It found Chimpanzees raised by humans turn out to be no cleverer than those given an ape upbringing.

    That’s just obvious bollocks. The chimps may be no more intelligent, but a lot of them can, for instance, count and use sign language, which are both clever things that their wild counterparts cannot do.

    Which is surely the important point: that education and practice can enable even unintelligent beings to do clever things. So this report has completely destroyed the point of what it’s reporting on. As usual.

    Honestly, Tim, I’d’ve thought you knew better than to read a science story in The Nail.

  9. Matthew L:
    Positive evolution might generally take ‘tens of thousands of years’.

    But we understand something about the genetic structure of intelligence. Insane policies put in place since the curse of widened suffrage are causing a decline of 1-1.5 IQ points per generation in typical Western countries. Extend that out into the future and even if one assumes things don’t become even worse than they already are, we’re looking at only a few hundred years before the average IQ of a country like Britain is similar to that of a Sub-Saharan African nation. Which isn’t really the sort of place any sane person wants their descendants to live in.

    Maybe there will still be a small core of descendants of assortively mating ‘smarts’ ruling the roost, but that isn’t really my idea of a healthy society.

  10. Tens of thousands of years, you say? How long did it take to get Chihuahuas out of wolves, then?

    Selective breeding is not the same as evolution.

  11. Matthew L:
    Studies on population in England 1200 to 1900 show the more successful families outbreeding the poor and effectively replacing them. If their success was due to thrift, delayed gratification and industriousness, and these are partially heritable, the genetic groundwork made the industrial age possible. It explains why agricultural societies such as Korea, Japan and China have been able to make rapid transitions whereas countries where nomads have been dominant breeders, rewarding violent behaviour, such as the Arab world, or huntergatherers, where opportunism and immediate consumption is the rational survival strategy, have not. Read Nicholas Wade “A Troublesome Inheritance” for a very though provoking discussion of the speed at which evolution can operate within populations and influence behaviour. Welfare for dysfunctional chaotic families reverses evolutionary gains.

  12. Tens of thousands of years, you say? How long did it take to get Chihuahuas out of wolves, then?

    Selective breeding is not the same as evolution.

    You appear to have answered your own point? Unless I’ve missed something obvious.

    I would also point out that assortative mating is also not the same thing as evolution although it may be an evolutionary pressure.

  13. I don’t know how long it took to get Chihuahuas from wolves, but the Russians managed to breed domesticated foxes (the Siberian Fox) in under a decade.

    Unfortunately, chimps have a much later puberty than foxes (8-10 years vs 8-10 months); so selective breeding for intelligence could take centuries.

  14. It’s plausible that there could be genetic differences in IQ between different human populations, but hopelessly implausible that that would be detectable by tests on people raised in vastly different environments.

    In 1913, Goddard conducted IQ tests on a group of apparently normal steerage-class immigrants on Ellis Island, and found that 83% of the Jews (and a similar proportion of the rest) were feeble-minded. (He found it hard to believe his result, and tried a different analysis which reduced the proportion to 40%, but concluded that that figure was “too lenient”.)

  15. @ Paul B
    Goddard used an American IQ test on immigrants, for most of whom English was not their first or even second language. It appears that he was then surprised at the poor results. If so, that says very little for *his* intelligence. American IQ tests don’t even work in England.

  16. Well, who would have imagined it? Despite height, body shape, head shape (particularly cleft chins), hair colour, eye colour, susceptibility to a wide range of diseases, even natural ability at sports like cricket or football being obviously hereditary the Guardianistas have flatly denied that any part of intelligence could possibly be hereditary in order to insist that inequality of outcomes is entirely due to unjust social structures. It took years for the Chinese minority in California to get their appeal against unjust quotas in universities vindicated.
    Of course Alex B is correct, but we cannot look at the data to estimate the impact of environmental issues until we adjust for the impact of genetics on the potential. The differential between the performance of Afro-Carribean boys and Afro-Carribean girls in secondary schools must be assumed to be largely environmental (including cultural) but it is ridiculous to assume that there is no genetic element in the underperformance of white working-class boys.

  17. john77: who are these Guardianistas you speak of? It’s obvious that in-group variations in intelligence are partly hereditary. What’s not at all obvious from the available data is that there’s an important genetic component to variations between ethnic groups.

    Goddard’s results must have been wrong, but not because he was a fool. He conducted his tests in the immigrants’ languages, and relied particularly on his results from Jewish subjects because he had an examiner for them who acted as his own interpreter.

    Richard Allan: the authors of the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study take the view that “the balance of
    evidence, although not conclusive, favors a predominantly environmental etiology underlying racial differences in intelligence”.

  18. @ Paul B
    I was not arguing for differences between ethnic groups (although Mensa used to reckon that the Japanese had a higher IQ than Europeans, which could be interpreted as “natural selection” working faster in a closed environment), but between those with higher and lower IQ genes in a diffuse ethnic group. My comments about the differential between Afro-Caribbean boys and Afro-Caribbean girls should have made that obvious.The higher IQ of Chinese in California can be due to self-selection of those Chinese who immigrate into California.
    Goddard’s results were wrong because any IQ test has “right” and “wrong” answers that are determined by the tester’s assumptions and phraseology as well as language. I can remember (a very long time ago but it really irritated me) taking an IQ test set by an American and one or two (certainly one and probably two) of the questions had *no* correct answer in English english. As for the the examiner who operated as his own interpreter, was he from the Russian Empire or the Austro-Hungarian Empire or from France or from Spain or from the East End of London? Hebrew would be used for prayers but common speech would be Yiddish in Vienna and Polish in Warsaw.
    The Guardianistas I speak of are those who claim that the poorer results of poor children are not related to their inherent ability. I can tell you, with absolute confidence, that coming top in Maths is not due to school environment, which is common to all pupils, or to hard work – because I worked less hard than the other kids – but to inherited ability in a family in which everyone came top in Maths. That does *not* make us better than anyone else – it just means that we are better at Maths. I agree that better teaching can help, as can better nutrition for those who go to school hungry because their mothers spend money on drugs instead of porridge, adequate clothes so that they don’t feel cold or spend all day worrying about what other kids think – but natural ability does matter. I remember one boy who was memorable as the best writer (a potential journalist) top, sometimes in English, ‘A’ stream Latin, ‘D’ stream maths: nothing to do with effort, environment – just a gap in his natural abilities.
    I was a teenager when I first ran into the claim that intelligence was not hereditary – I did some quick sums and deduced that if it was not the correlation between the intelligence of my class when I was 12-13 and their parents was very unlikely to happen in a world with 5 billion inhabitants.

  19. John77: we’re not disagreeing about very much. I suppose Goddard’s examiner would have been a Yiddish speaker (he doesn’t say), and that would have been the first language of most or all of the Jewish immigrants (including any from Warsaw: we disagree about that). My general point is that assumptions from test results that immigrants are intellectually inferior have been wrong in the past and may well be wrong in the future.

    It was somewhat naive of your 12-year-old self to suppose that there could be no confounding environmental factors in his calculation.

  20. “My general point is that assumptions from test results that immigrants are intellectually inferior have been wrong in the past and may well be wrong in the future.”
    Totally agree – I was trying to say that, but I was never half as good at words as at numbers.
    My 12-year-old self did not consider that environmental factors could elevate my particular class which had fewer environmental advantages than Eton or (at our age) Dragon School, Oxford, or hundreds of elite schools in Britain, France, the USA, Russia, Switzerland … We were in an economically depressed area with a small intellectual elite, boosted by a technically-advanced factory. If environmental factors contributed then Tunbridge Wells and Chelsea should have done far better, but only a nationalistic preference for St Andrew’s reduced the Oxbridge %age in my year to 18%; the couple of years above were slightly lower in the mid-teens %age.

  21. I suppose someone will inevitably ‘prove’ that chimps reared by same sex couples with be more clever etc. Bound to happen.
    Is IQ worth all that much compared with ability to breed – rats and rabbits do very well . From a survival of the species point of view.
    The influenza virus does even better.

  22. Real life is full of judgements of very complex systems with incomplete data, and is difficult whereas IQ tests are simple.

    A high IQ is nice, but being able to understand life and make good decisions is rarely anything like the quesitons you get on an IQ test.

  23. Squander Two said: “That’s just obvious bollocks. The chimps may be no more intelligent, but a lot of them can, for instance, count and use sign language, which are both clever things that their wild counterparts cannot do.”

    Unfortunately the article is silent on the manner of the upbringing the human raised chimps had. Chimps raised by humans are not necessarily chimps raised *as* (to a certain extent) humans.

    If chimps raised as humans, taught to count, communicate with humans, etc show no difference in the testing then genes are overpowering the teaching. If the chimps raised by humans were not raised *as* humans this would explain the inability to detect a difference between the two populations of chimps.

  24. I’ve a distinct suspicion, the whole purpose & design of IQ tests is to confirm the sort of people design IQ tests are intellectually superior.
    As evidence, I would cite the fact the majority of our political class are university – in many cases Oxbridge – educated & therefore presumably at the upper levels of IQ’s thus tested.

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