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Lord this is going to cause all sorts of problems

A gene which may make people more intelligent has been discovered by scientists.

Researchers have found that teenagers who had a highly functioning NPTN gene performed better in intelligence tests.

It is thought the NPTN gene indirectly affects how the brain cells communicate and may control the formation of the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer of the human brain, also known as ‘grey matter.’

It’s probably true. For even a mild bout of pondering the emergence of intelligence is going to conclude that it is genetically based. And if it is then some people are going to end up with a healthier dollop of it than others. And it will obviously also be inheritable.

However, this isn’t politically acceptable to a certain section of the commentariat. I’ve seen, for example, in Danny Dorling’s writings a flat out statement that all babies are equal and that any differences are entirely due to nurture and environment. Anyone could, in his phrase, grow up to be a Professor of Social Geography at Sheffield.

A statement so barking as to make one conclude that anyone has. For we can clearly see that genes exist for unintelligence: how else are we to explain Down’s Syndrome? My lament here though is that the more people do identify the genetic base3 of intelligence the more that certain section are going to stick fingers in their ears and shout lalala. And unfortunately, they’re the people who control much of the education system, certainly the part that educates the educators.

41 thoughts on “Lord this is going to cause all sorts of problems”

  1. >Anyone could, in his phrase, grow up to be a Professor of Social Geography at Sheffield.

    No, I’m sure that there are a lot of people who are smarter than that.

  2. Well, it’s obvious that there must be a genetic basis for intelligence, otherwise there would be no difference in the IQ bell curves of humans and cats. But I must admit that I do feel a great caution about this, not because of the fact but because of the inferences drawn from it and value judgements attached to it; for instance that more intelligence is a good thing and thus that the intelligent have more worth (in a general, moral sense) than the less intelligent.

    Societies seem to do well with a range of abilities across the population, including intelligence. It’s not just the question, “of, if everyone is a genius, who will empty the bins?” though that is a part of it (presumably the answer to that these days is “more immigrants!”). I am just not at all sure that a society consisting entirely of eugenic geniuses would be preferable, or even tolerable. There is an old cliche that some ideas are so foolish that only an intellectual could believe them, and the past century’s history of bad ideas is largely a history of clever people with bad ideas. Think of the continued cleavage of the majority of the intellectual elite to Marxism and other barmy leftist causes. Adherence to crankishness and “new age” nonsense seems to correlate with intelligence. It may be that these are both third variable problems (a correlation with social class, perhaps) but it does not bode well.

  3. I think some of the crankish new-age stuff is people looking for an aesthetically pleasing but acknowledgedly made-up bullshit replacement for the not-acknowledgedly made-up bullshit religious stuff we offloaded around the time the cranky new-age stuff started becoming popular. Not all of it, but quite a lot of it.

    But with intelligence and stuff, it is remarkable how unacceptable it is to accept that people or groups of people might differ in politically-sensitive measures.

  4. However, this isn’t politically acceptable to a certain section of the commentariat. I’ve seen, for example, in Danny Dorling’s writings a flat out statement that all babies are equal and that any differences are entirely due to nurture and environment.

    In the Times in August 2008, the then-Labour Party schools minister Andrew Adonis wrote: “There is no genetic or moral reason why the whole of society should not succeed to the degree that the children of the professional classes do today, virtually all getting five or more good GCSEs and staying on in education beyond 16.”

    As a feat of supposition, it was quite bold. You had to wonder if Mr Adonis had ever actually met a selection of children from across the entire ability range gathered in one room, and just how much ideological squinting was he prepared to indulge in. In his mind, differences in ability, to the extent he acknowledges any, are merely an indictment of capitalism and “social privilege.”

    The 15-year-olds at my substandard state comprehensive, who were all from broadly similar social and economic backgrounds, ranged from a girl who had memorised and understood the entire periodic table and its underlying logic, to people who didn’t know their own postcodes – and who couldn’t be relied on to search out this information on returning home, let alone retain it until the following week’s lesson.

  5. @David Thompson, I think Adonis is, strictly speaking, correct. The genetic background of the children of the professional classes is not really different from the country as a whole. And he is talking about achievement, not ability. Obviously the “professional class” has its fair share of incapable, but less than its fair share of underachievers. So there is some non-genetic, call it “class” if you like, factor that accounts for that.

  6. Nah. That’s racist talk. IQ doesn’t exist, except when smart, urbane lefties are calling Ukippers or Daily Mail readers or Sarah Palin or Christians a bunch of morons.

  7. bloke in germany,

    The genetic background of the children of the professional classes is not really different from the country as a whole.

    Are you sure? How do we know this? After all, people with above average IQs tend to marry and have children with other people with above average IQs. A lecturer, even one in social geography, is more likely to marry another lecturer than, say, someone who digs up the motorway or sweeps up hair in a salon. Over time, might this have consequences?

    Parents can usually spot differences in ability and aptitude between their children, often at a very young age. As can siblings, who may find endless opportunities to tease their smarter brother or sister. As siblings are typically raised in the same social and economic environment, and as adopted children tend to revert, as adults, to the IQ distribution of their biological families, some other variable would seem to determine a person’s intellectual ability to a large extent.

  8. @David Thompson,

    I suspect the class structure is too recent an innovation. Civilisation has only been around a few thousand years, and for most of that time we were either scrabbling for turnips or the 0.0001%. Even with that top slither, people fell out of favour or into favour at regular enough intervals.

    Intelligence is a product of hundreds, possibly thousands of genes, most of which do things not obviously connected with intelligence. So if we can’t find evidence of different rates of single-gene traits among professors of social geography at my alma, we aren’t going to find evidence of a difference in polygenic traits.

    What’s fascinating is that through most of that civilisation period, while there wasn’t really a society with enough levels to be meaningfully mobile in, we were definitely not as geographically mobile as today. Which leads to the, for lefties extremely uncomfortable conclusion, that polygenic traits may differ with geography, but less likely to differ among societal groups in any geographical area. Indeed we do observe such differences for politically-correct variables.

  9. A lecturer, even one in social geography, is more likely to marry another lecturer than, say, someone who digs up the motorway or sweeps up hair in a salon. Over time, might this have consequences?

    It would mean that being a totally fucking useless parasite would be heritable, presumably.

    “I’m sorry Mr and Mrs Torking-Downe, I’m afraid your daughter has upper middle class genes. There may be no future for her other than as a Guardian columnist or quangocrat. All we can say with certainty is that she will contribute nothing at all to the benefit of humanity.”

  10. bloke in germany,

    I don’t follow the literature on this, so there’s not much more I can say. I have, though, noted that the objection to intelligence as having some – any – genetic basis, however complex and subtle, and being to some extent heritable, is often political in nature. Very often to the exclusion of all else.

    It scarcely needs pointing out that the left has a rather awkward relationship with intelligence and its unequal distribution – a subject that, for some, is likely to cause indignation in ways that the unequal distribution of musical or athletic talent does not. Natural variations in cognitive ability, unlike those in musicality or athleticism, are clearly a thorn in the paw of devout egalitarians.

    Avid readers of the Guardian’s arts and music pages would no doubt feel free to delight in the prowess of, say, Helen Mirren or Pinchas Zukerman without believing that everyone they passed on the street could, with training, achieve the same results. To run as quickly as Usain Bolt requires more than the imitation of a certain lifestyle. It seems there are innate variables to consider.

  11. My arse and my elbow have exactly the same DNA. So far (touch wood) they continue to carry out their different functions to my general contentment. So it must be a bit more complicated than the DNA is destiny crowd would have you believe.

    If there is a genetic basis for intelligence (no doubt there is) you might find that after a period of great social mobility (say 1940 – 1960) the successful families have successful children, leading to lower social mobility in later generations.

    I can see Ritchie calling for a tax on the NPTN gene.

  12. I rather think this is a software/hardware kind of issue. I may have an Intel-based computer, and yours may be a Mac (with whatever chip they have in them these days), which makes their hardware quite different, and quite possibly, one is more capable than the other. But they are both quite capable of running word-processing software, for example, to a very satisfactory level.
    Equally, it was possible to land on the moon using hardware no more capable than that in the humblest pocket calculator; whereas I have what would have been a super-computer just ten or fifteen years ago, and mostly use it to post musings on the Internet…
    So it’s certainly not only about genes (=hardware) but also how you are brought up (=what software you install). Which is more important is a complete non-seq – most tasks can be achieved with a wide range of combinations of each.

  13. Bloke in France – “I can see Ritchie calling for a tax on the NPTN gene.”

    Harriet Harman for Handicapper General.

  14. What do we do with this information?

    Do we test 16 yr old Gideon Osborne and say, “sorry , plenty of O levels, but not much NPTN, so leave school now and clean the streets.” Or if we find low achievers with lots of NPTN, do we take them away from their parents who must be doing a bad job?

    Or do muddle along as we do now, noting that some people do better than others?

  15. “The genetic background of the children of the professional classes is not really different from the country as a whole.”
    Demonstratively untrue. Proportionally, a far greater number of the professional classes are Jewish, for a start. And a far greater proportion are of French heritage. The social benefits of the descendants of the Norman rulers of the Conquest being still notably beneficial today.
    But I’d agree with BiG, there’s unlikely to be one gene for intelligence. I’d doubt there’s a single form of intelligence for there to a single gene to code for it. Because what you’re calling “intelligence” is the combination of a whole range of individual abilities. For instance, pattern recognition isn’t particularly restricted to mammals, let alone humans. Deductive reasoning might be. But you won’t get very far without both.

  16. BIS>

    “Proportionally, a far greater number of the professional classes are Jewish, ”

    You don’t half come up with some nonsensical shite in support of your crazy racist rants.

    What Adonis said is entirely uncontentious simply because he set the bar so low.

    “virtually all getting five or more good GCSEs and staying on in education beyond 16”

    That was five good GCSEs, not ten, or A Levels. That’s a bare fucking minimum, achievable by anyone who hasn’t had their time wasted in school by terrible teaching. And even by most who have, as we can see from the middle classes.

  17. We can’t describe intelligence properly. We can measure its heritability with some accuracy – within the limitations of the tools we have for measuring it at all, but for any one individual we cannot say what proportion of your actual output is due to the right genes and what due to having applied yourself.

    We also can’t describe the genetic basis of intelligence properly either. Once again the liberal (real) solution is the best. Treat everyone as individuals. Who cares if some definable group has a different mean to my definable group? I care about the person not the population distribution.

    I note the Normans are still there at the absolute summit, that 0.00001%, but the rest of it? Largely melting-potted. There aren’t enough purebred descendants of 1066 landowners around to fill up the professional classes, even if the names live on in a large number of people. To that extent we are now all Norman and they are all Angle.

  18. I don’t see the big deal. Everybody except a few loons accepts there there is some variation in innate ability (however defined) which implies some genetic contribution to things like intelligence. Everybody except a few loons accepts that environment makes a huge difference to ability (and epigenetics provides a bridge between environment and genes).

  19. So Much For Subtlety

    Anyone could, in his phrase, grow up to be a Professor of Social Geography at Sheffield.

    A statement so barking as to make one conclude that anyone has.

    I don’t think that is barking. In my experience of Professors of Social Geography, I think with some coaching my dog could fake it quite well. If not, I am sure that I could find an African Grey parrot that could manage fine. I mean they can memorise dozens of words. Teach them to say “socially constructed gender roles”, “market fundamentalism”, “racism”, “lingering impact of Imperialism” and perhaps even “heteronormativity” and I bet you could have six pints and hours of conversation with one before you noticed the difference.

  20. @Dave
    “BIS>

    “Proportionally, a far greater number of the professional classes are Jewish, ”

    You don’t half come up with some nonsensical shite in support of your crazy racist rants. ”

    Go look through the yellow pages at the names of lawyers & accountants. I grew up in a Jewish community FFS. I’ve got more Yiddish than most Yids. Spent years as the token yock in a Jewish family. Jews are highly educationally motivated & culturally strivers. I’m certainly not racist enough to deny facts.

  21. Jews are highly educationally motivated & culturally strivers. I’m certainly not racist enough to deny facts.

    Jews are also ruthless ethnic networkers from a culturally socially aggressive background. I’m racist enough to add that in as a variable.

  22. So Much For Subtlety

    bloke in germany – “Intelligence is a product of hundreds, possibly thousands of genes, most of which do things not obviously connected with intelligence. So if we can’t find evidence of different rates of single-gene traits among professors of social geography at my alma, we aren’t going to find evidence of a difference in polygenic traits.”

    Intelligence may be. It may not be. Who knows? Does it matter? We do not need to know what gene is responsible for what to know whether something is heritable or not. Darwin did not even know genes existed, but he managed alright. The fact is we can do (and have done) twin studies on those rare twins raised apart. And intelligence does appear to be largely genetic. Hence heritable.

    David Thompson – “To run as quickly as Usain Bolt requires more than the imitation of a certain lifestyle. It seems there are innate variables to consider.”

    Apparently you can now say this in public. Obama gave out his reading recently and it included one book that argued that people of West African descent are genetically better suited to athletics. I think it was David Epstein’s The Sports Gene.

    But if one group has better genes for sports, doesn’t it follow that another group may have better genes for intelligence?

    Dave – “You don’t half come up with some nonsensical shite in support of your crazy racist rants.”

    I am sorry but are you claiming this is untrue? If so, the only person full of it is you. It is flatly undeniable that the ruling classes in the Western world are increasingly Jewish in origin.

  23. I used to believe that to attack the house of paediatrician in the belief that he or she is a paedophile serves as a kind of test. The sort of stupidity that does not know of or understand the “paedo” pre-fix might be the result of a piss poor state education. The stupidity required to believe that a paedophile would advertise their activities in Yellow Pages must be innate.

    Upon thinking some more tho’ I am inclined to wonder a little about genes and intelligence.
    When you get a class of 15 year olds (as mentioned above) with some that show intelligence and some who don’t know or care about their post code then I suspect it is down to life as much as genes. We all get the shit kicked out of us by life in all manner of ways. That can’t be escaped or avoided. The intelligent “periodic table” girl mentioned above may have had far fewer problems in her life than the post code boy. What does it take to produce someone who at age 15 doesn’t have any interest and doesn’t, for all intents and purposes, give a shit. This is not some class thing, there are plenty of well-off dimwits but something about life where you take pot luck on good/bad–be it parents/upbringing/experiences. Humans are very vulnerable to picking up destructive imprints as a result of often trivial inputs at a early age–it is not something that can be prevented at any level–even the best parents will make mistakes and the personal problems of the parents will affect (if not be totally passed on to) their children.
    We do not know that ANY of us has reached the limits of or intelligence–of what we could have been if all the negative events that have reduced our potential had not happened. I am sure that intelligence is ultimately genetic. That does not mean that post-code boy (and millions like him) could not be far more intelligent than he will ever act or be. But to get people to USE the brains they have you would have to get through to them to engage their interest. After a certain point(perhaps a certain age, perhaps not) most are too far gone.

  24. As for Norman proportionality. I’d seriously doubt those zeros preceding the 1, BiG. Our Norman ruling class never fully assimilated because of their preference about looping back into their own breeding pool every chance they get. They’re that core of families who infest Debrettes, Chelsea parties, pheasant shoots & the political class.

  25. “Jews are also ruthless ethnic networkers from a culturally socially aggressive background.”
    Makes me think of the aunts. There used to be this thing where i got to meet far flung female members of the tribe & they do the third degree on you. Want to know your current account balance about three sentences into the conversation. if you’re non-Jewish you can find it downright offensive, because well brought up Brits don’t like talking about money. it’s a different culture. You’re being sized up as potential family material & appropriate marriage material for the princess. Eventually they’d suss i wasn’t of the chosen & it’d all go very, very quiet.

  26. “Anyone can become a professor of social geography”

    Well he set the bar pretty low didn’t he? Are they required to be able to tie their own shoelaces?

    Most of what Ian B says, although I noticed a certain and disquieting irrascibility when referring to the undoubted innate abilities of members of the Jewish persuasion, which for me took some of the shine off his generally well observed and reasoned points.

  27. These unsupported assertions about ‘The Jhooz’ are complete nonsense. Thanks to immigrant culture, Jewish people in the UK (of the last couple of generations) are more likely to be professionals than the general population – because those were the ones who made it out of the Holocaust. Professionals are not significantly likely to be Jewish.

  28. @SMFS, if you’d like some background in quantitative genetics I can give you my ancient lecture notes.

  29. It seems that the French Revolution and Napolionic wars culled a lot of the inteligensia which is why France is and will always be socialist.

  30. I want to see some evidence that the otherwise-indistinguishable Norman ruling classes in Britain are still purebred 900 years after the fact while the expelled Spanish moors and jooos are all outbred a million fold and merely clinging to their patronymics by quantum chance.

  31. Bloke in Central Illinois

    I believe the powers that be have determined that Homosexuality is 100% genetic and that all other traits are 100% environmental.

    If genes mattered, that would mean that there are some limits as to what can be achieved through social engineering. And that can’t be right.

  32. “I want to see some evidence that the otherwise-indistinguishable Norman ruling classes in Britain are still purebred 900 years after the fact”

    900 years is about 40 generations. Wiki tells us that, “A direct consequence of the [Norman] invasion was the almost total elimination of the old English aristocracy … William systematically dispossessed English landowners and conferred their property on his continental followers.”

    Trusting Wiki, is it reasonable to think that aristocrats bred with aristocrats for 40 generations? It seems reasonable to accept that they did through at least until the 19th Century, when the industrial revolution may have forced other blood into the lines.

    I think it’s reasonable you might find Normans in the upper class – certainly you can’t assume they’ve been assimilated over 40 generations.

  33. If you can inherit blue or brown eyes and brown or blond hair why cannot you inherit the hardware for intelligence? As a teenager I calculated that the probability of the highly intelligent parents of the kids in the sixth-form of my prep school having kids that bright if intelligence was randomly distributed was a bit below one in 3 billion. The most intelligent boy had a really bad case of exam nerves so he only got a place, instead of a scholarship, at Balliol; the girl was a Scot so went to St Andrew’s (she could have done a highland fling into Girton or Somerville); then there was me – second or third out of ten got a scholarship to Oxford.
    Admittedly as the children of a local elite we had the benefit of a nurturing environment, but so did my friend Betty who learned to read three times, having forgotten twice (her little brother, with an equally supporting environment, got straight As at A level when that was difficult)
    What is important is not your intelligence but how you use it!

  34. So Much For Subtlety

    Dave – “These unsupported assertions about ‘The Jhooz’ are complete nonsense. Thanks to immigrant culture, Jewish people in the UK (of the last couple of generations) are more likely to be professionals than the general population – because those were the ones who made it out of the Holocaust. Professionals are not significantly likely to be Jewish.”

    Is it likely to work the other way with professionals being significantly likely to be Jewish? More likely? Sure. But significantly? Not so sure. Professionals were more likely to make it out of Germany? How much of Britain’s Jewish population dates back to WW2? A lot of it came before that from Russia – poor, backward and ill-educated. More so for the US. Yet American Jews are now significantly over-represented in almost every aspect of leadership.

    Where this is interesting in American sports. It is not as if there are a great many Jewish sports stars these days. There used to be. There is at least one NFL player of part Jewish origin. But the NFL is run by some of Jewish origins. So is the NBL. When did you last see a Jewish basketball player? It is odd.

  35. Bloke in Central Illinois

    I don’t think there were ever “a great many” Jewish sports stars in America. Hence the old joke about the “Famous Jewish Sports Legends” pamphlet.

  36. So Much For Subtlety

    bloke in germany – “if you’d like some background in quantitative genetics I can give you my ancient lecture notes.”

    Thank you. That is very kind of you. I could not ask you to make such a great sacrifice.

    Pewe – “It seems that the French Revolution and Napolionic wars culled a lot of the inteligensia which is why France is and will always be socialist.”

    This may be humour, but I do think that the French culled a lot of their aristocrats and this is why they have not won a lot of wars since Napoleon.

    Bloke in Central Illinois – “I believe the powers that be have determined that Homosexuality is 100% genetic and that all other traits are 100% environmental.”

    Especially gender. That is completely environmental. What someone of the “Friend of Dorothy” persuasion likes in bed is 100% genetic, but what the rest of us like, all down to social conditioning.

    Bloke in Central Illinois – “I don’t think there were ever “a great many” Jewish sports stars in America. Hence the old joke about the “Famous Jewish Sports Legends” pamphlet.”

    Depends on how you define a great many. And on how you define a Jew. Ryan Braun identifies as Jewish. So does, sort of, George Cohen who played for the English World Cup side in 1966. His nephew the rugby player Ben Cohen does not. Neither would be allowed to immigrate to Israel. But there were important Jewish boxers up to about the 1940s. That is about the time that most Jewish children turned away from baseball careers too.

  37. Well, if intelligence is substantially genetic and so heritable (and there’s a mass of evidence saying it is), then it’s likely to be higher in populations that have been persecuted over several millennia. Hence the Jews – see e.g. Israel and the Manhattan Project.

  38. So Much For Subtlety

    Thomas Gibbon – “Well, if intelligence is substantially genetic and so heritable (and there’s a mass of evidence saying it is), then it’s likely to be higher in populations that have been persecuted over several millennia. Hence the Jews – see e.g. Israel and the Manhattan Project.”

    Gypsies?

    Jews are allowed to say that Jews are genetically superior. And some do. The usual argument goes that every time the Jews found a clever boy, they made him a Rabbi and gave him a beautiful girl or two so he could have lots of children. Every time Europeans found a clever boy, they made him a priest and so he had no children at all.

    It could also explain East Asia. Or it could suggest that culture is important. Who knows?

    But Ian B is probably right about one thing – being clever is not necessarily all it is cracked up to be. Jews are also disporprotionately likely to suffer from diseases that are genetic and in some way connected with brain tissue. Tay Sachs is a good example.

    And that is ignoring any strong interest in Stalinism.

  39. So Much For Subtlety

    CJ Nerd – “SMFS: you forgot “reductionist” and “hegemonic”.”

    Not to mention “essentialist” and “Orientalist”.

    I think I could write a short computer programme that could generate a decent Social Geography article. Innocent Brown coloured people are at the mercy of horrible Palid People due to the hegemonic construction of racially-based heteronormative ideas linked to post-capitalist bank-centric industrial production.

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