Fancy that! Genes matter!

As Laura Trott jokes she and fiance will pass on genes for cycling stardom…are the children of high fliers born to be brilliant too?
The chances of Trott and Kenny’s combined genes producing a child who is a potential Olympian are an awful lot higher than the rest of us

Any moment now Danny Dorling, Professor of Social Geography at Oxford, will be along to insist that genes don’t matter, that it is all a matter of upbringing.

After all, he does insist that absolutely anyone with the right training can become Professor of Social Geography at Oxford.

45 thoughts on “Fancy that! Genes matter!”

  1. “After all, he does insist that absolutely anyone with the right training can become Professor of Social Geography at Oxford.”
    Probably true but what about difficult things?

  2. Unfortunately, social geography is what my niece is studying. I tried to divert her onto something I thought would be more useful, but that’s what she wanted.

    In discussions with her, it seemed a fairly Noddy subject to me, but what do I know.

    Her knowledge of physical geography is absolutely non-existent. And I think (actually from experience I know) she’d struggle to guess what the capital city of France was.

    I suppose this shows, more than anything, that I am increasingly approaching peak curmudgeonly old fart status.

  3. “What did you study?”
    “Social Geography”
    “What’s that?”
    “It’s like Geography, but without the scientific rigour”

  4. I just looked it up on wiki as I had never heard of it and I still don’t know what it is. Reading the wiki it seems social geographers themselves don’t know what it is either so I don’t feel too bad.

  5. What Rob said.

    And BraveFart. I often watch quiz shows (The Chase, Eggheads, etc) and I’m stunned at the lack of awareness of basic geographical facts of any youngsters who claim to have ‘studied geography’.

    I’m presuming the ones on tv are smart enough to drop the ‘social’ from their CV?

  6. Maybe it’s time to establish a new university

    The University of Social Studies with No Academic Rigour

    Three Profs for it identified so far:

    Danny Dorling, Richard Murphy. Prem Sikka

  7. It’s a bit more complicated.

    See, genes do matter very much for physiological traits like eye color, athletic ability, body type, height, etc. Genes matter for becoming an athlete and perhaps qualifying for the Olympics. Or even Little League.

    But genes don’t matter for the brain and its development. Don’t argue. They just don’t matter. The science is settled. Even though the brain is the controls bodily functions. Genes don’t matter there. Behavioral scientists say differencs are due to environment or nurture. Not nature. The science is settled. Even though the brain is a physiological organ, it alone is not ruled by genes. It’s just not. Differing brain performance among individuals is an illusion based in differing upbringing. The science is settled.

    Don’t go there any more because if you do, you’re a denier. And don’t you go denying that you deny you’re a denier!

  8. “It’s like Geography, but without the scientific rigour”

    Aah, but does it have more or less colouring pencils than proper geography?

  9. “After all, he does insist that absolutely anyone with the right training can become Professor of Social Geography at Oxford.”

    Even chimps: I mean, they differ from us only in genes, don’t they?

    Or even a limp lettuce leaf: come to think of it, I used to know a Cambridge professor who undoubtedly was a limp lettuce leaf.

  10. yeah love the way the proggies rightfully laugh at these creationists but appear to be completely in denial about evolution of intelligence.

  11. Given that the pair are exception performers (and we are assuming, for the sake of the argument, that there is a considerable genetic component to their ability), isn’t there likely to be a bit of regression to the mean for their kids?

    Never mind the pressure of expectations the poor buggers are likely to be weighed down with …

  12. I was going to say regression to the mean as well. After all a 6′ foot woman and 6’6″ man having a kid doesn’t mean the kid will be taller then their same gender parent, chances are it’ll be shorter.

  13. Addolff,

    I think John was referring to the denial, in social science circles, that genes contribute to intelligence. Because once you accept that (not denying environmental or experiential contributions), logic suggests that there might be differences in intelligence (in mean or SD) between genetically different populations.

    Like, say men and women, or (shock, horror and a Twittermob all over your life), Americans of European and African descent.

  14. The fact that their parents are athletes and therefore well versed in the training requirements will also help a great deal.

    I think it was demonstrated in the book outliers by Sowell.

  15. Jim,

    However Laura’s point that their future kids are _more likely_ to have Olympic medal winning abilities than the children of less genetically gifted parents is still, I’m fairly sure, valid.

  16. “future kids are _more likely_ to have”: exactly. Simple as that.

    That’s how we know that genetics matters for intelligence. If intelligence depended only on environment then bright people would have only bright children, and dim only dim. Since that’s not so, the genetic lottery must matter.

  17. But you’ll never be able to separate genes from upbringing.

    Children brought up by two medal winning parents will be exposed/have drilled into them at a very tender age, and constantly thereafter, the behaviours, diet, activities and lifestyle of medal-winners.

  18. Pedant General,

    Indeed. And quite possibly (although without a control group*, how would we tell?) a more significant influence than the genetic component.

    * Unless we turn the poor lass in to a baby factory and take half her kids away, merely writing down that idea revolts me, the control group has to be training without genetics. So some Lottery funding for the Kennys (or the Trott-Kennys, its immaterial) to either become adoptive parents or to run a cycling hot-house for post-toddlers. More worthwhile, both for scientific reasons and for future sporting glory, than many of the crap ideas that do get funded.

  19. “But you’ll never be able to separate genes from upbringing”: on the contrary, it’s routinely done using adoption studies.

  20. Nature vrs Nurture. Should we run another experiment, Duke and Duke style, say for $1 on the outcome?

  21. SE
    The genetic component is a sine qua non. No amount of training will make you an Olympic athlete without it. We find out who has that genetic component when they compete as kids. Thereafter, training!

  22. Genes also affect political orientation, according to this paper, which may account for the intransigence of left/right argument. But then environment also plays a part, since people tend to veer rightwards with age and experience (e.g. after a mugging; or listening to the proposals for the economy promulgated by J B Corbyn Esq).

    Just thought I’d chuck that into the mix. The idea that genes find no expression in brain function is one of the most preposterous of the many preposterous shibboleths of the left.

  23. No-one in their right mind says genes don’t affect intelligence, that’s just a straw man you lot have erected.

    What is said, which perhaps has confused the hard-of-thinking, is that predictable genetic inheritance is not responsible for the majority of the variation seen in the population.

  24. Dave

    Danny Dorling in action:

    “[7] There is not space here to go into all the research on IQ and genetics. But see, for example, J.R. Flynn’s insightful discussion on identical twins, which does not discount the genetic possibilities but argues that they are so tiny that it is possible to take his logic one step further and propose that similar appearance could be key, instead, to explaining away apparently innate ability. Teachers and other adults tend to treat and teach children differently according partly to their physical appearance. For the tiny differences that would need to be explained by this see: What is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn effect, Cambridge University Press 2007. See also his open access lecture http://www.psychometrics.sps.cam.ac.uk/page/109/beyond-the-flynn-effect.htm.”

    http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2010-04-13-dorling-en.html

    Not a straw man, but a Danny Dorling claim.

  25. @John Fembup

    “But genes don’t matter for the brain and its development.”

    I’m so glad you said this. Every right-thinking person knows that evolution stops at the neck. Only racist morons believe otherwise.

  26. @ Dave
    So everyone who has told me that is insane?
    I have never heard anyone say “predictable genetic inheritance is not responsible for the majority of the variation seen in the population.”
    Apart from anything else, no-one knows how much of the genetic inheritance is predictable, because we have not yet identified which genes are linked to various types of intelligence or even to intelligence at all. However the more we learn, the more that we can successfully predict so I think that we shall in due course be able to disprove the assertion you have just quoted or invented.
    Statisticians may forecast the *probability* of a child inheriting certain characteristics, such as blue eyes and they can be pretty accurate about the population percentages with blue eyes or green eyes or brown hair. Likewise.the average intelligence children of intelligent parents can be predicted without specifying the precise intelligence of each child.

  27. Dave – TW’s original point was to mock Danny Dorling, who has repeatedly claimed there is no genetic basis for intelligence.

    So you’re wrong, as always.

  28. Their kids would probably rebel against their parents and grow up into fat white-van driving cyclist-haters.

  29. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Genetics is the single biggest component in intelligence. As far as science goes, that’s about as settled as it gets. As for environment, the amazing thing is just how refractory personality development is to family circumstances. To the extent there is an environmental component, it largely exists outside the family (we know this from studies of twins, siblings and adoptees).

  30. “No-one in their right mind says genes don’t affect intelligence, that’s just a straw man you lot have erected.”

    Historically that’s quite wrong. Look at Eysenck’s popular paperbacks from the sixties and seventies. You’ll see that the nature vs nurture debate was between the “nature” side – who believed that both nature and nurture mattered – and the “nurture” side, who believed that only nurture mattered.

  31. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I’m re-reading The Blank Slate at the moment. The idea that there’s no-one who denies a genetic role in intelligence is simply mistaken. It’s the default posture of the bulk of the academic Left.

    A further thing that the nurturers fail to appreciate is that one’s environment is also affected by genetics, chiefly those of one’s parents (with whom one also shares 50% of genes). Even if one allows that growing up in a loving/broken/chaotic home with parents who are supportive/violent/distant/neurotic has an effect on how one turns out, given those things themselves have a strong genetic component, the genes are seen to exert an even more powerful effect.

  32. And yet the Flynn effect shows that changes in environment from generation to generation have made a huge difference to IQ scores.

    Flynn himself discusses the difficulties here.

    Genetics is the single biggest component in intelligence. As far as science goes, that’s about as settled as it gets.

    That’s a meaningless claim. The relative importance of hereditary and environmental factors depends on how much genes and environment vary within the population studied.

  33. @ SJW
    It is not a meaningless claim, even if it it is wrong. I personally think that it is correct, but that is irrelevant.
    Only a political propagandist would say anything like that.
    Anyone who can admit that genetics determine hair colour but deny that they affect intelligence is a stupid liar. Of course it is not deterministic – one of my childhood friends learnt to read three times while her brother got three ‘A’s in ‘A’ level so I understand that is a chance, not a certainty.
    When a chimpanzee passes Maths ‘A’ Level, I shall be more willing to think you may be right

  34. john77: you’ve not understood the point here.

    What we have is a two factor model. IQ = aX + bY, where a and b are constants, and X and Y are factors. Which factor is more important in the variance of IQ? Whatever the values of a and b, the answer depends on the variance of X and Y.

  35. SJW
    No.
    The impact of the factor variance will be multiplied by the constant applied to each factor. As a thought experiment: if constant a = 1000 and constant b = 1, a small variance in X will show up as a large variance in IQ, while even a very large variance in Y will hardly be noticed.
    Of course, in the case at hand, no one (except leftist academics) ever posits that either nature or nurture has a 1:1,000 relationship to the other…

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