Thursday, February 13, 2014

IQ gene discovered

The UK Telegraph reports:
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 is surprising that there are hardly any results like this. It is known that IQ is heritable, along with several personality and behavior traits. But as far as I know, there is no explanation based on specific genes. This could be a first, but I would wait for confirmation as other claims like this have had to be retracted.

My guess is that those traits are complex combinations of many genes, together with later environmental influences. But the whole idea of IQ genes gets people spooked.

You may have heard of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank, and got the impression that it was some sort of evil Nazi eugenic failed experiment that was shut down after it was exposed. In fact the real name of it was the Repository for Germinal Choice, and its chief innovation was to give the human sperm buyers some choice about what they were getting. They produced over 200 babies, but none from Nobelist sperm.

According to a book review:
But in the end, the themes mesh. Plotz's meetings with employees, consumers and offspring of the repository, sympathetic people on the whole, may have led him to his understated conclusion that the enterprise wasn't so terrible. For one thing, Graham's inspired strategy of providing consumers a choice of the most desirable men possible freed women from the tyranny of early fertility doctors. And it has become standard industry practice; as Plotz says, ''All sperm banks have become eugenic sperm banks.''
That's right, the experiment was a huge success in the sense that it transformed the industry into allowing consumer choice. Apparently the eugenics of personal choice has become acceptable.


Anonymous said...

Fear of eugenics does not necessarily mean that people irrationally fear death camps that will somehow come about because of sperm banks or fertility treatments. A more plausible fear would be in people valuing the worth of a human being based on their genetics. The idea that an embryo with an IQ gene should be valued more highly than one without is morally repugnant and probably reflects the insecurities of its purchasers more than it represents an advance in health technology.

Roger said...

Is it morally repugnant to value an embryo more highly for any other reason? Do you therefore object to people making reproductive choices, as they do now?

Anonymous said...

It is immoral to select human embryos over others for any genotypical reason. Reproductive choices, do not all guarantee an embryo with genes that fit a criteria. Therefore not all reproductive choices allow valuing embryos with certain criteria more than others so I can not object to all reproductive choices. I object to reproductive choices that consciously destroy certain outcomes to guarantee a specific outcome that matches a genetic criteria. Not to be facetious but are you suggesting that behaviors that bond "high iq" pairs are the same as embryonic selection?

Roger said...

I am just trying to figure out where you moral opinions are coming from. They do not appear to be from any major religion or moral philosophy or tradition.

People do commonly select against embryos at risk of Downs, and that is a genotypical reason. I do not know why a genotypical reason would be worse than any other reason.

Anonymous said...

My morals coincide somewhat with Thomas Hobbes view on equality that I interpret as meaning there is no objective way to measure the value of a person, e.g. iq score perhaps can locate maxima and minima in a set of people but any assertion that having a certain iq score is better is subjective. This is an axiom for a social contract that affords rights to people. I interpret embryonic screening to be an assertion that particular traits are more valuable than others which contradicts the conclusion that all men must be objectively equal in value. Biology would suggest that embryos are in some sense human. Normatively, human reproductive behavior does not allow much specificity.

I don't know that any religion agrees.

I don't know of any reason besides genotypical to select embryos. The main objection to it is that it allows people to execute their subjective agenda at the expense of objective morality. And furthermore, economically speaking, a scarcity of a certain resource tends to make it more valuable.

Roger said...

I can agree that there is no objective way to measure the value of a person, but I would be surprised if Hobbes was somehow opposed to individuals expressing preferences. Making a preference about sperm and egg donors has become widely accepted, and as far as I know there is no serious objection to embryo selection. I just don't see any "expense of objective morality."