Monday, September 27, 2021

Concealing the Genetics of Intelligence

London Guardian interview:
The behaviour geneticist explains how biology could have an influence on academic attainment – and why she takes an anti-eugenics approach

Kathryn Paige Harden argues how far we go in formal education – and the huge knock-on effects that has on our income, employment and health – is in part down to our genes. Harden is a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, where she leads a lab using genetic methods to study the roots of social inequality. Her provocative new book is The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality.

To even talk about whether there might be a genetic element to educational attainment and social inequality breaks a huge social taboo – particularly on the political left, which is where you say your own sympathies lie. The spectre of eugenics looms large, and no one wants to create a honeypot for racists and classists. To be clear, it is scientifically baseless to make any claims about differences between racial groups, including intelligence, and you are not doing that. But why go here?

... But also people are hearing every day about new genetic discoveries and seeing in their own families and lives that genetics matter. When asked to estimate how much genes influence intelligence, people’s answers are not zero. I’m trying to help them make sense of that information in a socially responsible way. ...

You have been accused of promoting eugenics, including by prominent sociologist Ruha Benjamin, who has written that you are engaging in “savvy slippage between genetic and environmental factors that would make the founders of eugenics proud”.

How do you predict a person’s educational attainment via their genome?

It starts with a statistical exercise in correlation called a genome wide association study (GWAS).

Okay, but the consortium that controls that data requires researchers to promise "not to use these data to make comparisons across ancestral groups." The Terms and Conditions threaten retaliation to ruin the career of the researcher. See also this 2018 statement:
The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) is alarmed ...

race itself is a social construct. Any attempt to use genetics to rank populations demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of genetics.

So Harden will not say how genes affect the intelligence of racial groups, because she is not permitted to say, and because it would be career suicide. When she was accused of being a Nazi sympathizer, she said, “I care what people think about me and my work. I’m interested in changing how people think.”

Some researchers would say that they care about finding the truth. Not her. She cares about what people think of her, and she does not want to be lumped in with Nazi sympathizers.

Raxib Khan writes:

A new paper, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, highlights the fact that genes your parents didn’t transmit to you still matter—the phenomenon of “genetic nurture.” A team of researchers based in the United Kingdom conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 12 studies with nearly 40,000 parent-offspring comparisons. The genetic nurture effect for years of education, they found, is about 50 percent of the value of direct genetic effects. “Empirical studies,” they write, “have indicated that genetic nurture effects are particularly relevant to the intergenerational transmission of risk for child educational outcomes, which are, in turn, associated with major psychological and health milestones throughout the life course.” Genetic nurture is clearly not a factor you can ignore.
That is, you are partially determined by your genes. And so were your parents. There could be genes that helped determine your parents, and not inherited by you, and those genes could have still indirectly shape you by shaping your parents behavior.

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