Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Thought police slipping...

I was amazed to find this Economist article, discussing a possible evolutionary explanation of high intelligence (and high incidence of genetic diseases) in the Ashkenazi Jewish population. The Times also covered the story (although not as well), and the research paper is available here. See here for lengthy discussion, including comments by the authors of the paper, and here for a critique of the paper from a historical perspective.

We can easily count the number of violations of political correctness in the article:
0) the authors assume the existence of a general human characteristic called "intelligence"
1) the authors assume intelligence is (at least somewhat) heritable
2) the authors assume IQ tests have something to do with intelligence
3) the authors discuss a particular ethnic group and the distribution of genes in that population
4) the authors assume that variation in the environment in which natural selection takes place might lead to different distributions of genes in different ethnic groups.

Let's put aside the contentious issue of whether the theory is correct in what it says about Ashkenzim (it does make testable predictions, so we can wait and see). One interesting thing I learned from background reading on this subject is that there are specific genes that are known to correlate with above-average IQ. How long until we start "overclocking" humans via genetic or chemical engineering for higher intelligence?


Anonymous said...
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Steve Hsu said...

I just deleted an anti-semitic comment. Perhaps someone is deliberately testing whether I am willing to act as one of the "thought police"!

Well, the comment had no scientific merit, although I suppose it could be considered a political remark.

Anonymous said...

Happily, I did not find the remark thanks to you :) Police away for you are always to be trusted.


Anonymous said...

Cognitive overclocking exists - ritalin gives one a boost of 140 or so on the old SAT test (according to Gazzaniga), and it probably similarly gives gains on IQ tests.

Anonymous said...

It's funny, genetically speaking, Palestinians have more "Semetic" genes than the Israelis of today.

Though they, should'n't have equal opportunites, they're Muslims!!!

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