Thursday, April 30, 2015

DNA Dreams at Harvard

This is a panel discussion of the documentary film DNA Dreams (see below), about BGI and its Cognitive Genomics Lab.

Moderator: Dr. Evelynn Hammonds, Director of the Project on Race & Gender in Science & Medicine, Hutchins Center for African & African American Research/Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science

Panelists include: (L to R)
1. George Church, Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School
2. Bregjte van der Haak, Filmmaker
3. Arthur Kleinman, Director of the Harvard University Asia Center and Professor of Anthropology and Medical Anthropology at Harvard University
4. Peter Galison, Pellegrino University Professor, Director of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Harvard University
Peter Galison is dismissive of "single parameter" measures of cognitive ability. George Church replies quite effectively. Certainly anyone who has thought seriously about IQ or g knows that it is only a crude measure of (compressed approximation to) a multi-dimensional set of mental abilities. I wonder how Peter would react to learning that his grandchild would be born with a mutation depressing the meaningless "single parameter" in question to an SD below normal. Would he just shrug it off as unimportant?

I believe this is the entire documentary:


Butch said...

Although I agree that g is certainly linear based on all the psychometrics. I always wonder if there are certain differences architecture in east Asians. Germany has 90 million people and over 150 Nobel laureates. The average IQ is ~102. Israel has had over 10 in the past 15 years and a population of only ~3 million Ashkenazi Jews. China on the other hand has over 1 billion people with an average IQ ~104 yet less than 1/10th the Nobel laureates of Germany. Even from experience. Perhaps the greater amounts of divisions within society in those countries i.e. the German aristocracy (those with a von in their surname) or even the caste system in India which forbid breeding of the upper castes with the lower would create a kind of societal elite. Perhaps their "regression to the mean" approached a higher mean... Even LKY spoke of the Chinese language preventing creativity and Asian culture being incompatible with individualism and democracy... Of course We are now entering superstitious subjective and unbacked statements but maybe there is some quantitative truth to the situation.

millermp1 said...

" I wonder how Peter would react..."

That's why I completely discount people who make those kind of statements - nothing is cheaper than this kind of posturing. It's analogous to folks who claim they will age and die with grace and pragmatism and that they have no interest in artificially trying to maintain their beauty. The multi-billion dollar beauty product industry belies the claim, even though it's basically snake oil and everyone knows it.

Once human germ line modification becomes safe and reliable, no amount of posturing, regulation or hand-wringing is going to stop it. Folks like Peter will just use the backdoor when they go for their consultations/procedures (assuming they're vain enough to think anyone cares about their hypocrisy).

Richard Seiter said...

Any thoughts about analogies to the large effect height mutations George Church discussed just after 25 minutes?

I love how "genetic determinism" gets deployed so frequently as a strawman (have you ever heard anyone arguing for that as a position they themselves hold?). Do the people who use that technique (here PG) not understand that genetics/environment is not a binary proposition? Or do they not understand what determinism means?

namae nanka said...

If g stops being the general factor at high IQs then genetic studies should take that into consideration.

Cornelius said...

Of course IQ/g is an approximation of something that is really multidimensional, but I wouldn't call it a crude approximation. It is a very good approximation. Although the one dimensional model of IQ is strictly speaking wrong, it is still quite valuable.

Newtonian physics is wrong, but it's a damn good approximation of the real world.

MUltan said...

What about the Quakers? Fewer in all history than the Ashkenazim in the US right now, but originated both the wave and particle theories (Young and Dalton), iron rails, railroads, antiseptics (Lister), and many other things. (Middle-class banking, fixed-price shops, humane mental institutions, workhouses, schools for workers' children, great contributions to steam and scientific instrument making...)

dxie48 said...

IQ in Chinese Mandarin is 智商

and 智 in reverse translation is wisdom or knowledge

While intelligence is considered to be innate, knowledge is not inborn and is acquired through study and hard work. To the majority Chinese they are talking
about hardworking factors. Otherwise they would use word like 聪 (clever, intelligent)

Does PG have problem with studying and hardworking??

galtonian said...

Francis Galton (who pioneered statistical concepts like linear regression and the notion of quantitating human intelligence and the influence of heredity) was the son of Samuel Galton who was a Quaker. His mother was Frances Darwin (an aunt of Charles Darwin), the Darwins were mostly Unitarians.

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