Monday, July 20, 2009
  At last an interesting bit of science.

Every day in science-oriented news we hear of a new study showing that some tendency, from honesty to obesity to (of course) breast cancer is partly determined by heredity. These studies are not needed. Pure waste. We ALREADY KNOW DAMN WELL that every human tendency, taste and talent is roughly half innate and half learned.

Studying each tendency on its own is like carefully examining every dog in the world and saying "This one appears to have four legs. And this one appears to have four legs. And this spotted one seems to have four legs. Surprisingly, this small one with big eyes also appears to have four legs. Amazingly, this big brown one seems to have four legs. Wowie zowie! I think this scruffy one has four legs as well! Will wonders never cease?"

The only thing these "studies" prove is that scientists are still hopelessly ensnared and stupefied by Leninist egalitarianism.

Finally we have one study with a truly new, surprising and crucially useful finding about heredity.

In short:

Intelligence depends MORE on genes and LESS on training as you get older.

From the brief article in New Supersitionist:

Previous studies have shown that variations in intelligence are at least partly due to genetics. To find out whether this genetic contribution varies with age, Plomin's team pooled data from six separate studies carried out in the US, the UK, Australia and the Netherlands, involving a total of 11,000 pairs of twins.

In these studies, the researchers tested twins on reasoning, logic and arithmetic to measure a quantity called general cognitive ability, or "g". Each study also included both identical twins, who have the same genes, and fraternal twins, who share about half their genes, making it possible to disentangle the contributions of genes and environment to their g scores.

Plomin's team calculated that in childhood, genes account for about 41 per cent of the variation in intelligence. In adolescence, this rose to 55 per cent; by young adulthood, it was 66 per cent.


This is certainly counter-intuitive. On Nature vs Nurture I'm hard-line Nature, but I also know a thing or two about neurons. Thus I'd always assumed that differing experiences shape your ability to learn in different ways. Use more language neurons, grow more language pathways. Use more number neurons, grow more number pathways. If identical twin Bob is doing more mental work than Bill, Bob should grow more pathways overall, and Bob's intelligence should increase more than Bill's, even though they started with the same brain.

Apparently the surprising result is still unexplained. Since the study pools information from several countries, you can't implicate one cultural milieu or one educational system.

And then the researchers claw their way out of egalitarianism for a moment to reach some valid conclusions for education:

Plomin suggests that genetic differences may be more accentuated if all children share an identical curriculum instead of it being tailored to a child's natural abilities. "My inclination would be to give everyone a good education, but put more effort into the lower end," he says.


Yes! Yes! Tailor to natural abilities! Yes! Can we spell apprentice?

This finding also settles the "puzzling" question of why black students seem to do well enough until 4th grade, then fall farther behind in higher grades.

If we were really serious about serving our black population (and half of the Caucasians) we'd quit trying to educate everyone to compete with the Chinese, because THAT WILL NOT WORK. IT IS PHYSICALLY AND GENETICALLY IMPOSSIBLE. Abstract intelligence has NEVER been America's strong point, as Polistra has discussed in detail.

Until we return to our previous accurate reckoning of our comparative strengths and weaknesses, we will continue to get weaker and weaker.

If we want to regain our power, we should put all of our resources into rebuilding American heavy industry and cut all ties with China and India. Call it the Second War of Independence. Yes, it would cost a lot to buy out China's bonds, but we're currently throwing trillions down the drain to stay enslaved to China!
 


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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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