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Poverty Can Trump A Winning Hand of Genes

 
 
Miller
 
Reply Sat 21 Sep, 2013 01:30 pm

MIND AND MATTER
September 20, 2013, 8:16 p.m. ET
WSJ.com

Poverty Can Trump a Winning Hand of Genes

Changes in our environment can actually transform the relation between our traits and the outside world.

By ALISON GOPNIK

We all notice that some people are smarter than others. You might naturally wonder how much these differences in intelligence depend on genes or upbringing. But that question, it turns out, is impossible to answer.

That's because changes in our environment can actually transform the relationship among our traits, our upbringing and our genes.

The textbook illustration of this is a dreadful disease called PKU. Some babies have a genetic mutation that makes them unable to process an amino acid in their food, and it leads to severe mental retardation. For centuries, PKU was incurable. Genetics determined whether someone suffered from the syndrome, which gave them a low IQ.

Then scientists discovered how PKU works. Now, we can immediately put babies with the mutation on a special diet. Whether a baby with PKU has a low IQ is now determined by the food they eat—by their environment.

We humans can figure out how our environment works and act to change it, as we did with PKU. So if you're trying to measure the relative influence of human nature and nurture, you have to consider not just the current environment but also all the possible environments that we can create.

This doesn't just apply to obscure diseases. In the latest issue of Psychological Science, Timothy C. Bates of the University of Edinburgh and colleagues report a study of the relationship among genes, SES (socio-economic status, or how rich and educated you are) and IQ. They used statistics to analyze the differences between identical twins, who share all DNA, and fraternal twins, who share only some.

When psychologists first started studying twins, they found identical twins much more likely to have similar IQs than fraternal ones. They concluded that IQ was highly "heritable"—that is, due to genetic differences. But those were all high SES twins. Erik Turkheimer of the University of Virginia and his colleagues discovered that the picture was very different for poor, low-SES twins. For these children, there was very little difference between identical and fraternal twins: IQ was hardly heritable at all. Differences in the environment, like whether you lucked out with a good teacher, seemed to be much more important.

In the new study, the Bates team found this was even true when those children grew up. IQ was much less heritable for people who had grown up poor. This might seem paradoxical: After all, your DNA stays the same no matter how you are raised. The explanation is that IQ is influenced by education. Historically, absolute IQ scores have risen substantially as we've changed our environment so that more people go to school longer.

Richer children have similarly good educational opportunities, so genetic differences among them become more apparent. And since richer children have more educational choice, they (or their parents) can choose environments that accentuate and amplify their particular skills. A child who has genetic abilities that make her just slightly better at math may be more likely to take a math class, so she becomes even better at math.

But for poor children, haphazard differences in educational opportunity swamp genetic differences. Ending up in a terrible school or one a bit better can make a big difference. And poor children have fewer opportunities to tailor their education to their particular strengths.

How your genes shape your intelligence depends on whether you live in a world with no schooling at all, a world where you need good luck to get a good education or a world with rich educational possibilities. If we could change the world for the PKU babies, we can change it for the next generation of poor children, too.

A version of this article appeared September 21, 2013, on page C2 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Good Genes Only Get You So Far With Intelligence.
































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Type: Discussion • Score: 4 • Views: 4,982 • Replies: 50

 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Sep, 2013 01:57 pm
@Miller,
Question

Sorry but this appears to be academic overkill of the obvious.

No doubt the "nature versus nurture" dichotomy will continue to be a perpetual source of "inspiration" of journal articles for those justifying or seeking tenure.
0 Replies
 
Foofie
 
  0  
Reply Sat 21 Sep, 2013 03:04 pm
IN my opinion, using the PKU genetic disease to bolster the argument for "nurture" is specious. Plus, your post does not explain why some children are born into poverty and don't have the benefit of better "nurturing." Could it be that the component of "nature" that results in intelligence, or lack of it, can also be extrapolated to one's ancestors? Meaning, if a culture mandates literacy, like for example Protestantism (one must read the bible to be a good Protestant), then all those that cannot master literacy stay within the confines of a religion that does not mandate literacy. In effect, Protestantism, regardless of its theology, might just be a "gene pool" of better "nature" genes for literacy (aka, intelligence).

The problem I have with nature vs. nurture is that it seems the arguments one way or another revolve around the micro picture; the one individual raised this way or that way. The arguments do not seem to look at the macro picture of a gene pool within a specific culture. Naturally, we can then get into the chicken or the egg (coming first) conundrum. Which came first the culture, or the gene pool.

Similar to the pride each echelon of society had in Brave New World, we seem to be arriving to that way of societal balkanization. Not everyone wants to be upwardly mobile today; many just want to be content in their station in life. Great; however, it will result in more separate gene pools, and I'd bet whatever 'nurture' did, in a more homogeneous society, will be lessened to a greater strength in "nature" as gene pools become more cloistered. And, the poor will just have to be pandered to, to maintain a functioning society, in my opinion.
Miller
 
  0  
Reply Sat 21 Sep, 2013 09:09 pm
@Foofie,
American children who go to school hungry, do not learn very well. That's why in lower income areas, where money is hard to come by, the government for many years has provided these children with lunch and breakfast ( as far as I know it's free or pretty cheap).

I agree that kids need good food in order to learn and if the kids come from poor homes and neighborhoods, Americans need to step up to the plate and make sure that these kids get the nutrition they need, while in school so they can learn their academic subjects.
Ceili
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Sep, 2013 10:12 pm
@Miller,
I have an idea. Let's cut the food stamp program by billions. Let test the theory. US exceptionalism at it's best.
Miller
 
  0  
Reply Sun 22 Sep, 2013 08:50 am
@Ceili,
Ceili wrote:

I have an idea. Let's cut the food stamp program by billions. Let test the theory. US exceptionalism at it's best.


Perhaps life is richer for you in Russia...
0 Replies
 
Foofie
 
  0  
Reply Sun 22 Sep, 2013 01:08 pm
@Miller,
Miller wrote:

American children who go to school hungry, do not learn very well. That's why in lower income areas, where money is hard to come by, the government for many years has provided these children with lunch and breakfast ( as far as I know it's free or pretty cheap).

I agree that kids need good food in order to learn and if the kids come from poor homes and neighborhoods, Americans need to step up to the plate and make sure that these kids get the nutrition they need, while in school so they can learn their academic subjects.


Fine. Feed everyone. House everyone. Clothe everyone. Just don't expect any of those kids to grow up and cure cancer.
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Sep, 2013 10:18 pm
@Foofie,
Foofie wrote:

Fine. Feed everyone. House everyone. Clothe everyone. Just don't expect any of those kids to grow up and cure cancer.


Why would you say that?
Foofie
 
  0  
Reply Mon 23 Sep, 2013 06:33 am
@Miller,
Miller wrote:

Foofie wrote:

Fine. Feed everyone. House everyone. Clothe everyone. Just don't expect any of those kids to grow up and cure cancer.


Why would you say that?


Because, in my opinion, the unspoken belief in helping the underclass is that at some point in a generation or two, those that benefited from all of the social programs will be functioning at the same level as the historically privileged in society. My believing in "nature," having a greater effect on society than "nurture," I just think all the social programs are just humane charity, and few, if any, will become Jonas Salks.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Sep, 2013 07:37 am
@Foofie,
Huh? If they aren't fed, how are they going to cure cancer?
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Mon 23 Sep, 2013 07:40 am
Jesus, it's really disgusting to see that racist **** Miller/Foofie playing off her sock puppet to promote her bigoted hatred, while pretending that she (Miller) is not personally responsible for this horseshit. She truly is a disgusting pig.
Lordyaswas
 
  2  
Reply Mon 23 Sep, 2013 08:05 am
@Foofie,
......"Because, in my opinion, the unspoken belief in helping the underclass is that at some point in a generation or two, those that benefited from all of the social programs will be functioning at the same level as the historically privileged in society. My believing in "nature," having a greater effect on society than "nurture," I just think all the social programs are just humane charity, and few, if any, will become Jonas Salks."

I see where you're going with this, and may be able to help.
May I add a few suggestions?
How's about giving all those in the underclass a fresh start? You could help them re-settle....say, somewhere in the east, and teach them that they can gain self respect and personal freedom through their own hard work.

You could set up training villages, run on a sort of regimental camp idea....and maybe have helpful slogans put up around the place. Arbeit macht frei would be a good one to start with.
Now, lets see who we could help by such a resettlement?

Who would you suggest is the most burden on society?

What? You've already heard this idea somewhere?
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Sep, 2013 08:08 am
@Setanta,
I agree with you Setanta.
0 Replies
 
Foofie
 
  0  
Reply Mon 23 Sep, 2013 08:33 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

Jesus, it's really disgusting to see that racist **** Miller/Foofie playing off her sock puppet to promote her bigoted hatred, while pretending that she (Miller) is not personally responsible for this horseshit. She truly is a disgusting pig.


Don't use the Lord's name in vain.
Foofie
 
  0  
Reply Mon 23 Sep, 2013 08:34 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:

Huh? If they aren't fed, how are they going to cure cancer?



I previously said they should be fed, housed and clothed. Just don't expect them to cure cancer. Meaning the charitable thing is fine; however, society should not expect any dividends, in the way of a more productive demographic.
0 Replies
 
Foofie
 
  0  
Reply Mon 23 Sep, 2013 08:39 am
@Lordyaswas,
Lordyaswas wrote:

......"Because, in my opinion, the unspoken belief in helping the underclass is that at some point in a generation or two, those that benefited from all of the social programs will be functioning at the same level as the historically privileged in society. My believing in "nature," having a greater effect on society than "nurture," I just think all the social programs are just humane charity, and few, if any, will become Jonas Salks."

I see where you're going with this, and may be able to help.
May I add a few suggestions?
How's about giving all those in the underclass a fresh start? You could help them re-settle....say, somewhere in the east, and teach them that they can gain self respect and personal freedom through their own hard work.

You could set up training villages, run on a sort of regimental camp idea....and maybe have helpful slogans put up around the place. Arbeit macht frei would be a good one to start with.
Now, lets see who we could help by such a resettlement?

Who would you suggest is the most burden on society?

What? You've already heard this idea somewhere?


I don't care for your suggestions. I don't care for most of your posts.

Alluding to concentration camps (Arbeit Macht Frei) is just poor humor, in my opinion. Please don't direct your postings to me.
Foofie
 
  0  
Reply Mon 23 Sep, 2013 08:42 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

Jesus, it's really disgusting to see that racist **** Miller/Foofie playing off her sock puppet to promote her bigoted hatred, while pretending that she (Miller) is not personally responsible for this horseshit. She truly is a disgusting pig.


What if there is another universe where Setanta has Foofie as a sock puppet?
Lordyaswas
 
  2  
Reply Mon 23 Sep, 2013 09:09 am
@Foofie,
......."I don't care for your suggestions. I don't care for most of your posts.

Alluding to concentration camps (Arbeit Macht Frei) is just poor humor, in my opinion. Please don't direct your postings to me.".....


Then what would you suggest we do with the ghastly underclass, O wise one?
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Sep, 2013 10:00 am
@Lordyaswas,
I think you have a point Lordy. The concentration camps were designed as a way to solve the problem of bad genes.
Lordyaswas
 
  2  
Reply Mon 23 Sep, 2013 10:17 am
@maxdancona,
Exactly, but Frau Foofie was a bit too stoopid to get my drift.

0 Replies
 
 

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