Archive for December, 2013

“Major Genes of General Intelligence” by Volkmar Weiss

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

I have not yet had enough time to critically contemplate Volkmar Weiss’ “Major Genes of General Intelligence” (and as it is approaching 2 am, doubt I will for the remainder of this night), a review of sorts regarding the genetic correlates and heritability of intelligence. I am not sure about Weiss’ credentials (he does not seem to have a CV up that lists his PhD institution and field), and am not sure about the veracity of his conclusions. In another article, “miRNA, Trinucleotide Repeats, Glutathione Status and the Genetics of IQ,” he writes:

It should be demonstrated that by applying the powerful logic of genetics and available knowledge it is already possible to put forward reasonable hypotheses on IQ genes simply by data mining. Within a few years we will have open access to more and better databases. Therefore, we should be confident that a true breakthrough in IQ genetics is imminent, even without any funding and despite all political opposition and repression of this type of research. After their retirement, old men have nothing to fear anymore.

The pronouncement of an ” imminent breakthrough in IQ genetics is imminent” does sound slightly premature and flimsy, and the reliance on broad race categories, usage of “Mongoloid” for example, triggers some not positive gut reactions. Moreover, many of his citations come from obscure journals and a journal where he serves as an editorial board member (Mankind Quarterly). But then again, intelligence is a powder keg of a research topic that will go avoided by many mainstream outlets, especially when conclusions are featured in those papers that can piss people off. And with what appears to be a good understanding of statistics (better than me, for sure), I am not at a level of knowledge where I can come up with an impression of his research, his methodology, and conclusions on one initial read independent of my political leaning and word associations. I lean skeptical, but will withhold condemnation for now.

I must say that  though, whatever the likelihood of reliable prenatal IQ testing actually coming to fruition, this is quite a driver for imagination:

At present, two ways can be imagined for the prenatal determination of the IQ of a foetus: electrophysiological (Hepper,1989) or biochemical measurement. Whether there it will be necessary to culture cells in order to multiply fetal tissue from biopsy or whether microanalysis will be so sensitive that the immediate biochemical determination of genotypes and hence of IQ-range will be possible, future will tell us.

Estimating IQ from a single cell. Provocative. Obviously, this disregards environmental “nurture” factors, such as effects of parenting style, education, and the like, which Volkmar, despite seeming to fall into the “g is innate and inflexible camp”, acknowledges can affect IQ.

The mention of intelligence of people with trisomy 21 being correlated to that of their parents is also fascinating:

In 1982 I became aware (Weiss, 1982a) of a paper published by Sinet, Lejeune and Jerome (1979) in which a correlation of 0.58 between IQ and erythrocyte glutathione peroxidase activity (GSHPx) was reported for 50 trisomy 21 patients. None of the other enzymes studies correlated with IQ. The IQ of controls had not been tested by Sinet, Lejeune and Jerome because they thought the correlation to be trisomy-specific. However, Fraser and Sadovnick (1976) had found that the correlations of IQ between trisomy 21 probands with their fathers, mothers and sibs are about 0.50, consequently of the same size as with healthy children despite the mean IQ of trisomy 21 probands is about 70 points lower. Therefore Lenz (1978) concluded individual differences in trisomy-IQ have the same biochemical background as in normal persons. – In population studies a mean enzyme activity of about 24 U GSHPx/g Hb was found. In contrast 100 healthy university students had a mean of 40.5 U, what seems to be another argument for the association of high IQ with high GSHPx activity (for more details and references see Weiss, 1984 and 1987).

Exit The Rat Race

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Stranger, read this:

“Are Positional Externalities Different from Other Externalities?” by Robert H. Frank.

I don’t expect supporters of income equality to have political clout to push through incentives discouraging consumption anytime soon.

Nonetheless, we can be more mindful of externalities and be more aware about the occasional irrationality of our envy.

Prestige. What is it worth? It is all too obvious what prestige can yield for selfish reasons, but I ask you to consider, what are the costs of the pursuit of prestige?