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The Gene Delusion: IQ and the environment

An anonymous reader of Andrew Sullivan’s blog writes a superb comment, reproduced here:

“One thing Watson and others forget is that the brain is highly malleable based on environment. Although he is the father of DNA he knows very little about neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. Previously it was thought that the human brain was ‘hardwired’ after a certain age. This is not true. Not only is not true, but the human mind is capable of adaptation but actual neuron growth even late in life. Ten years ago this was thought impossible.

Neurogenesis and neuroplasticity proves that a nurturing social and family setting shifts IQ, perspective, and emotional IQ. The so-called bell curve isn’t genetic. Oppressed Tibetans and Chinese ethnic minorities -whose test scores soar in the United States and Canada- are 20-30 points lower in their homeland. That 20-30 points deficit is in the same range of a lot of groups that are attacked or threatened (Muslims in France, Christians in Nigeria, Blacks in America). Conversely when oppressed groups are removed from their environment their IQ, emotional health returns to a normal rate, thus proving that is NOT genetic.

It is plastic, shifting and based upon the environment.

That is why people under prolonged stress experience memory loss, emotional outbursts and many other symptoms of a mind that is under duress. When the stress ends, normal memory levels return. A Black male living in the inner city in a single parent household facing an assortment of threats is obviously going to test differently than a white child growing up in the suburbs in a nurturing environment.

What is concerning about this growing myth in the end-all-be-all power of genes is that it leaves people helpless. There is apparently a fat gene, an Alzheimers gene, and what next? A stupid gene? This is genetic determinism and it’s not only a false scientific creation but down-right scary. It leaves people waiting around for ‘the magic pill,’ helpless and perpetual victims. It makes doctors and scientists as God and turns the average human into a lab rat.”

Beautifully said.

You will enjoy this related post on Richard Dawkins and Alfred Nobel: beyond nature and nurture, where we quote Richard Dawkins:

“We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism-something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world. We are built as gene machine and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.”

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