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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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