Thursday, September 14, 2006

FuturePundit: Gene Therapy Will Widen Gap Between Have and Havenots

This must be I.Q. Week here. Maybe you're getting bored with it. I must say that I.Q. often infuriates those who invariably are included in groups with lower I.Q., but the reason I keep coming around to it is that I see I.Q. influencing so much of life. While it is P.C. to ignore how intelligence affects the social strata, the influence is undeniable.

Why? Because the "haves" will be more likely to adopt and afford gene therapy to make "designer babies" smarter and better looking.

Here is a summary of some of the research cited:

  • The better educated prospective parents are, the further they are prepared to go to improve their children's IQ.
  • Women interpret certain interventions in child rearing as "design acts" more readily than men.
  • People over 50 interpret certain interventions as "design acts" more readily than people under 25.
  • Because of "parental uncertainty" - the idea than women know for certain if a child is their's whereas men do not – men show a significantly greater preference than female parents for their children to inherit their own characteristics.
  • Parents see different physical, social and intellectual characteristics as desirable depending on the sex of the child.
  • Older women and childless women are significantly more willing to "improve" the physical, social and intellectual characteristics of prospective children? (This can be explained by women seeking to increase their genetic heredity, particularly when their time to reproduce begins to decrease.)
  • Both men and women see genetic engineering as acceptable primarily for medical applications.

Once genetic engineering of embryos allows prospective parents to make their kids smarter, better looking, higher athletic performers, and with more desired personality traits all the reticence about genetic engineering for non-medical reasons will go out the window. I'm expecting a stampede toward offspring genetic engineering once it becomes possible.

Higher education is a proxy for higher intelligence. The correlation is not exactly 1 but it is very high. The more highly educated and smarter people will more rapidly and deeply develop a grasp of what offspring genetic engineering can deliver. Also, since the smarter have higher incomes on average they will be better able to pay for genetic tinkering than will poor people.

With the cognitive elite stampeding to make their kids have 150 IQs the less bright and downright dim will be left in the dust. Society will become even more divided by intellectual ability than it already is.

My solution? Since good looks and I.Q. seem to be inversely proportional, hot guys should marry brainy girls and brainy guys should marry hot girls. The results of these marriages will be thus: If the couple has four kids, one will be smart and beautiful, one will be smart and ugly, one will be stupid and beautiful, and one will be stupid and ugly.

I'm joking, of course.

I do disagree with Future Pundit's premise. The research I've read indicates that everyone's I.Q. is increasing just at the same rate--so the divide still exists proportionally. The smarter aren't pulling away, everyone is increasing. It's just that the divide isn't narrowing like everyone hoped.

And, should gene therapy become widely available, it could be argued that the smartest among us would wait to see the long-term genetic consequences before avariciously jumping on the gene monkey-business bandwagon. Early adopters and those at the front of medical advances have another name: guinea pigs.

Oh, well. With a bell curve, there will be people everywhere on the curve. These days, though, no one considers him or herself dull-witted. Everyon'es a genius and it's just not true.

A few readers mention character as a more important element to success. This is born out by research. In fact, personality measure are more indicative of overall success. One interesting part of this research (abstract) ? Better looking people tend to be positvely correlated with higher depression. Here are more details:

In sum, listed in order of importance, individual-difference correlates of life success were as follows: (a) Positive relations with success of psychological adjustment-maladjustment as assessed with the combination of traits in Factor 1 (Relaxed Temperament), (b) positive relations with success of the Covert Index of Employee Productivity and Reliability, (c) positive relations with success of a group of achievement-related traits, including Factor 3 (Disciplined Goal Orientation) and two scales dealing specifically with Achieving Tendency, (d) negative relations with success of Emotional Thinking, (e) positive relations with success of Integrity and Emotional Empathy, (f) positive relations with success of Overall Physical Attractiveness and Intelligence. These findings provided an alternative, new perspective on conceptualization and measurement of "emotional intelligence."

The PAD temperament scales (Trait Pleasure, Trait Arousability, Trait Dominance) were used to analyze the temperament composition of all scales, factors, and success measures in the study (Table 20). Pleasant, unarousable, and dominant temperament characteristics, listed in order of importance, were positive correlates of life success. These findings, in combination with available evidence on the PAD emotional impact of a large variety of stimuli, can be used to develop interventions designed to enhance life success of individuals.


David said...

Too many parents are focused on IQ and academic achievement/credentials at the expense of metaskills (or what used to be called "character".)

It doesn't matter how elite the school and how good the grades: if the individual hasn't learned how to cope with adversity and take action independently and courageously, he's probably not going very far in the business world--nor, I would posit, in most other fields.

Anonymous said...

I think David has an excellent point here. I've known some who think that they are less intelligent then others, yet show remarkable skill in dealing with real life issues.

Btw: did you know there is an oil out there called Melissa? It's for brain sharpness and brain power.

Dr. Melissa said...

Character makes all the difference. I.Q. is only part of the puzzle.

How many smart sullen people never succeed, while average smart but optimistic people succeed.

Anonymous said... guys should marry brainy girls and brainy guys should marry hot girls.

You might have been joking, Doc, but as a brainy nerd who was never attractive to women, I could really get behind this idea.

Now as to the main subject:

Because the "haves" will be more likely to adopt and afford gene therapy to make "designer babies" smarter and better looking.

As a surviving fast-tracked ex-kid genius, here's my take on what will happen:

These "haves" will pay through the nose to enhance their Mini-Me into a *GENIUS*. They will pay big bucks expecting a Wesley Crusher or Jimmy Neutron. What they'll get will be a Dallas Egbert III.

We're going to see a lot of Dal Egberts in the future if this becomes practical.