October 2, 2013

Nature: "Taboo Genetics"

From the scientific journal Nature:
Ethics: Taboo genetics 
Probing the biological basis of certain traits ignites controversy. But some scientists choose to cross the red line anyway. 
Erika Check Hayden 
02 October 2013

Scientists cited or quoted include Steve Hsu, Geoffrey Miller, Christopher Chabris, Francis Galton, Robert Plomin, and Bruce Lahn.

And here is Nature's tut-tutting editorial:
Dangerous work 
Behavioural geneticists must tread carefully to prevent their research being misinterpreted.

Here are the four questions in Nature's poll
Should scientists refrain from studying the genetics of intelligence? 
Should scientists refrain from studying the genetics of race? 
Should scientists refrain from studying the genetics of violence? 
Should scientists refrain from studying the genetics of sexuality?

To quote the conclusion of a great American's 1940 book: "Vote early and often."

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's funny that they would spell it out so obviously in those questions. The agenda they're invested in, I mean.

SFG said...

I went and voted, but you might want to consider dropping that last sentence--we all get the message anyway, and I don't think we should help them get what they want.

peterike said...

Should scientists see no CrimeThink, hear no CrimeThink, speak no CrimeThink?

YES.

Anonymous said...

The late giant of science, H. J. Eysenck, pointed out about these "Should we" questions that history and the history of science offer little support to the assumption that we have sufficient foresight to justify prohibitions.
Too, there is utter intellectual corruption in sifting the discernment of facts through a mesch of preset values.

sunbeam said...

I think this story is about 10 years early.

Anyone can see the potential, but I'm not sure we have identified enough of the risk factors and how they interact.

Certainly you can do something now, but it is a pale shadow of what should be possible in about 10 years.

It's coming though.

Orthodox said...

These are political scientists.

NOTA said...

My first instinct is to say that they asked the questions expecting overwhelming nos on everything, but maybe that's too optimistic. Most people who think stuff like this shouldn't be studied prefer to phrase their desires a little less clearly. Like, "should racist pseudoscience be given any credence?"

Anti-Democracy Activist said...

Vox Day's writings on the difference between scientody, scientistry, and "scientage" come to mind. To quote his distinction between them:

Science: the scientific method as opposed to Science: the knowledge base or Science: the profession. I distinguish the latter two as "scientage" and "scientistry".

Big Science (or "scientistry", as Vox would put it) is a big corrupt racket just like any other you'll find in the late stages of a decadent, declining empire. That's what Eric Hoffer said - “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” So with science... so with basically everything in our society now.

So yeah, I expect scientists to largely steer clear of ideologically forbidden (and thus potentially career-ending) topics. In America, at least. In China, well, that may be another story.

eah said...

The questions seem more appropriate for the journal Nurture.

MC said...

"Behavioural geneticists must tread carefully to prevent their research being misinterpreted."

Nice research you got there. Be a shame if it got misinterpreted.

euneaux said...

I don't swallow the progressive goodthink hook line and sinker, so study away.

But I don't understand what practical conclusions can be drawn if it is proven that African or European genes on average have different endowment of intelligence. Isn't it easy enough to just give somebody a quick IQ test that it's not necessary to jump to conclusions? With the complicated heritage of multiracial persons such as our favorite Conquistador-Americans, it might actually even be easier to determine intelligence than any racial categories.

Furthermore, I'd be very interested for the characteristics of conscientiousness and attention to be studied. In my experience, these factors are vastly more important to success than raw intelligence. If I were picking a team, these would be the factors I'd focus on. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of a quick screen for these like an IQ test works for intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Taboo is a religious idea. It has no place in science.

dearieme said...

And yet it moves.

AMac said...

euneaux wrote:

> But I don't understand what practical conclusions can be drawn...

Disparate impact, for one. As our host has illustrated on numerous occasions.

panjoomby said...

I like how they worded the questions negatively, to get more people to say "yes" accidentally -- that trick doesn't work as well on people with triple-digit IQs as they had hoped.

Edward Waverley said...

Anonymous said...
"Taboo is a religious idea. It has no place in science."

That's true of ideologically neutral science of course, but false for the widespread religion known as Scientism. In that faith, Political Correctness is an orthodox doctrine and there are a number of taboos.

Anonymous said...

"I'd be very interested for the characteristics of conscientiousness and attention to be studied. In my experience, these factors are vastly more important to success than raw intelligence. If I were picking a team, these would be the factors I'd focus on."

It depends on whether you want a diligent and conscientious idiot working for you. I think in my industry (IT) I'd go for the bright but a tad slapdash boy on the grounds that he can quickly diagnose and fix when he's missed something. Perhaps not suited for engineering, though.

Best of all for me is conscientious and bright, but depends on the situation.

I've seen this quoted as a saying of Rommel and of Napoleon.

"I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined.

Some are clever and diligent -- their place is the General Staff.

The next lot are stupid and lazy - they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties.

Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions.

One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent - he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief."


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_von_Hammerstein-Equord

People who are diligent but not exceptionally bright are great software testers. I hate testing and am truly thankful there are people who can do it without going mad with boredom.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

But I don't understand what practical conclusions can be drawn if it is proven that African or European genes on average have different endowment of intelligence.

It means the ten gazillion simoleons we're spending to try and integrate Africans into European civilization is wasted.

Dennis Dale said...

I don't know anything about polling, but I think the wording of the questions will confuse:

Should scientists refrain from studying the genetics of intelligence?

I'm sure a few lazy readers read this as simply "should scientists study the genetics of intelligence" and answered no.
Why the almost Victorian delicacy of "refrain from"? Is Nature aware of the implications of stating it more directly? Because if consensus declares This Shouldn't Be Done, then the next question has to be:
should scientists be barred from studying the genetics of intelligence?

nooffensebut said...

What a stupid article! To downplay MAOA research, she cited (and misspelled the author's name for) one study that was negative for the gene-environment interaction but positive for an effect of the gene, by itself, in black and white men and negative for an effect of child abuse, by itself, in black men. Meanwhile, she ignored a major meta-analysis. Perhaps she should express similar skepticism of whether child abuse is bad for black children.

Big Bill said...

It is so sad that Nature, Science, and now Popular Science have been taken over by The Usual Suspects.

Every month I find that more and more of their articles, editorials and letters have been filled with PC rubbish.

They seem to spend more and more of their time as political commissars for the Party, massaging popular and academic minds in the correct mode of thinking about things.

Instead of reporting WHAT scienctists are working on, they are discussing what scientists shouldn't be working on.

They spend more and more time policing the acceptable boundaries of science, just like the Church did in Galileo's day: "If we let Galileo preach the movement of the Earth, he will destroy God's Harmony of the Spheres among the Faithful! They will all become apostate!"

All they want to do is Heal the World, but this is not the way to go about it.

NOTA said...

euneaux:

Not knowing exactly what use some knowledge will be if you get it is a pretty good reason to question whether it's wise to fund the research (though all kinds of abstract research results turn out to be really useful), but not to try to suppress the research.

Mr. Anon said...

"MC said...

""Behavioural geneticists must tread carefully to prevent their research being misinterpreted.""

Nice research you got there. Be a shame if it got misinterpreted."

Good. Very good.

Anonymous said...

"It is so sad that Nature, Science, and now Popular Science have been taken over by The Usual Suspects."

Exactly the same with New Scientist in the UK.

Anonymous said...

But I don't understand what practical conclusions can be drawn if it is proven that African or European genes on average have different endowment of intelligence. Isn't it easy enough to just give somebody a quick IQ test that it's not necessary to jump to conclusions

IQ tests are ruled out in the US by Griggs - those test be raciss...

Svigor said...

Behavioural geneticists must tread carefully to prevent their research being misinterpreted.

Translation: behavioral geneticists must tread carefully to prevent the overlords smashing them.

Anonymous said...

"Behavioural geneticists must tread carefully to prevent their research being misinterpreted."

Um. What if the results are correctly interpreted, and they are something the editors of Nature find to be unpleasant?

David said...

>But I don't understand what practical conclusions can be drawn<

What practical conclusions was Newton trying to find? That's for technologists. The Big Boys don't care a hang for applications.

NOTA said...

Anon 9:31:

That's always seemed like more than half the concern here. Perhaps people will read this results, run ahead of the data, and do something we disagree with as a result when it doesn't make sense. But perhaps they will also read the results, interpret them correctly, and do something perfectly sensible that we disagree with as a result.

Are there any examples of (true) information that should not be made available to anyone, because of its bad social impact? I'm very strongly inclined to say no, but maybe I'm missing something. I don't think the US is at all likely to restart Jim Crow or start shipping ethnic undesirables to murder factories, and don't think information about reality makes that stuff any more likely, either. You don't need racial superiority theories based on evolution and genetics to mass murder a bunch of your neighbors. Old tribal hatreds and a truckload of machetes will do the job just fine.