October 27, 2008

$2.7 billion federal nature-nurture study to start

The NYT reports:
21-Year Study of Children Set to Begin

After nearly a decade of planning, researchers will begin recruiting pregnant women in January for an ambitious nationwide study that will follow more than 100,000 children from before birth until age 21.

The goal of the federally financed project, the National Children’s Study, is to gain a better understanding of the effects of a wide array of factors on children’s health.

“What we are doing is bold and needs to be bold in order to answer some pressing questions,” said the study’s director, Dr. Peter C. Scheidt, a pediatrician on the staff of the child-health division of the National Institutes of Health.

Investigators hope to find explanations for the rising rates of premature births, childhood obesity, cancer, autism, endocrine disorders and behavioral problems. To that end, they will examine factors like genetics and child rearing, geography, exposure to chemicals, nutrition, and pollution.

I was told at a scientific conference last spring that they'll collect DNA samples from the children, mothers, and fathers (which could cause the usual trouble).

Hopefully, they'll keep this going at least another decade, to age 31, although the ideal would be to run indefinitely, for generations. The last I checked, the 1979 National Longitudinal Study of Youth, whose 1990 results featured prominently in The Bell Curve, is still going, providing IQ test results on the children of the 15-23 year old women who took the military's AFQT IQ test back in 1980.

The big news is that, unless the Francis Collins-types sabotage the methodology to prevent full DNA collection and/or eliminate IQ tests, our culture's current intellectual orthodoxy about no child left behind and the soft bigotry of low expectations yada yada, is doomed, scientifically speaking. The clock is ticking...

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Your last paragraph is an important caveat. If leftist either (a) don't win tons of elections in the next couple of years or (b) spontaneously stop acting like leftists, this thing may get off the ground. And Phil Rushton may not have to fear for his life any more, and people might start reading The Blank Slate instead of just citing it, and....

agnostic said...

I doubt that the current poo-poo-ers will change their mind with better evidence. It's already crystal clear.

They'll say that they didn't measure all relevant environmental factors, especially those that are impossible to measure, like "a culture of fear," "institutional racism," or whatever other hobgoblin the genetics-deniers cook up in the next 20 years.

If history is any judge, stupid intellectual fads die out for reasons of fashion, so we'll just have to ride this one out and soften its blows to society the best we can.

Anonymous said...

I would like to think they will just publish the raw data rather than the official conclusions but suspect it may be the other way round.

Anonymous said...

Will the study include standardized cognitive abilities tests given to the parent(s)?

Anonymous said...

The current economic crisis is a good opportunity for the Left to prove it really cares about poor people of all colours and creeds, and to start helping them, and to stop hating whites, males, heterosexuals, smart people, and Western civilization in general.

Anonymous said...

To elaborate on what I think agnostic is saying, let me posit a scnenario.

A gene is discovered that causes someone minds to function badly in some minor way. It is associated with an IQ deficit of 2 to 4 points relative to where the person would be without it. This gene occurs in 10% of the people from one ethnic group and 30% of the people from another.

Correlation doesn't prove causality. That will be the salvo from the genetics-deniers. (They already say it - all the time - even when causality hasn't been asserted. Trying saying "black are 15 points lower than average in tested IQ scores." The reply will almost always be something like, "It doesn't matter, since you can't prove it's 100% genetic in origin.")

If pressed to come up with an alternate theory for why, other than coincidence, a gene would be correlated with a 2-4-point IQ def, the race deniers can simply pull out the butterknife and give us a 2-bit shave-and-haircut. "The gene causes a certain behavior pattern that others recognize. It could even be a positive thing, like being able to rhyme spontaneously. Then bad people pick on the people who display that behavior pattern, and thus reduce their IQs."

Because picking on people reduces their IQs?

Anonymous said...

"rising rates of ... cancer": oh, balls, there's no such thing. Sheer fiction.

Anonymous said...


Would you participate in a study like this? Maybe I'm paranoid, but having read "Next", having heard they caught the BTK killer by analyzing his college daughter's pap smear, shuddering to think where cloning type technology will be in 21 years, when they tried to recruit my daughter for a similar study I said "Forget it!"

I really wonder whether they're going to get a statistically representative cross section willing to give them a blank check to play with their kid's DNA.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, emphasis on that "unless" part near the end. As John Derbyshire pointed out recently here, the clock very well might not be ticking very much longer.