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Thread: Is intelligence genetic?

  1. #1 Is intelligence genetic? 
    Forum Freshman The Vegan Marxist's Avatar
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    On another forum, there's this debate going on about whether or not intelligence is genetically-led. Those advocating the idea, at least the majority of them, believe that genes play out as a predisposition to intelligence through the conflict between genes and the environmental conditions. Very few believe it's environmentally-led solely.

    What's everyone else's thoughts on this? Is there any evidence to link intelligence with genetics? And if so, do these genes play out as a predisposition or a predetermination?


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    I see it like this. Intelligence isn't a specific attribute, but rather a a collection of different abilities which amalgamate to the subjective experience of intelligence.

    If we could isolate exactly what attribute it was we wanted to talk about things might be a bit easier. But not much; with a number of genes playing nuanced roles in determining phenotypes, it's going to be a minefield trying to identify which genes are responsible for what attribute. Add epigenetics; environmental factors causing differences in gene expression in addition to the traditional nurture debates and the whole thing just gets messy.

    Sorry, that was just a pretentious way of saying i don't know...


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  4. #3  
    Forum Professor Zwirko's Avatar
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    Is there any evidence to link intelligence with genetics?
    Many genetic disorders of metabolism result in severe mental retardation, so clearly there is very fundamental and important link between genes and intelligence.

    I don't think it makes much sense to debate whether its genes or environment; it's just not an either-or type question. Such complex traits as intelligence are clearly highly polygenic, next to impossible to unravel, involve thousands of basic cellular and organism-level processes as well interacting with the environment in numerous, complex ways, both subtle and not. Elucidating the relative importance of each at various stages of development is where I think debate could be had.
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    To echo the others - intelligence is determined by an interplay between genetic and environmental factors.
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  6. #5  
    Forum Freshman Bellerophon's Avatar
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    It's like asking what colour is more important when making orange, red or yellow?

    You can't have orange without both, and what do you mean by orange? My orange could be your warm yellow. Even if you could establish a common definition of orange it would still include an infinite number of shades. Some shades of orange have more yellow than red, other shades have more red than yellow.
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  7. #6  
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    A universal orange would therefore comprise equal amounts of red and yellow. I don't think that we can extend this analogy to intelligence :P
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  8. #7  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    It seems to me a very good analogy, perhaps because I have no idea what you mean by a universal orange.
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    A shade of orange which everyone will categorically agree is orange - e.g. if equal proportions of red and yellow were mixed.
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  10. #9  
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tridimity
    A shade of orange which everyone will categorically agree is orange - e.g. if equal proportions of red and yellow were mixed.
    Fine, so long as you can find two colours that everyone agrees are universal red and universal yellow...
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  11. #10  
    Forum Freshman Bellerophon's Avatar
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    My point here was that the concept of intelligence, like the concept of colour, is a hunam construct. It's defined by each person's subjective experience.

    Colour change appearance under different lighting conditions, just as a persons "intelligence" changes appearance when exposed to different tasks. With clever experiments, you can determine (very) roughly some kind of statistical distribution of effect of genetic differences versus environmental differences on very specific tasks, but the interesting question is still how they interact.

    The analogy holds, in that you can make some statistical inferences on colour, but only in very specific tasks. You could make a hundred tiles of different shades from yellow to red, and determine the mean boundaries of orange, but only for this mix of pigments/inks, and only under specific lighting. You say you can mix half yellow and half red, and you could do that in theory, like on a computer, but you have to output the colours so people can see them. Then you'll have to deal with how the monitor is calibrated, how the printer is calibrated, how the lighting affects both etc. The modell is one thing, but you're talking about reality, and none of the models of "intelligence" that we have today can account for what we see in the real world. That, and the fact that its an abstract concept like the concept of "happiness", and unlike the real concept of "a car" which is not defined by subjective experience.
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  12. #11  
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    This is a very interesting topic, the famous "nurture versus nature". Let's start with what we know. Hereditary diseases can lead to mental retardation, so right off the bat genetics play a role in intelligence. Here's where it gets sticky: genes can lead to adverse effects on intelligence, but do they provide any positive effects? I don't know, and this question would have to be answered by a professional.

    Moving on to the environment someone is raised in. This aspect of the question is, in my opinion, a no-brainer. This is because children raised in a poor and barely educated family will almost always do worse than their peers that have been raised in affluent, educated families.
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  13. #12  
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    Let's use a little common sense. What is the difference between a chimpanzee and a human? Obviously the difference between chimps and humans is genetic. If there were not genetic differences in intelligence, many chimps would live in cities and speak at least seven languages fluently.

    Even the theory of evolution should tell you there are genetic differences. This is how evolution happens. Some people are smarter than others, and they pass their genes onto their offspring. How else do you suppose intelligence evolved?
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  14. #13  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    I agree with Bellerophon that intelligence is a human concept, theres a complex and nuanced reality we just call intelligence for simplicity.

    To have a Pot or Vase, you need both the raw clay and to shape it, if you have nothing to work with you cant create the pot, and if you have clay but dont shape it you have a pile of mud but not a pot or vase.

    Imo intelligence requires both genetic AND interaction with the environment.
    You cant teach a carrot to talk, and if an infant can survive sensory deprivation since birth to the age of 20 the poor person will be blind and unable to speak, because even something we take for granted like sight is structured organized and rendered functional from birth based on sensory input, optical illusions occur when a manifestation responsible for sensory input does not match the patterns the common sensory experience has established.
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