Scientists, ethicists debate search for genes for intelligence

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis.

Some people are taller than others. Others have wider hips, lighter hair, longer toes, or flatter feet. No one disputes that our genes help determine how we look. But what about intelligence — is it an inherited trait?

Scientists are now being called upon to consider whether it’s ethical to study the genetics of intelligence. Researchers should think about “limits we should place or steps we can take to be sure we don’t repeat historical errors,” such as forced sterilization of the “feeble-minded” in the early 20th century, said Mildred Solomon, president of the Hastings Center, a bioethics think tank.

In early December, the Hastings Center gathered a small group of scholars and ethicists in New York City to discuss the future of intelligence research. Earlier in the week, a more international gathering had debated the ethics of editing human genes — and both groups wondered whether some studies could lead so directly to dangerous applications that they shouldn’t even be done in the first place.


The most critical speaker at the December meeting was Dorothy Roberts, professor of law and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. She disagreed with some behavioral geneticists’ claims that their work would help intellectually disadvantaged children, who she said would be better served simply by getting more resources. In fact, she said, any research that bolsters the hereditary concept of intelligence could actually hurt the disadvantaged, since it almost inevitably would be used to support “racist, classist, gendered notions of intelligence.”

Read full, original post: Are There Genes for Intelligence ‐ And Is It Racist to Ask?

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