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Quest for 'Genius Babies'?

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  • Sam Vaknin author of "Malignant Self
    Also read these - click on the links: The Prodigy as Narcissistic Injury http://samvak.tripod.com/journal89.html Born Aliens
    Message 1 of 1 , May 30, 2013
      Also read these - click on the links:

      The Prodigy as Narcissistic Injury


      Born Aliens


      Parenting - The Irrational Vocation



      Quest for 'Genius Babies'?

      May 29, 2013 - 3:00am
      Colleen Flaherty

      Jason Richwine swiftly resigned from the Heritage Foundation this month
      following revelations of his 2009 Harvard University dissertation on IQ and
      race, but the blogosphere continues to buzz with the story. In the
      as Richwine continues to defend his research, some human biodiversity, or
      “HBD,” experts charge that a new generation of eugenicists may be coming of
      age. A recurring name is that of Stephen Hsu, the Michigan State University
      physicist and vice president for research and graduate studies who is
      researching intelligence and genetics at the world’s biggest genomics
      sequencing lab
      in Shenzhen, China.

      “Richwine would probably also find a friend in Stephen Hsu, a theoretical
      physicist by training who is currently searching for an intelligence gene,”
      wrote Yong Chan, research director for the racial justice website ChangeLab.
      “Even though mainstream science has pretty much scrapped the notion that
      race has any kind of biological basis long ago, that hasn’t stopped [Hsu]
      trying to link intelligence with race and getting a billion and a half
      dollars for research based in China.”

      Michael Scroggins, a Ph.D. student at Teachers College of Columbia
      University, echoed Chan on Ethnography.com: “Suffice to say, [Richwine and
      offer nothing new to debates over IQ, or poverty or immigration. Their
      innovation lies in the naked, unreflective application of a naïve
      sociobiology to
      policy debates over access to democratic institutions – citizenship and

      Much of the controversy surrounding Hsu stems from a recent Vice article
      alleging Hsu's cognitive genomics project is ultimately helping China
      “genius babies.”

      “At BGI Shenzhen, scientists have collected DNA samples from 2,000 of the
      world’s smartest people and are sequencing their entire genomes in an
      to identify the alleles which determine human intelligence,” the piece
      reads. “Apparently they’re not far from finding them, and when they do,
      screening will allow parents to pick their brightest zygote and potentially
      bump up every generation's intelligence by five to 15 IQ points.”

      The article is based on an interview with Geoffrey Miller, professor of
      evolutionary psychology at the University of New Mexico, who donated DNA to

      "We’re pretty far behind," Miller said in response to Vice's question about
      how the U.S. compares to China in cognitive genomics research. "We have the
      same technical capabilities, the same statistical capabilities to analyze
      the data, but they’re collecting the data on a much larger scale and seem to
      be capable of transforming the scientific findings into government policy
      and consumer genetic testing much more easily than we are. Technically and
      scientifically we could be doing this, but we’re not. ...We have ideological
      biases that say, 'Well, this could be troubling, we shouldn’t be meddling
      nature, we shouldn’t be meddling with God.' I just attended a debate in New
      York a few weeks ago about whether or not we should outlaw genetic
      engineering in babies and the audience was pretty split. In China, 95
      percent of an
      audience would say, 'Obviously you should make babies genetically healthier,
      happier, and brighter!' There’s a big cultural difference."

      Hsu, who declined an interview, disputed aspects of the article in an
      e-mail. “Our work has nothing to do with IQ selection of human embryos or in
      vitro fertilization, except that, in the long run, basic science on the
      architecture of cognitive ability could have an impact in those areas,” he
      said. In his blog, he also noted that Internet posts about his research
      typically point to the “Chinese connection” in their titles, even though
      many of
      the DNA donors for the project were American, and that a lead scientist for
      the project is Robert Plomin, a professor of behavioral genetics at King's
      College London. Hsu said he and his collaborators are entering a quiet
      period to analyze their data due to the “wacky” news coverage of the

      Despite the assumptions made in the Vice article, there is some truth to
      the idea Hsu’s research eventually could help China engineer intelligence;
      although no one in Hsu’s cognitive genomics lab is working on reproduction –
      specifically preimplantation genetic diagnosis of embryos – other BGI units
      are, he said during a recent interview on NPR. Still, Hsu called the “genius
      baby” allegation a “huge speculative leap” and challenged the notion that
      China has written a blank check to BGI (he said the institution is private
      and compared the often cited $1.5 billion government funding figure to a
      of credit, rather than a direct grant).

      But comments on Hsu's own blog suggest more than purely scientific interest
      in cognitive genomics.

      "Imagine what a couple might pay to ensure that they get the best out of 10
      or 50 possible offspring, optimizing over their choice of heritable
      attributes," he wrote in 2012. "Compare this with the cost of a Harvard
      or K-12 private school tuition. The cost of an IVF cycle is down to a few
      thousand dollars and could go even lower. ...I hope that progressive
      governments will make this procedure free for everyone. The benefits from
      economic output, decreased welfare and criminality rates, etc. far outweigh
      the cost of what I have described above ( = few cycles of IVF + running my
      algorithms provided at dirt cheap licensing rates ;-)." Pondering the cost
      such a procedure, he added, "Few $K is the cost in Taiwan or Korea and
      success rates are if anything higher there. That's not even factoring the
      economies of scale that would arise if a large fraction of couples wanted
      it. Who
      says the U.S. is the first market for this?"

      Richwine said via e-mail his own work has nothing to do with eugenics and
      that he’s not familiar with Hsu – and, to be sure, there are huge
      differences between Richwine’s social science research extrapolated to
      for immigration policy (in particular, that there exists a long-term gap in
      IQ between non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics and that IQ should be
      considered in immigration decisions) and Hsu’s work in the hard sciences.

      However, some see similarities – and find fault in – their interest in
      research over its potential ethical implications.

      In a post called “The New Eugenics – Same as the Old Eugenics?” for his
      blog, Wiring the Brain, Kevin Mitchell, a professor of genetics at Trinity
      College Dublin who said he has engaged in dialogue with Hsu on the matter,
      argued that research can’t be divorced from its potential implications.
      “Some would argue it is not the place of scientists to decide the ethical
      issues – it is our job just to do the science,” he wrote in reference to the
      physicist's research. “If society abuses it, well, that is not our fault.
      is a case where I strongly disagree – we cannot disentangle the moral
      issues from the scientific ones. It is too easy to use scientific findings
      justify policies that would otherwise be deemed abhorrent; too easy, as
      Hume noted, to mistakenly derive a prescription of how things ought to be
      from a description of how they are.” Mitchell said via e-mail that "I think
      people are calling Richwine and, to a lesser extent, Hsu, eugenicists,
      because their public statements seem to favor eugenics."

      Chan echoed Mitchell. “We can't act as if learning, teaching, or research
      in our academic institutions happens within a vacuum,” she said in an
      “Historically, ‘science’ has had a substantial influence in how ideas
      about race were developed and then how those ideas were translated into
      and laws.” In Hsu’s case, she added, “To approach the field of genetics (and
      not just around this idea of intelligence) without acknowledging the
      potential for racist outcomes is ignoring history. To be the producers of
      knowledge without any thought to how that knowledge might be used is
      ignoring our
      moral responsibilities.”

      The blogger also noted some physicists’ objection to working on the atomic
      bomb. Hsu made a similar reference when asked about the ethical implications
      of his research during a tech talk at Google in 2011 (he was there in part
      to solicit DNA donors for his project, telling the crowd he’d wondered since
      he was a kid what makes certain minds, like those of theoretical
      physicists, “special”). Genetic selection for traits such as height and
      seem to be inevitable, he said.

      “At that point, all bets are off. Rich people are going to be doing it.
      They might be making choices about implanting – if they’re doing IVF, which
      zygotes to implant. It’s all going to come. It’s all driven by technology. I
      don’t see any way to stop it. …So yes, there are huge ethical implications.
      But, you know, although I just said that, compared to people who worked on
      the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, I think what I’m doing – right, they had
      even, in some sense, larger ethical questions they had to answer to at the
      – I think it’s part of the territory for just doing science.”

      Others see no eugenicist agenda in either researcher's work, and believe
      the cases raise questions of academic freedom.

      Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who caused
      controversy with his 1996 book on IQ and society, The Bell Curve, wrote the
      essay “In Defense of Jason Richwine” for National Review Online. In an
      e-mail, he called the backlash against both scholars “a form of contemporary
      intellectual insanity.”

      “Here we have one guy, Hsu, who isn't doing anything that could remotely be
      called eugenics, and another guy, Richwine, who based his dissertation on
      differences in standardized test score means that indisputably exist, and
      people call them eugenicists, racists, pseudoscientists, you name it,” said
      Murray. “These reactions are hysterical, incredibly ignorant about the state
      knowledge in psychometrics, and often made by people with impressive
      academic credentials. After almost 20 years of living with them, I still
      really understand what's going on.”

      Michigan State stands behind Hsu. “[Any] researcher or professor at MSU is
      entitled to full freedom in their research and in the publication of their
      results,” a spokesman wrote in an e-mail.

      Nita Farahany, professor of law, philosophy, genome sciences and policy at
      Duke University School of Law offered a nuanced opinion: “I think
      researchers should be careful about the conclusions that they draw. Studying
      genetic and environmental contributions to intelligence (if one could agree
      what that means) – or IQ scores – does not link Dr. Hsu to inappropriate
      conclusions drawn by other researchers.” But, she said, “I do think that
      researchers have a duty to consider how their research will be used, to
      the implications of their research for society and to help safeguard
      against scientific misuse.”
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