The Science On Genes And IQ: An Unstoppable Train

A few days ago I received an email from Mike Berman, a good friend and Dissident Right supporter.  I reproduce it here with Mike’s permission.

Last night I attended a talk given by Charles Murray. During the Q&A a threatening looking young man asked Mr. Murray if he was the author of The Bell Curve, which he said was about “blacks possessing inferior intellectual ability to whites.”

Charles Murray bravely stood his ground and stated that he had co-written the book. He further said that only a part of one chapter was devoted to the subject of race, that at the time much less was known regarding genetic influence, and that he and Richard Herrnstein were then agnostic on the subject.

The precise statement of that is in Chapter 13 of The Bell Curve: “It seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial difference.  What might the mix be?  We are resolutely agnostic on that issue; as far as we can determine, the evidence does not yet justify an estimate.”

That was written in 1994.  Back (that is, forward) to Mike’s email of last week.

Mr. Murray said that since the book was written we have learned that evolution has not stopped since man left Africa and may have even speeded up.

Then Charles Murray made a startling statement. He said that an unstoppable train was coming down the track which would be arriving within three years. He was emphatic that this train would not take a decade or even five years.

Mr. Murray says that within these three years incontrovertible evidence of the overwhelming genetic influence on cognitive abilities and many other human traits of the different races will become available. He said that he doesn’t know what the reaction will be when this occurs but that he cannot imagine professors who have made a career out of proclaiming the contrary view will just say, “Never mind.”

It happened that Mike’s email arrived while I was catching up on some back reading of the human-science blogs.  One of the best of those blogs is Razib Khan’s over at The Unz Review.

Here was Razib on January 26th, in the comment thread to one of his own posts.  The comment thread is chewing over that same issue, the genetic architecture of human intelligence.

honestly i would just sit on my hands for now. in the next <5 years the genomic components of traits like intelligence will finally be characterized. this is not speculation, but anticipation based on research going on now.   [R.A. Fisher on Race and Human Genetic Variation by Razib Khan; The Unz Review, January 24th 2016.]

It’s interesting that two people who have studied this topic and thought deeply about it but from different perspectives—Murray as a sociologist, Khan as a population geneticist—should be in such close agreement on the timescale here.  Murray says “within three years”; Khan, “in the next <5 years.”

Murray has actually shortened his estimate since 2010.  That was the year he told Norwegian inquirer Harald Eia that:

We don’t know the extent to which these [i.e. race difference sin intelligence] are environmental and the extent to which these are genetic.  It’s still being explored.  We will know the proportions very … Oh, maybe ten, fifteen, twenty years from now, because work in genetics is proceeding so fast that we’re bound to find out what proportion is genetic and what proportion is environmental.  [At 29m35s here, in the sixth instalment of Harald Eia’s 2010 Brainwash series, which I wrote up for last year.]

“Ten, fifteen, twenty years” from 2010 means 2020, 2025, or 2030.  Murray seems to now be settling on some date earlier than 2020, as does Khan.

Assuming these gents are correct, there are at least two big social consequences to look out for.

First of course is the “designer baby” issue.  Once key gene variants for high intelligence are known—and it needn’t even be all of them, just ones with the biggest effect—widespread embryo selection and/or selective abortion could eliminate births of low-IQ humans, or at least make such births a deliberate choice.

Second, and much more fun to observe, will be the one Murray identified: the writhing and shrieking of “professors who have made a career out of proclaiming the contrary view.”

(My own very modest contribution to the topic is here.)