Retalls (13.1.19)

Are Our Life Chances Determined by Our DNA? Anja Ahuja. Financial Times

Even the home, the very definition of “environment”, is subject to genetic influence, he says. If kids in book-filled homes exhibit high IQs, it is because high-IQ parents tend to create book-filled homes. The parents are passing on their intelligence to their children via their genes, not their libraries: “The shocking and profound revelation . . . is that parents have little systematic effect on their children’s outcomes, beyond the blueprint that their genes provide.” His conclusion is that “parents matter, but they don’t make a difference”. (...) Plomin describes DNA as a “fortune-teller” while simultaneously emphasising that “genetics describes what is — it does not predict what could be”. This caveat is odd, given his later enthusiasm for using genetic testing predictively in almost every aspect of life: in health, education, choosing a job and even attracting a spouse. (...) This vision sounds worryingly like pre-medicalisation. Plomin proclaims himself a cheerleader for such implications but is disappointingly light on the ethical issues. A predisposition might never manifest as a symptom — and besides, “possible schizophrenic” is not the kind of descriptor I would want to carry around from birth. (...) Plomin admits that cowardice stopped him writing such a book before now; it probably also stopped him from addressing alleged racial differences in intelligence. This is a grave omission, as he is one of the few academics capable of authoritatively quashing the notion. James Watson, the 90-year-old DNA pioneer, recently restated his belief that blacks are cognitively inferior to whites. (...)