November 13, 2014
The Complexity of Human Intelligence
Intelligence is the “mental quality that consists of the abilities to learn from experience, adapt to new situations, understand and handle abstract concepts, and use knowledge to manipulate one’s environment.” (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/289766/human-intelligence). But for something so prominent towards our race, there is a serious lack of understanding. For years now humans have been grasping at straws to demonstrate the connection between genetics and everything little thing that makes us human, from intelligence to disease. Thus The Human Genome Project was created. The project was completed in April of 2003 and was predicted to have a large impact on the way we look at the human species. And I would agree, there are changes however I have not experienced the large impact that it has had on the human race. There are still incurable genetic diseases and there is still no way to properly identify the causes of intelligence. For the billions of dollars invested into this project, it did not rise up to its expectations. As such, genetics is overestimated due to the social and political needs and assumptions of modern society. As such, the world that humans have created is superior to the knowledge presented by genetics.
Cornelius A. Rietveld published an article in Science magazine highlighting his finds on the connection between intelligence and genetics. Rietvald used the International Standard Classification of Education to measure the level of education obtained. He found that 3 gene variants present in the human body each caused a 0.02 % deviation in intelligence each. Overall these three gene variants contributed a 2% change to the overall digression in educational accomplishment.
Nevertheless, Lewontin, the realistic pessimist, unwaveringly highlights that such experiments lead to scientific advances on paper, but to fail to produce an operative effect in the real world. Rietveld’s study focuses upon a mere 2 % of factors that affect intelligence. The other 98%, (factors not even remotely connected to genetics) were effectively overlooked.
This is as misleading of a scientific discovery as found anywhere else in the scientific community. The question that then begs to be asked is, why? Why did a mass of scientists agree to emphasize the almost insignificant 0.02 % and completely disregard the other 98%? The simplified version, would be that the authors being geneticists, want to emphasize the importance of their careers. Because honestly where would their careers be if genetic differences were not related to human advancement and well –being? However the comprehensive answer is more substantial than petty conflicts of interest and hence significantly more fascinating. The extensive elucidation, stems from the fact that Science would allow such an article to be circulated in their magazine. The conclusion of the article, is so far-fetched, that it leads me to believe that there are other social organizations that grip the scientific community. These organizations must be commanding enough to coerce such a prominent scientific journal to publish a misrepresented study. The only social organization which would have such power over such a large institution would be the government. The government funds projects like these to draw attention away from the lacking educational system and any other flaws within the country and pull the attention towards a more scientific reason, thus throwing the blame onto something less tangible. Genetics as a whole “is meant to legitimate the structures of inequality in our society by putting a biological gloss on them…” (Lewontin 37)However genetics and the research surrounding can only explain a small part of what makes a person themselves. And hence genetics as a field of study is overestimated. “to be genetic is not to be unchangeable.” (Lewontin 35) and as a race humans have proved that we are extraordinarily capable of changing the unchangeable, be it advancing or detrimental. As a race we have single handedly managed to alter ourselves and the environment around us and hence being genetic alone, is completely out of the question. In fact, it was the world around us that causes us to evolve and hence the effect of our environment greatly exceeds that of the genetic field. This applies unambiguously to intelligence.
Intelligence is a measure of knowledge. However, Lewontin the unmistakable cynic, would question the existence of general information. Not everyone is gifted in all aspects of knowledge. Then how can intelligence be measured accurately? The measurement of knowledge would cater to the intelligence that is easily measured, not the actual intelligence of a person. It becomes difficult to comprehend where the scientists are obtaining their data from. If intelligence is so complex how can one test measure it? IQ tests in general, cannot produce an accurate image of intelligence. A study conducted by Adam Hampshire discovered that intelligence is made up of 3 completely independent factors that come together to form one’s “cognitive profile” otherwise known as intelligence. As such multiple different tests would have to be taken to determine a person’s intelligence. So how can we determine the connection between genetics and intelligence? Intelligence is such a difficult concept to measure and genetics is a developing field. There are just too many unknowns for a valid and substantial conclusion to be drawn from what we know. The only supporting argument for the IQ tests would be that the results obtained from said tests agree with each other. If we are able to believe that a person has tuberculosis when the rapid sputum tests agree with each other, then why can’t we believe that intelligence is effectively tested using IQ tests and they agree with ach other? Because intelligence does not have a specific cause like tuberculosis. (Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium spread through the air) and hence agreeing IQ tests are not substantial evidence for the effective measurement of intelligence. So how were the group of educated scientists able to determine the miniscule percentage of intelligence that were determined by genes? How can we be sure that intelligence even exists? Patterns of test scores, have found evidence for general intelligence as well as for specific abilities. But we have already seen that tests that measure intelligence are flawed, so does general intelligence even exist? Why was it so important for the well-educated scientists to research hereditary intelligence?
Lewontin states that science in general is molded and directed by societal and political necessities and expectations. "No prominent molecular biologist of my acquaintance is without a financial stake in the biotechnology business. As a result, serious conflicts of interest have emerged in universities and in government service" (Lewontin 74)The social needs of the geneticists in the article mimic the behavior of the researchers on The Human Genome project, and result in the over-qualification of the entire research project. Money has been funneled into this project and genetic research in general, even after the myriad of evidence against all major assumptions of said study. “The cost of sequencing the human genome is estimated optimistically at 300 million dollars”(Lewontin 73) and yet even after the completion of this project gene variants for some of the most common diseases have not been identified. There have been modest discoveries made by genetic research, however the results don’t nearly pay off the amount of money and effort that went into this research. Proof for genetic causations has unceasingly and inflexibly denied appearance. Exceptions have been discovered, like BRCA1 but like mentioned before, the costs outweigh the profits. “These projects are, in fact administrative and financial organizations rather that research projects”(Lewontin 61) The Human Genome project was a money guzzling machine, blowing through cash like it grew on trees. However the results were disappointing and cultivated unrealistic hope that was inevitably crushed under the weight of the words of delusional researchers and actions of pragmatic governmental organizations. Returning to the original point, for common mental and physical diseases and conditions no detailed explanation has been discovered in terms of relations to genetics. In fact evidence provided by genetic research demonstrates the idea that non-genetic factors are the major risk factors for such diseases pushing the importance of genetics to a minor level. For human characteristics like intelligence the lack of positive correlation between genetics and human traits becomes even more ostensible. Subsequently, an exceedingly substantial scientific justification is essential to clarify why huge quantities of taxpayer cash has financed human genetic research even through the extensive negative results.
In conclusion intelligence is the capability of a human being to adjust to the ever changing environment that we are always going to be surrounded by. If our brains were simple enough for us to understand them, we'd be so simple that we couldn't. There really is no way to completely understand intelligence. The amount of information that we know nothing about is tremendous and it’s a baffling idea, a delusional perspective that there is only one prominent cause for intelligence.
The social and political aspects of the modern world hold science captive. Just like an organism cannot exist without the environment it creates, science cannot exist without the social and political aspects that it governs. A large percentage of the world’s standard failure to deal with social and environmental difficulties stem from the overestimation on genetic experimentation and explanation. In the end DNA does not determine the fate of the human race. It is the world that humans have created that lead us to the comprehension of our race and our inevitable future.
"IQ Tests 'do Not Reflect Intelligence'" The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 28 May 0019. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
Lewontin, Richard C. Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA. New York, NY: HarperPerennial, 1992. Print.
"Rapid Sputum Tests for Tuberculosis (TB)-Topic Overview." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.
"What Is Tuberculosis? What Causes Tuberculosis?" Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.