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Genetics, metrics, a victim culture

There's a story going around (yeah, yeah, ok I got it from Slashdot) about research unearthing evidence that men are more intelligent than women. Putting aside the actual details of the research (there are a number of points which leave me unconvinced) it made me wonder about something else.

There's increasingly a lot of research going on that ties achievement or deficiency to genetic or other physical indicators. Well discussed are the potential horrors of what such information will do in the wrong hands - insurance anyone? - but what is this doing to our minds?

Such results are invariably the result of statistical analysis, which means an individual is *not* condemned to fail/assured of success. However, once they become headlines and subsequently transform into topics of everyday conversation, they become a black-and-white reality.

Are we headed for a society where we will see ourselves as victims of genetics? Genetic metrics will encourage us to "tone down" our expectations in particular fields? Or even compel us into fields where we have so-called natural ability?

[Erm, discuss. Unless of course I'm in your Idiot-B-Gone list.]
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 26th, 2005
<shrug> some people will *always* see themselves as victims of one sort or another.

hardly worth worrying about really.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 26th, 2005
Free interpretation:
"Are we headed for a society that will compel us into fields where we have so-called natural ability?"

Isn't this the case already? And what's wrong with it?

It provides safe options for the insecure and something to rebel against for those who feel the urge to do so.

Nothing new, good or bad, there.
Permalink Geert-Jan Thomas 
August 26th, 2005
Shouldn't we be trying to be shake people out of labels and categories? Isn't this just part of a trend to depict the world in terms of simple pictures?

The inability to see beyond such pictures has lead countries to war.
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 26th, 2005
"Shouldn't we be trying to be shake people out of labels and categories?"

No, it makes society work. It has paralyzing side effects though and we shouldn't object to people to shake themselves out of labels and categories.
But the majority of people feel safe that way. And some may be threatened by people who defie these categories.

In that way it resemble genetics.
Genetically we're mostly identical and inclined to preserve the status quo but the occasional mutation causes evolution and progress.
Permalink Geert-Jan Thomas 
August 26th, 2005
Honestly, after watching how people graduating high school didn't know what to do with their lives, and then people graduating college still didn't know what to do with their lives, I don't see it as such a bad thing.

I mean, the fact is that people are good at different things. Our society and our economy is built on separation of labor, and the current social trend of "I'm a unique snowflake, I can achieve anything" is something closely approaching garbage. Yes, in a capitalist democracy a person without talent in a particular area can become reasonably successful in that area - with an enormous amount of effort; and that's just inefficient.

Obviously, I'm not arguing for eugenics; but it would be nice if people were generally capable of saying to themselves, "This is what I'm good at, and it's what I'm going to do".
Permalink Flasher T 
August 26th, 2005
Unfortunately you also get "this is what I'm good at and it bores me rigid". Moving swiftly on...
Permalink a cynic writes... 
August 26th, 2005
So don't base your self-esteem on your work. It's a paycheck. I've been saying that for years.
Permalink Flasher T 
August 26th, 2005
Bugger self-esteem - 8 hours a day, 5 days a week (less holidays) for in excess of 40 years doing something which bores you rigid is no life.
Permalink a cynic writes... 
August 26th, 2005
"a person without talent in a particular area can become reasonably successful in that area - with an enormous amount of effort; and that's just inefficient"

But good for you if you manage!
Permalink Geert-Jan Thomas 
August 26th, 2005
The point is that these are NOT deterministic absolutes, but statistical indicators which are treated as fundamental truth.

The story about men being more intelligent than women could quite become a new truth. "Honestly, there was scientific research on it. They explained why women shouldn't drive, it's cause they are generally not as smart as guys."

Maybe we'd lose artists who were told that their eye-hand co-ordination was 54% >likely< to be less than average. Or the poets whose language skills were 67% >likely< to be under par.

And then there's always:
"Your gift, my son, is those legs are incredibly fast."
"But I just lost a leg - what do I do now?"

I don't like the idea of treating billions of people as sheep led by *potential* genetic implications.
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 26th, 2005
mmmm...Gattaca goodness...
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 26th, 2005
<mr_cholmondeley-warner>
"Women, Know Your Limits!"
</mr_cholmondeley-warner>
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 26th, 2005
Ah Mat, you made me laugh.
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 26th, 2005
++mmmm...Gattaca goodness...

Yup yup.
Permalink I am Jack's Friday fallout 
August 26th, 2005
[nod] People will take statistics or stereotypes and base decisions that affect individuals on them, even ignoring evidence to the contrary that may be staring them in the face.

The statistical result that "Women are 'less intelligent' than men" (and how about defining intelligence, please? What, able to identify implants seven times out of ten?) has no effect on the fact that, for example, sharkfish is smarter than muppet, or that most female voters are smarter than the President.

Philo
Permalink Philo 
August 26th, 2005
In Gattaca, children were genetically enhanced en masse, which is not quite the same as whacking yourself around the head calling yourself a genetic dumbass.
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 26th, 2005
>> most female voters are smarter than the President

Do you actually believe that? I don't, if you're curious.
Permalink Mongo 
August 26th, 2005
For anyone who didn't catch the "men are more intelligent, women are from venus" news, it boils down to this:

There are 5 IQ points difference between the male and female IQ average.

But to extrapolate that men are smarter, you need to swallow that IQ is an effective measure of intelligence and that 5 points is a significant difference.
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 26th, 2005
> Are we headed for a society where we will see ourselves as victims of genetics?

We are. It's just a question of how much.
Permalink son of parnas 
August 26th, 2005
> Gattaca

Actually Joel, I thought of Gattaca as I read your OP as well. The specifics are irrelevant. The end is genetic castes.
Permalink Jeff Barton 
August 26th, 2005
Jeff, I was thinking about it as I typed. I was thinking, I hope no-one thinks I'm just talking about the Gattaca scenario.

It's not genetic castes I'm getting at, it's the genetic typecasting. Reading more into your statistics - misunderstanding the science - than is there.
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 26th, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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