March 30, 2006

"This is the first time that anyone has shown that the brain grows differently in extremely intelligent children."

Okay, all you narcissistic parents: Time to run out and get a brain image done on your little genius. And all you IQ doubters: Time to fret about a future of imaging and classifying our young brain-containers.

11 comments:

Robert said...

Wow, nobody wants to bite on this one.

I'm not surprised, personally. Thinking is focused on the brain. The brain is an organ. Physical differences in organs are going to have real effects.

Johnny Nucleo said...

This comment thread is empty because people understand that having a child who is an amiable dunce is far better than having a child who is an evil genius.

Ann Althouse said...

"Wow, nobody wants to bite on this one." ... "This comment thread is empty..."

I forgot to add the gay element! That's all people want to talk about.

Gerry said...

This could easily turn into a thread on gays. robert said:

"Thinking is focused on the brain. The brain is an organ. Physical differences in organs are going to have real effects."

Christians accept that homosexuality is a choice; yet if physical differences in the way the brain grows can have real effects on intelligence (or thinking), and making choices involves thinking, well, you do the math.

Or that could be a point someone who is advocating for more widespread acceptance of homosexuality and changes to our marriage laws might make.

And then Christians can say that we are all born with our own weaknesses and predelictions, and it is our duty to deal with them. Some are born with higher hormone levels than others, which might make it harder for them to remain faithful, yet there are good reasons for society to frown upon infidelity (a point to make towards non-Christians; for other Christians the fact that it is one of the 10 commandments suffices). There are lots of even worse impulses that some people just seem to be born with, yet we even criminalize their actions, such as pedophelia, or with serial rapists and even murderers; obviously these are beyond the pale, but they show that the line has to be drawn by society somewhere. Just because someone has a higher burden in overcoming sinful impulses does not mean they should not try their best to overcome them.

The debate sucks so bad because one side has a vested interest in portraying the other as bigots, because they believe (1) that it is true, and (2) it has worked before, and (3) that it helps their side politically if they can neutralize the leading Christian groups' influence across the board if they can demonize them. And the other side has a vested interest in portraying the other side as wanting to deliberately bring about the decline of our society and culture because they believe (1) that it is true, and (2) it has worked before, and (3) that it helps their side politically if they can make the religious people of the country feel threatened by the leaders on the left.

There are tough points each side needs to ponder, or at least should not be so dismissive about. But that is neither here nor there.

This is not a thread about the gay debate, but you said that this might be the missing element, and I wanted to show how easy it would be to turn the conversation towards it. Now, let's see if lots of comments follow...

MadisonMan said...

Yes, please find the story about different brain growth in children who become gay. Then we'll talk!

I'm mystified why a parent would subject a child to an mri. Wait for 25 years when the health impacts of them become known! (Half kidding, I think). Ditto with all those ultrasounds -- are we so sure those sound waves are benign?

Yep said...

I agree mostly with Gerry on the issue of homosexuality. However, I am not certain how this study (as weak as it is) justifies assumptions of any position.

300 wealthy, suburban kids. Stop the presses. This just in.... Researchers sudy the obvious and find obvious results. More as this story develops.

PET scanning gave the research community volumes of data 15 years ago. The president was fondling interns and the press gave the brain development story lip-service.

Anatomy isw only one of many precursors to outcome. The nature vs. nurture argument with a new player on the field.

Above average intelligence people tend to have children who are above average in intelligence potential. Pass the biscuits please.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave said...

Not all Christians conceive of homosexuality as a choice. Some see it as natural.

Balfegor said...

Well, I'm not a parent and while I have doubts about IQ as a direct measure, I'm rather less skeptical about G, which is fairly highly correlated with IQ (or so I, as a layman, understand).

On the other hand, this is not all that surprising to me. My recollection is that children who grow up multilingual have been found to reap measurable cognitive benefits, but their initial language acquisition period is prolonged. So the idea that there may be developmental differences connected with cognitive differences later on down the road is not unexpected.

Daryl Herbert said...

What happens next when we find racial differences in rates of gifted children?

I'm not saying it's definitely going to happen, but what if? Certainly, from a scientific (open-minded) standpoint, you can't dismiss the possibility out of hand. That a discovery is politically incorrect cannot make it false. And if something so trivial as skin color can evolve so much in the time the races have been separate, why not something so critical as intelligence?

Some would say it's best to just stop doing any sort of intelligence research at all to avoid opening this can of worms.

My view is: let's do the research, and within 20 years, your DNA won't matter half as much as the artificial supplements your parents decided to pump into you. And then any racial differences, if they even exist now, will be gone. I'm all in favor of getting rid of race and melting humanity into one big conglomeration of white/black/brown/yellow/silicon.

And getting away from the subject of race, differences based on DNA in general (and gender?) will be obviated as well. Is it a good thing that some people aren't born with as much potential for intelligence as others? I don't see what's so great about that, unless we want to have a subclass to do menial tasks. I'd rather humans do the important things and leave the rest to robots.

Balfegor said...

And getting away from the subject of race, differences based on DNA in general (and gender?) will be obviated as well. Is it a good thing that some people aren't born with as much potential for intelligence as others? I don't see what's so great about that, unless we want to have a subclass to do menial tasks.

Well, some people think that's one of the plusses of illegal immigration. I favour the army of robot slaves myself, although if the Japanese don't get cracking on those robot slaves soon, they're going to have to make do with cheap immigrant labourers the way Western countries do.