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brainpower_big.jpg The “racial intelligence” bulldozer that James Watson set rolling a couple of weeks back is still whirring in our backyards as the new row over superior Jewish IQ scores is begging media attention.

This time the perpetrator is the Bell Curve fame Charles Murray and his American Enterprise Institute. I am not going into much detail about it. You can read the whole thing here.

The book ‘Bell Curve’ by Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein once had the fate of being the most celebrated and at the same time, the most shunned book dealing with sociology of intelligence. The book set the scene for serious debates on the way IQ tests were used as real measurements of peoples’ intelligence.
The consensus regarding the average intelligence of various races was popularized to be as follows: Ashkenazim Jews 115; East Asians 105; Whites 100; American Indians and most Hispanics 90; African Americans 85; and sub-Saharan Africans 70. By the same order, accumulation of wealth, the level of income, achieved academic success etc., were also popularized to follow closely with the average IQs of these six racial groupings.

What do we actually know about Intelligence Quotient?

The results of large studies and their meta-analyses can be filtered down to the following concrete points:

  • IQ tests aspire to assess only 4 areas of human intelligence:

Verbal comprehension, Processing Speed, Working (arithmetic) memory and Perceptual organization (visuo-spacial).

  • People who are good at one area of intelligence (defined by the test) tend to be good at other areas too (+ve correlation).
  • IQ tests are always constrained by the cultural, linguistic, socio-economic and other contextual biases.
  • IQ tests don’t assess attributes like

Creativity, Personality, Practical sense, Social sensitivity, Leadership and Altruism.

  • IQ tests can be consistently and precisely interpreted only when the scores are very low or very high.
  • General Intelligence or ‘g’, as measured by IQ scores, is an attribute of the psyche (the software), rather than any macroscopic characteristic of the brain (the hardware).
  • IQ test scores are positively correlated to genetic make up as evident from large twin studies.
  • The effects on IQ scores thought to be caused by the environmental factors tend to disappear as the test-takers enter adulthood and further into old age.
  • Even then, there is no definitive evidence yet to link higher IQ test scores to brain size, or any particular genotype.
  • Training for IQ tests can certainly improve IQ scores.

Genetic basis for intelligence

The animal Brain plays the role of just the hardware on which the software called “mind” runs. Stretching that metaphor a little points out that there need not be a one-to-one correspondence between the hardware and the software for every behavioral trait. And studies have only shown IQ to be genetically linked; they have NOT shown that intelligence is solely a genetic quality. Having the right environment is extremely essential for the full expression of such “intelligence” genes (if there are any).
The examples of higher average IQ scores in certain human races may hence be more cultural rather than biological. Cultures that pressurize their children to achieve more in academics tend to produce better IQ scores. Just like average human height has increased over generations due to better nutrition, expression of intelligence too can hopefully improve in encouraging environs.

Is intelligence an essential survival quality?

It may be difficult to swallow without salt but it’s true: Intelligence does not confer any significant evolutionary survival advantage to any species.

Survival in the natural world, in a reductionistic sense means advantage in numbers, disease-free & adaptable gene pool and flexibility with nature. Social achievement and academic profiles, which are direct correlates of high IQ scores, have nothing to do with gene propagation and adaptability, even though various human races emphasize on these aspects more and more after every generation.

If we extrapolate the selfish gene concept to the macro evolutionary scenario, we find that the mind, consciousness, intelligence and all the emergent behavioral patterns are just a few of the myriad ways of “selfish” genes to propagate themselves.

This “rule” becomes clearer when one steps further backwards and look at the picture of evolution of life on planet earth as a whole.

iq-cartoon.jpg


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The past week saw the greatest controversy in a year ignited by the seemingly racist comments of the 79 year old Nobel Laureate James Watson.

Watson who shared his Nobel with Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins for the discovery of the Double-helical structure of DNA, had always been at the helm of controversies mostly b’coz of his fascination for Eugenics.

The latest of his comments on intelligence and race came in an interview in Sunday Times on Oct 14.

He says that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really” and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”.

He adds that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. He writes that “there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so”.

Watson was quick to apologize for his biased and baseless comments once the interview became controversial and his credibility challenged not just by the general public, but the scientific community as well.

He said …”to all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief.”

But whatever he said now, the damage has been done. Watson’s claims on “evidence” regarding intellectual levels of races have given the right wing neo-conservatives a chance to reiterate their anti-reservationist, anti-pluralistic demands toppling political balance everywhere.

Watson knows very well that there aren’t any statistically significant evidence to suggest that there are genetic differences in intelligence among human races identified in studies yet. In fact the last part of what is quoted as his statement (about the possible differences in the evolution of intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated) may be quite plausible, but reading Watson in the context that he himself has set up through his eugenic rantings in his “post Nobel” years reveals a “prejudiced” man.

The funniest part is in two simple but powerful facts of neurobiology and cognitive science:

  1. there are as yet no IQ tests that are perfectly culture-free and context-independent which can be administered universally to all sects of Homosapiens
  2. no genes identified yet have been directly linked to any kind of animal intelligence.

Without satisfying these two ideal conditions, it is scientifically impossible to extract objective evidence regarding intellectual inferiority and superiority at the genetic level.

Page 3 Tag: Watson’s own reputation had been under question for long when new revelations about the role of Ms. Rosalind Franklin in the ‘DNA helix discovery’ and how her data was used in the discovery without giving her any credits came out. Story goes that Ms. Franklin was ungratefully excluded from the Nobel winning work after Watson and team “stole” the data from Ms. Franklin. Ever since the allegations came up, Watson had been attacking Ms. Franklin (even after her death) passing comments on her being intellectual but autistic and so on.

The Sunday Times interview is here.

See also :

Intelligence – Myths and reality

Evolutionary Socialism – a cause for affirmative action.

 

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A recently published Florida State University study is pointing at the evolutionary psychology of attractive faces.

The paper, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You: Attentional Adhesion to Mates and Rivals,” by Jon Maner, an assistant professor of psychology at FSU, is one of the first to show how strongly, quickly and automatically we are attuned to attractive people, he said. FSU graduate students Matthew Gailliot, D. Aaron Rouby and Saul Miller co-authored the study.

In a series of three experiments, Maner and his colleagues found that the study participants, all heterosexual men and women, fixated on highly attractive people within the first half of a second of seeing them. Single folks ogled the opposite sex, of course, but those in committed relationships also checked people out, with one major difference: They were more interested in beautiful people of the same sex.

If we’re interested in finding a mate, our attention gets quickly and automatically stuck on attractive members of the opposite sex, but if we’re jealous and worried about our partner cheating on us, attention gets quickly and automatically stuck on attractive people of our own sex because they are our competitors.” Maner said

Maner’s research is based on the idea that, through processes of biological evolution, our brains have been designed to strongly and automatically latch on to signs of physical attractiveness in others in order to both find a mate and guard him or her from potential competitors.

“These kinds of attentional biases can occur completely outside of our conscious awareness,” he said.

The insecurities of romance ?

Biology or not, this phenomenon is fraught with potential romantic peril. For example, even some people in committed relationships had difficulty pulling their attention away from images of attractive people of the opposite sex. And fixating on images of perceived romantic rivals could contribute to feelings of insecurity.!

Modern technology has enhanced these pitfalls. Although there are people of striking beauty in real life, singer Frankie Valli’s pronouncement that “you’re just too good to be true” may be the case when it comes to images in movies and magazines or on the Internet.

“It may be helpful to try to minimize our exposure to these images that have probably been ‘doctored,’” Maner said. “We should pay attention to all of the regular-looking people out in the world so that we have an appropriate standard of physical beauty. This is important because too much attention to ultra-attractive people can damage self-esteem as well as satisfaction with a current romantic partner.”

“Women paid just as much attention to men as men did to women,” he said. “I was also surprised that jealous men paid so much attention to attractive men. Men tend to worry more about other men being more dominant, funny or charismatic than they are. But when it comes to concerns about infidelity, men are very attentive to highly attractive guys because presumably their wives or girlfriends may be too” Maner said.

sources: FSU news room; http://content.apa.org/journals/psp

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Gravity, Relativity and Quantum experiences: searching for a consensus.

“Quantum Mechanics is very impressive. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory produces a good deal but hardly brings us closer to the secret of the Old One…I am at all events convinced that He does not play dice.”

– Albert Einstein
(in a reply to one of Max Born’s Letters in 1926)

Every time the word ‘quantum’ is used to imply some surrealistic idea, I quiver with apprehension. So much has been said about the so called ‘uncertainty’ lying deep within it, the ‘nonlocal’ connivance of the non-classical world and the weird notions of ‘probability’ and ‘wave function collapse’ that the shroud of mystery around the theory thickens by the moment.

There are countless half-boiled hypotheses that claim to link animal consciousness and the concept of ‘soul’ to principles of quantum physics run across the information highway and a casual mind is easily attracted to one or the other.

Despite being the most validated theory of all physics, Quantum Mechanics is still viewed by many as something that essentially needs adjustments in order for it to conform to our common-sense view of the classical world. But there is this larger majority of physicists and cosmologists out there who are convinced that it’s our classical world-view that needs revision – the world wide struggle for a unified theory of the forces tell the tale. Roger Penrose, celebrated mathematician and theoretical physicist, belongs to the first group. He suspects that the cause of failure in unifying the theories lies in a perspective difference.

QM and Relativity

There are four fundamental forces in the universe: electromagnetism; the strong and the weak nuclear forces, and finally gravity. General Relativity attributes gravity to the effect of matter on space-time fabric. Imagine a stretched sheet of rubber to represent the fabric of spacetime and a few iron balls placed on it to represent stars and planets and other massive celestial bodies. The dents made on the rubber sheet by the iron balls can be regarded as the geometric alterations caused by the presence of matter in spacetime. A smaller iron ball when set to roll over this sheet, moves uniformly forward until it falls into one of the deeper dents caused by larger iron balls than itself. Analogously, the orbits of celestial bodies are due to a curved or bent space surrounding the larger body. This effect is ‘gravity’, says Einstein.
Quantum Mechanics (QM) and Quantum Field Theory (QFT) have been able to explain all the fundamental forces except Gravity in terms of particle interactions; the Standard Quantum model of fundamental forces considers gravity as an attractive force mediated by the exchange of gravitons.

“Although this tension between relativity and quantum mechanics may be mostly dormant at the energies that are currently experimentally accessible, there are situations where the interaction between the matter fields and quantum fields and the gravitational field becomes relevant. For example, physically realistic models of the universe predict an initial singularity. At this singularity, classical physics breaks down and it is assumed that a quantum theory of gravity, i.e. a theory combining general relativity with quantum physics, will be necessary to probe the physics of the early universe.”

Nevertheless, both Quantum Mechanics and Relativity give excellent testable predictions and are widely accepted as useful but unproven and ‘incomplete’ models of some deeper reality.

Penrose’s views

Penrose derives his inspiration from Einstein, who believed that a theory incorporating the relativistic nature of gravity and the non-classical nature of Quantum world data would be possible only by correcting Quantum mechanical notions rather than Relativity. Einstein was definitely disturbed by the anti-relativistic findings arising in the quantum scheme of things and the indeterminacy popularly called Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.
But Penrose is more bothered with two things about QM; in fact the first one takes root from the second:

The first is about the ability of a quantum particle to be simultaneously present at two different locations, even though larger chunks of matter don’t seem to do that despite being made up of the very same quantum particles. Simply speaking, why is it that an electron, in the famous double slit experiment, appears to be present simultaneously at two places, while a person or a chair does not appear to do that? The second is about taking the ‘mathematical’ process of wave function collapse (‘State-vector reduction’) for real.

Collapsing Wave functions: real or mathematical?

A photon is emitted from a source in the direction of a receiver. On its way a half silvered mirror is kept. In a non-mathematical language, we can say that the probability of the photon passing through the half-silvered mirror and hitting the receiver is 50% and the probability of it reflecting off the mirror is also 50%. But going through the real mathematical representation denoting the states of the photon, a subtle but relevant problem is revealed: The probabilities of whether the photon hits the receiver or not spring up only after the photon encounters the mirror. Before hitting the mirror, nothing can be said about the route of the photon in terms of probabilities; the photon is said to be in a combination of states – “it will pass through the mirror” and “it will bounce off the mirror”. (Other situations can also be imagined up, where more than just these two states could exist.).
This kind of “combination states” are not just products of theoretical experiments, they have been demonstrated for real in countless occasions ; the most intriguing being that of the double slit experiment, where a single photon is seen to pass thru two adjacent slits simultaneously!

The real fate is decided after the interaction of the photon with the mirror. What is “spooky” about this interaction is that only after this can we calculate the probable fates mathematically. The generally accepted interpretation of this scenario is that the mirror represents a part of the experimental apparatus and the interaction of the photon with the mirror is equivalent to a “measurement process” which causes the split-up states (fates) of the photon to abruptly collapse into a single state. Before “measurement” there is only “it will pass through the mirror” and “it will bounce off the mirror”. After measurement there is either “it will pass through the mirror” or “it will bounce off the mirror”. The interaction of the photon with the mirror resulting in collapse of split-states into a single state is termed “decoherence”.

This view, called the Copenhagen Interpretation or formerly, the Bohr-Heisenberg interpretation, (after its most famous patrons Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg) is more of a colloquial representation of a mathematical statement. Bohr himself had suggested on many occasions that physical properties can be meaningfully ascribed to the object only in relation to some actual experimental results. He also held that the quantum scheme of wave equations is a mere symbolic representation that is useful for making predictions and it doesn’t directly depict any aspect of reality whatsoever. Note that this is starkly different from the widely held misconception that Copenhagen Interpretation demands a conscious observer to perform the act of measurement for the “mysterious” collapse of states to occur (the “collapse” part was actually a later addition by John von Neumann)

Penrose acknowledges that his approach is that of a realist – one who maintains that all physical theories worded in mathematics correspond to some aspect of objective reality out there, however small the accuracies of experimental observations be.
The standard interpretations of the quantum experiments do not say what exactly happens during decoherence; not even in theory. Penrose finds “decoherence”, a real process where relativistic gravity could come into action. Also, he believes that the experimental evidences of finding the same quantum particle (electrons, photons etc) at two different places should be a real phenomenon – something which happens out there.

His approach can be summarized in a very simplified form as below:

General Relativity proposes that if a piece of matter exists in a region of spacetime for a sufficiently long duration, the geometry of that region of spacetime is altered accordingly and gravity is a result of this alteration of spacetime (recall the iron balls and rubber sheet analogy).

It follows therefore that if an electron or any quantum particle really exists simultaneously in two regions of spacetime, then each of the duplicates should possess mass and therefore alter the geometry of its regional spacetime, resulting in gravitational fields of their own.

But to keep one duplicate of the particle away from the gravitational influence of the other requires energy. The interacting gravitational fields destabilize the split-states causing them to “decay” (collapse) into one or the other classical alternative.

If the whole system is left totally undisturbed by other environmental factors, then the split-up (duplicated) state of the quantum particle will remain stable for a time period inversely proportional to the energy needed to prevent the gravitationally induced decay.
This decay process is conveniently named Objective Reduction (OR for short), meaning that the process is not an artifact of the ‘act of observation’ or the ‘experimental apparatus’. Thus gravity is nicely woven into the scheme of quantum experiences.

As we can see, to take the ‘wave-collapse’ concept in the literal sense of the word or as a symbolic representation of reality is a matter of choice, so long as we can generate mathematical expressions that predict experimental outcomes. And for a physical theory, that’s what matters the most.

The important thing to note is that, as Penrose pointed out in several later interviews and lectures, in most occasions, mass movements in the environment itself result in (gravitation induced) collapse of states. The decay-time relationship with gravitational self-energy works perfectly well only in situations where the particle under observation is kept isolated from all environmental influences.
Thus as per Penrose’s interpretation, every piece of matter irrespective of macroscopic or microscopic state, can exist simultaneously in two or more split states like the electron in the slit experiments. What causes them to be seen as a single deterministic mass in our classical world is gravity.

Where does consciousness and mind come into all this? How do brain cells utilize spacetime to generate something as bewildering as ‘consciousness’?

 

More of that in part 3 of Quantum Consciousness: How physics changes the way we look at mind.

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Non-computability – Gödel, Turing machines and brain

 

This article is a subsection of the main article
How physics changes the way we look at mind

The current (and almost universally) accepted view on consciousness is that it is an emergent phenomenon arising from the complex interconnections and communication among neurons. Artificial Intelligence researchers latch their idea of a robotic equivalent of the brain on this concept of consciousness. Basically they believe that the creation of an ‘intelligent’ processor is only hindered by the tedious job of writing out algorithms powerful and complex enough to mimic brain’s functions.

But is that optimism farfetched?

Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorem doesn’t actually set some arbitrary limit to the process of acquiring knowledge through human or machine effort. And Penrose doesn’t say it does either. The Incompleteness Theorem is cited by Penrose as an example of how human brain can go beyond a computer or a robotic processor brain. Computers and Artificial intelligence devices function on the basis of ‘formal logic’ based programs (or algorithms for short) that tell them to deduce or derive results in series of logical steps. Penrose argues that such an operation can be used to trick the computer easily so that the computer will soon start contradicting its own logic and break down presumably.

Take for example the simple old puzzle:

If the barber shaves all those who do not shave themselves then who shaves the barber?

The simple tit-for-tat reply that pops into your mind now may be: Another barber!

But that answer is too tricky for a computer to arrive at, if it follows logical algorithms, even though a twelve year old can really “see through” the puzzle’s logic. And this is what Gödel’s theorem basically says. Rudy Rucker, in his book Infinity and the Mind: The Science and Philosophy of the Infinite, has simplified Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem through an excellent example in a stepwise manner.

 

Think over this:

  1. Someone introduces Gödel to a UTM, a machine that is supposed to be a Universal Truth Machine, capable of correctly answering any question at all.
  2. Gödel asks for the program and the circuit design of the Truth Machine. The program may be complicated, but it can only be finitely long. Call the program TMP for Truth Machine Program.
  3. Now, Gödel writes out the following sentence: “The machine constructed on the basis of the TMP will never say that this sentence is true.” Call this sentence G for Gödel. Note that G is equivalent to: “Universal Truth Machine will never say G is true.”
  4. Now Gödel laughs and asks the Truth Machine whether G is true or not.
  5. If the Truth Machine says G is true, then “Universal Truth Machine will never say G is trueis false. If “Universal Truth Machine will never say G is trueis false, then G is false (since G = “Universal Truth Machine will never say G is true). So if the Truth Machine says G is true, then G is in fact false, and UTM has made a false statement. So UTM will never say that G is true, since UTM makes only true statements.
  6. We have established that UTM will never say G is true. So “UTM will never say G is true” is in fact a true statement. So G is true (since G = “UTM will never say G is true”).

And having tricked the Truth Machine, Gödel triumphantly declares: “I know a truth that Truth Machine can never utter,”

 

 

You may have a hunch: “isn’t this a problem of the language we use?”
The answer is NO.
The original incompleteness theorem is mathematically worded. The above simplified version using linguistic conundrums is just an abstraction of the real one. Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem is a real problem that is faced by artificial intelligence researchers at least on theory level; the fact that we have not been able to attain any sort of complex thinking in machines doesn’t preclude incompleteness theorem from interfering in these matters.

Roger Penrose suggests that the ability of human brain / conscious brain to “go out of the labyrinth of axioms and find the truth outside” is due to the quantum nature of consciousness. He suggests that human consciousness may depend on some new, as yet unknown, quantum physics that has significant role in the neuronal processes of the brain.

More of that in the coming sections of How physics changes the way we look at mind.

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The previous article, Why Should Darwinism be Capitalistic?, invited criticism from many of my ‘evolutionist’ friends. Some were against the anti-deterministic underpinnings of the article – they were reluctant to come to terms with the ‘Nature via Nurture’ hypothesis. Others were against my suggestion that Darwinism can be supportive of Socialism rather than capitalism. What most of them complained about was my support of the job and educational reservations to weaker sections of the society.

So here are some clarifications on the issue. These are excerpts from email replies, orkut messages and internet chats. They represent my attempts to detail the:

  • the influence of environment on gene expression (nature via nurture).
  • the use of neo-darwinian evolutionary principles to fight nature’s selection forces.
  • the concept of all-round social upliftment for maximum expression of best genes.
  • the necessity of social reservation and proactive steps to uplift the backward sects of each population.

An analogy to ponder over

Imagine, two pots, with randomly allocated seeds from the same batch. The two plots have equivalent genetic potential. One plot received fertilizer (an environmental condition), the other pot receives no fertilizer. The average height (i.e. intelligence) differences between each pot will be due to environmental differences (fertilizer), however the height differences amongst individual plants within a pot are due to genetic differences (assuming similar conditions throughout the pot).
Which set of plants have a better chance of disseminating their progeny..?
Which set of plants can ensure that most of their “good” genes are transferred to the next generation ?
Progeny of which set of plants are more likely to survive with the better genes ?

Analysis

The gene for higher intellect (henceforth called “smart-gene”) definitely appears in a family/clan/race as a result of mutation and random chance, as evolutionary laws say.

Let me elaborate this:

A child named ‘Z’ in a family of traditional cobblers in India in 800 AD gets a few smart-genes. He has this constant urge to learn, enjoy philosophy or engage in intellectual pursuits. But the strict caste system and social practices of untouchability forbids him from following his heart. Even his family which doesn’t care about education is against his wishes and the boy is compelled to follow his father’s profession, marry somebody from his own caste and spend his life in the way, the strict society wanted him.

His wife, who is from a plain ordinary cobbler family, has no smart-genes. Now our “index” case of smart-gene-mutant is Mr.Z, who has very very small chance of passing his mutant smart-genes to his son or daughter. But still, let us simply suppose the genes were fortunately inherited by Mr.Z’s son. But even then, the son too has very little chance of passing that to the third generation because of the same socioeconomic set up that prevented his father from achieving his own dreams. If he defies the society, the family will soon be destroyed even before a third or fourth generation of children is born.

What if Z’s daughter is the one who inherits the smart-genes? The prospects are worse for a woman in such a rigidly hierarchical and casteist society!!

As long as the same socioeconomic conditions prevail around the family, the smart-genes find less and less chance of inheritance.

Note that there is no inheritance of acquired characters here.
The smart-genes simply rose as a result of “random aimless mutation” as Dawkins often puts it.
The only factor that environment strongly influences, is its chance of being inherited into the subsequent generation.
This situation is a kind of ‘man-made’ negative selection.
The same way we weed out poor yielding poultry or sheep from a farm.
The same way dogs, which are epitomes of servitude and fidelity, were selectively evolved from wolves

Now consider the same situation in a modern liberal Western society like the USA.

The modern Mr. Z, who inherits the smart-genes, takes a scholarship exam, pursues a college education, research in Duke, become a top rated cardiologist in North Carolina and marries the daughter of his research guide. Now his children have because his wife is likely to have the same in her gene pool too. Now, since his wife’s family has a history of intellectual members, the odds of her transmitting the smart-genes to the next generation are also higher. In whichever way you look, Mr. Z’s progeny will have greater chance of inheriting their parents’ smart-genes.

The atmosphere, in which their children grow up, will be stimulation to their genetic potentials. Better nutrition, visuo-spacial challenges of the city and top class education bring the best out of those old smart-genes.

These children, who seek out their own kind (Dawkin’s “green beard effect”) in the society, marry from families of similar or higher intellectual status. The odds of their successive generations becoming smarter improve with every generation.

Note that our Mr. Z of the21st century American city not only faces zero resistance from society but enjoys the fruits of liberty, equality and government’s financial aid in the form of grants, job reservations, scholarships, insurance etc.

This situation is beautifully condensed in the very famous FLYNN EFFECT.

Dr. James Flynn, after doing a meta-analysis of many Western IQ studies done over generations, plotted it against time, and found that average IQ scores increase with generations in the Western societies.

The reason for this is not because the earlier generations had no smart-genes. It’s just that modern western societies are more liberal & conducive for the better expression of these genes to their fullest potentials.

They permit mix up of all kinds, resulting in a global improvement of intellect rather than focal areas of brain development.

That is the most important thing about supporting reservation and other social initiatives to uplift all the sections of population rather than letting natural selection take its toll.

A short verbal ability test administered to about 12,500 adult American Blacks and whites between 1974 and 1994 support this effect of social influence. It clearly shows a narrowing of the IQ differences over recent years – a telltale sign of positive influence on gene expression.

Defying Natural Selection

It may seem strange that in highly competitive meritocratic modern societies, natural selection actually has very little toll on the individual.

If you look deeper, you will see the reason.

With the general improvement in intelligence, human societies progressively have (and will) become altruistic. It’s the selfish gene’s covert strategy to promote the survival of its own kind.

Our hospitals, medical equipments, diagnostic gadgetry, ever expanding array of drugs, humanitarian organizations, peace organizations, trade partnerships etc are towering examples of this altruism and a blatant defiance of Natural Selection.

I am not forgetting the resurgences in imperialist notions especially in recent war histories, but those can be dispensed as the old animal instinct still refusing to go off the skin.

Once the concept of “Nation” and “Nationality” wither away in the future, such notions will have no meaning at all. And by that time hominids, as a species will have something else to fight against…!

Reservation Issue

The whole meaning of reservation, scholarships and grants is to promote the maximal expression of the good genes in these oppressed castes and sects. For that, first of all, there should be some potentially smart genes that can be worked upon to be fully expressible. This means, we can’t expect the whole of those backward castes to ascend to an equal stance with the rest of the society within a very short period of time, simply from affirmative actions. Affirmative actions should essentially be followed by two things if it’s to yield rapid results: # 1) Positive change in social psyche, in accepting them and acknowledging their contributions. # 2) General increase in equality and opportunities for all.

That’s when we can claim that the society has become truly meritocratic.

 

The reservation of seats at the IITs and institutions of excellence is a complex issue. But one thing can be said. Setting apart 20 or 30% seats to the backward classes will not take away any opportunity from the general merit-class. Because, they already are evolutionarily advanced to seek and earn their share. They are already advanced intellectually. What i mean to say is that, economic independence and wealth do not solve the issue at all. The root problem is in the genes, and the remedy requires more than just a few perks to a few individuals. Mixing their genome with the general population will be the ultimate cure, but that would be too fantastic for an expectation in our society.

Spin-offs on Eugenics

I believe, we all have to learn to tolerate the current diversity of our species. We might have to accept the reality of religion-genes, criminality-genes, racism-genes, communism-genes, capitalism-genes, atheism- genes, agnosticism-genes, and what not for that matter. Within our species, each of these has a time and place – to dominate, to stagnate and even to whither away or may be even replaced by totally new genes for totally new things. But the million dollar question is whether our race is ready for that.
Most societies, be it capitalistic or communist, are growing more authoritarian by the day.
That’s a problem with all kinds of eugenics. One might argue for positive eugenics, on the basis that it promotes good qualities of human genome. But as far as our science knows it, most smart-genes are associated with some or the other kind of psychologic / organic defects in the brain – autism and schizophrenia being the ends of a spectrum. Finding a balance in the gene bridge is the biggest problem.

When smartness becomes unlimited, the person becomes a total rebel defying all laws imposed by the society.. When artistic areas of the brain are genetically pushed to its limits, the person experiences regression of the other areas which may even tend towards autism..!! (the autistic idiot savant syndrome is the best example of this kind).

If we promote negative eugenics, by not permitting” diseased” genes from reproducing, that will be an encroachment into the very nature of our life on this planet. But its a re surging concept now. Most genetic screenings are in one or the other way, negative eugenics. Its only a matter of time before the “criminals” in jails will be banned from reproducing…!!

 

Are you saying that we have to go against evolution?

Yes..!
I was exactly trying to say we have to go against evolution in this matter….!
Or else, this race won’t last another millennium…that’s for sure.

Why, because, its the unique ability of the hominids to manipulate nature to meet his needs rather than letting nature manipulate him.

Thats simply what we have been doing ever since we branched out from the primate ancestors…Just look around and we will see only those things that man has built, invented or designed, to suit his needs, to help alleviate his toil, to ease his life, to bring out the maximum of his potential…!

Our hospitals defy the very basics of natural selection by differential extinction,
Our prenatal checkups do the same
Our geriatric centers do the same
Our schools do the same
Our railway, airlines, banks, bridges and roads, our space stations, satellites, rockets, hydel power stations, nuclear reactors….you name it…Everything helps man in one way or the other in defying Nature’s forces, and saving him from being deselected..!

So why don’t we extend this privilege to all classes of people in every population..?

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We have discussed what intelligence means and how it is inherited, I would like the readers to follow me thru a small digression where we will have a “zoom-in” on the exact ways by which genes work in the brain.
The technical details might be indigestible to the general reader hence an oversimplified version of the story is presented in the posts below. I should make clear at the outset that this is indeed a digression and skipping these few posts wont break the continuity of the whole thread…heh he Scientists…especially geneticists, have strange ways of naming genes and proteins that discover. Most genes are named based on the “effect” they produce in the body if they start malfunctioning. For example the now famous gene that helps in memory functions is named Amnesiac, (!??)because its mutation or absence can result severe “forgetfulness” in the carrier ! Genes like comatose and mini brain are of this kind. Another popular way of naming genes and proteins is giving the names-names of comic or epic characters or names of individuals, breeds, and even objects resembling the proteins for that matter; examples of this kind being leonardo, homer, Miranda, dachshund, slipper, sickle etc. Some scientists are fond of names from classical languages other than the “done-to death” Latin. A protein (an amide to be exact) called anandamide called so because anandam– pronounced “aanaanthom”- is the Sanskrit word for bliss or euphoria. So my readers can now speculate on the effects of this protein in brain..

Biological systems are built in order to respond to environmental stimulus. Learning takes this ability to extremes. Memory involves increasing the efficiency of how brain cells “communicate” with one another, otherwise called synaptic function.
Memories are thought to be due to lasting synaptic modifications in the brain. Repeatedly used information is processed in the brain by what is called Long term Potentiation. This mainly includes tuning the nerve cells to make them ready for repeated firing of the synapse. (a Synapse is the fancy term for the point of contact of two connected nervecells).

What is the role of genes and their protein products in these synaptic changes?

Coincidence of information from two or more modalities (for example: a baby inadvertently touching a hot iron rod) results in increased neural activity, that is, an influx of Calcium ions. Elevated amounts of Calcium ions in nerve cells cause Ca2+ to bind to a protein called Calmodulin. The Calcium-Calmodulin complex joins hands with another molecule called Adenylate Cyclase. The final combination of all three increases the cellular manufacture of a molecule known as Cyclic AMP or c-AMP for short. This molecule is called a second messenger. The job of a second messenger is to wake up genes in a cell; cAMP does just that. Thru a series of reactions subsequently, it stimulates a number of genes like CREB, Dunce, Rutagaba, Amnesiac and so on. These “activated” genes start making a lot of proteins that enhance the nerve-to-nerve connection, making the route clear for easy passage of ionic signals. The connexions thus made form the secret behind learning & memory.

Here’s a short list of some weird (!) genes and their functions in brain, to amaze your friends at the next party…

Homer : required for brain cells to control movement of limbs and body parts, and also behavioural plasticity.

Rutagaba : required for changing synaptic connexions for modifying learned things.

Dunce : destroys cAMP. And regulates amount of info stored.

Amnesiac : Needed for associating various stimuli to learned concepts.

Leonardo : Strongly associated with learning and smell, especially in fruit flies.

BALB : Makes you introverted but good at tracking back old ways.

NCS-I : Determines flexibility of learning.

BDNF : Encourages growth of nerve cells.

…you can extend this list to any number of pages…so complex is the simple task of learning..!

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