All men are created equal?

April 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

I had a customer come in the other day who was telling me about his neighbors, and how they were an incredibly intelligent couple that had bred incredibly intelligent children (no doubt they were also attractive, had good dental hygiene and razor-sharp wits, though this was not discussed). Nevertheless, it did get me thinking about the genetic determination of intelligence and how much is hereditary and how much is environmental. After some research I have found that potentially 80% of our intelligence is hereditary, whilst only a meager 20% environmental. To illustrate this, researchers studied the intellectual make up of adoptive children and found that adopted children’s IQ scores are more highly correlated with their biological parents’ IQs than with their adoptive parents’.

To me, this seems rather depressing. Not because my parents have sub par intelligence, on the contrary, they are both very intelligent people, it is the idea of hereditary limitation. It’s like I am back in the 16th century and my father is a cobbler so it is understood that I will marry a cobbler and have 15 children, who will also grow up to be cobblers or cobbler’s wives. And on the weekends our leisure activity would be going to a beheading and yelling obscenities at the person whose head was on the block, who probably stole an apricot. We’d all grin dumbly in satisfaction when the axe came down, the two dirty teeth we had left on display, like some sort of Monty Python sketch. But I digress and return to dental hygiene; nevertheless I hope you can see the correlation I am trying to make.  

An excerpt from the book How Life Really Works states: ‘Our genes determine the quality of our intelligence, our ability to integrate and process information. The level of our intelligence determines how well we cope with changes in our environment… Some people are very smart; some people are not very smart. If we compile a large number of individual intelligence measurements, it is statistically inevitable that the graphic display of such results appears in the shape of a bell curve. The bell-curve represents a cross-section of the intellectual capacity of a population group’. 

Bell-curves are all fine and well if you are on the top of that curve, though what about the poor schmucks that are on the bottom, destined to be at the bottom possibly forever. Needless to say, I suppose it does work in some people’s favour. Take Australian artist Norman Lindsay and his family, for example. You’ve got Norman at the top of the pile: painter, illustrator, writer etc., followed by his brothers and sister: Lionel, Percy, Daryl and Ruby, who were all successful artists. And then there’s Jack and Phillip Lindsay, Norman’s sons, who became notable writers. I’m sure when the topic of hereditary intelligence came up at their family gatherings, there were ‘high fives’ all round.

This concept could seem a little scary to some, but before you start worrying about alcoholic uncle Barry, who has been unemployed his whole life except for a months employment as a telemarketer at Telstra, there’s one thought that might free your mind from the idea of genetic constraints: apes. If over two million years ago we needed a brush for our entire bodies, then maybe in our 80 years or so on earth we can do some evolving of our own.   


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