Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Genetic Engineering needs Severe Government Regulation

This is going to be yet another profound social and ethical question of the 21st century, given the extraordinary developments in gene sequencing, genetic engineering, stem cell research, and IVF as described here:
Henry T. Greely, 2016. “In 20 to 40 years, most Americans won’t have sex to reproduce. Get Ready.” Vox.com, September 16.
The implications of the reproductive technologies described here are stunning, and profoundly disturbing.

The worshipers of free markets and libertarians should never get their way to fully privatise such technologies, because modifying the human genome could have potentially catastrophic effects.

Having said that, I am not a Luddite. If such technology is safe, it seems reasonable to use it to help people suffering from genetic disorders or genetic predispositions to diseases (and to physical or mental handicaps) to have healthy children free from those diseases, for not allowing a very carefully regulated service subject to intense government scrutiny seems cruel.

There is another controversial issue here that will set off a fierce debate: IQ.

The reproductive technologies of the future will allow parents to have higher IQ children. And you thought the plot of the movie Gattaca was far-fetched! No longer.

I find the world imagined in Gattaca a horrendous free market dystopia. There’s no way I would want that for an Alt Left / Realist Left future.

If the kind of reproductive technologies described in the article above become real, they need to be subject to:
(1) severe government regulation and ethical scrutiny;

(2) provided as a public service available to everybody, just like universal health care, and

(3) the whole world of business and employment subject to rigorous scrutiny to see that the use of gene sequencing doesn’t result in grossly unfair and socially destructive hiring practices and other unethical behvaiour.
So I think that a Social Democratic society subject to the proper policies can manage this challenge.

No massive changes to the human genome, or extreme genetic engineering should be allowed, because I can just imagine current regressive leftism, cultural leftism and transhumanist cultists would produce all sorts of insane plans to genetically change human beings.

Finally, we come to a paradoxical outcome of all this. Read what I say below in its proper context.

The issue of race and average IQ is extremely controversial and I have given my opinion here. I am afraid this has become topical again, because the Alt Right is constantly raising this issue.

I still defend what I have written in my post, especially with respect to the Third World, because I think the case for a largely environmental explanation of the various average IQ gaps is still defensible. My views on this issue are based on the work of the democratic socialist Jim Flynn (see Flynn 2008; 2009a; 2009b; 2010; 2012a; 2012b; 2013; 2016), after whom the Flynn effect is named. I think there are reasons to think that, with proper economic and social development in the Third World, an intergenerational Flynn effect will raise the average IQ of people in Third World nations towards that of the developed world.

But let us – for the sake of argument, and I stress “for the sake of argument” – grant the Alt Right race realists their theory: that there is a significant gap in the average IQ of certain racial groups owing to Darwinian evolution and genetics.

What is the Alt Left answer to this? Even if true, the solution to it does not lie in policies proposed by the Alt Right.

The solution is providing the kind of regulated reproductive technologies described above to all people, and, above all, to people at risk of having children disadvantaged by the accident of genetics, so that average IQ gaps between groups can be eliminated over time.

This does not mean that our societies will be engaged in some kind of endless, mad genetic engineering to create “superhumans” or any such thing. Rather, it would be a Social Democratic society that allows parents to have children who are not disadvantaged by genetic diseases, serious predisposition to diseases or mental disorders, handicaps, or lower than average IQ, in a system where all such reproductive technologies are intensely regulated and subject to severe ethical and social scrutiny.

So essentially: it’s game over for Alt Right race realists. Checkmate.

You are done. Your endless obsession over race and average IQ has a final, definitive answer.

In the long run, any such serious group differences, or individual differences, in IQ, in either developed nations or the Third World, can be fixed by universal health care systems that include free access to severely regulated reproductive technologies to fix this problem.

This is the answer that should be given to all Alt Right race realists.

Having engaged in this hypothetical, I hasten to say: I still defend the environmental position on group IQ gaps, and I still think it is a bad mistake for the Alt Left to get bogged down in debates with the Alt Right over race. But, as we can see, there is a perfectly good refutation of the Alt Right on race realism, even if – for the sake of argument – we grant that the latter were true.

Flynn, James R. 2008. Where Have All the Liberals Gone?: Race, Class, and Ideals in America. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York.

Flynn, James R. 2009a. What Is Intelligence: Beyond the Flynn Effect (expanded edn.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Flynn J. R. 2009b. “Requiem for Nutrition as the Cause of IQ Gains: Raven’s Gains in Britain 1838–2008,” Economics and Human Biology 7: 18–27.

Flynn, J. R. 2010. “The Spectacles through which I see the Race and IQ Debate,” Intelligence 38: 363–366.

Flynn, James R. 2012a. Are We Getting Smarter?: Rising IQ in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York.

Flynn, James Robert. 2012b. How to Improve your Mind: Twenty Keys to Unlock the Modern World. Wiley-Blackwell, Malden, MA.

Flynn, James R. 2013. Intelligence and Human Progress: The Story of What was Hidden in our Genes. Elsevier Inc. Oxford, UK and Waltham, MA.

Flynn, James R. 2016. Does your Family make you Smarter?: Nature, Nurture, and Human Autonomy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.


  1. thats the key i think that genetic engineering should be nationalised fully and its should used noly for medical issues.

    in this case genetic engineering is a good thing.

  2. Agreed. Race and genetic explanations for IQ is a race to the bottom in terms of an intellectual debate. Now, I tend to take a socio-economic, environmental and cultural explanation for this question as well. Africa, South Asia, etc. tend to be that way because of poverty, nutrition and education systems. Differences in America tend to be because of socio-economics and culture. Cultural among Jews, Asians and Nigerian immigrants, in addition to their higher-than-average income, explain why they do better in school. Differences in socio-economics and cultural explain why Scots-Irish "Hillbilly" are further down on average.

    Of course we can talk about how economics affects culture, how discrimination/racism affects economics, etc. to describe for example Black Americans. But in my view these views are ones most grounded by the evidence we have, and are not subject to the crazy biological determinisms that you will find in the Alt Right.

    1. I generally agree. The Flynn effect -- the intergenerational rise in average IQ scores -- seems to occur whenever industrialisation and modernisation happens.

      With respect to the average IQ gap in the Third World, it seems infant and childhood infectious diseases causes huge problems with respect to IQ:

      These problems can be fixed.

    2. As they say in the vernacular, LK, you're on fire lately. Another great piece on an issue the left all too often refuses to engage with outside of dismissing the ideas out of hand because they're racist.

      Kain, I'm not sure if you give any credence to anything Thomas Sowell writes, but he had observed in "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" that 'authentic' black culture in the US descends from southern white redneck culture, which itself descends from the Scots-Irish "Hillbilly" group you refer to. While Sowell's considered loony to many on the left, you may find his writings on the origins of 'authentic' black culture in said book agreeable. Sowell claims that the educational statistics for free blacks who were educated in New England were on par with whites of similar educational backgrounds, and superior to southern whites whose culture was closer to the Scots-Irish Hillbilly demographic.

      Doesn't the success of Nigerian immigrants call into question whether a biological gap is a reasonable explanation for lower IQs among black West African populations? My understanding of genetics is rather vulgar, but if it was primarily biological rather than an interplay of cultural and socio-economic factors, wouldn't one expect the descendants of slaves in the US to outperform Nigerian immigrants, since the slaves are more likely to have a recent ancestor who is completely European?

  3. "They will boost their intelligence well above the other races of the world as Richard Lynn predicted (why not 150 IQ? 200?) and that will be "game over" for the West."

    No, that seems unlikely. The Chinese are more likely to engage in brutal, disastrous experiments on their people, causing problems they didn't foresee.

    You can't just make massive changes to the human genome like that without causing all sorts of other problems.

  4. "You may be able to genetically engineer tribalism out of the population "

    I am not proposing any such thing, idiot.

  5. " If your "plan" is to be truly leftist and egalitarian, you must force Jews and East Asians to undergo dysgenics "

    Oh, bullsh*t. That doesn't follow from anything I have said.

    This is your own desperate straw man invention because deep down you no doubt see that your own Alt Right obsession with race differences in IQ would have a fairly obvious solution in the sorts of reproductive technologies that may exist by the mid-21st century.

  6. No, what I would allow as humane social democratic policy, provided such technology is safe, would be mild and probably even conservative compared to the transhumanist cultists and regressive leftists, if they got into this stuff.

  7. "Or better yet, why don't we equalise everyone's IQ! "

    In fact, your own Alt Right ideology could easily lead *you* to that kind of conclusion, since you appear paranoid about any group having a higher average IQ than your own group's.

  8. "Why the hell would the Alt-Right support this kind of insane egalitarian altruism?"

    Because it is filled with paranoia or pathological racial hatred?

  9. Except human beings aren't doomed to tribalism.

    Coexistence is the most likely outcome once industrialisation and economic development makes Third world countries rich, and inclined to enjoy their wealth and lives, just we do.

    Also, once the Third World gets female education, female labour force participation, easy access to contraception, Third World birth rates will fall off and population will decline, just as in Japan.

  10. "You are done. Your endless obsession over race and average IQ has a final, definitive answer. "

    You don't seriously believe this is just an alt-Right obsession do you? It is clearly a "regressive Left" obsession just as much.

    1. They obsess over race in a different way. When do regressive left people talk seriously about IQ? They are more likely to say IQ doesn't exist.

      The worst regressive left idea is the attempt to equate culture with race.

    2. I'm talking about the Regressive left, not you people.

      E.g., the attempt to say Muslims are a race.

    3. "Culture is influenced by genetics"
      Absolutely not true in any sense

    4. Culture is independent of genes, the emergence of so called "Ethnoreligious" groups which are entirely artificial in nature is evidence of that.

  11. Interestingly the far-right "IQ based inequality justification" is somewhat self-defeating.
    Since the people with the highest IQ (people like Einstein or B. Russell e.g.) are generally opposed to it they would not allow extreme inequalities (let alone "race" based ones) were they granted full-power as all "Ubermensch" BS suggest.
    I suspect it is one of the "reasons" why genuine fascists do base their superiority claims on rather fuzzy notions as "instincts" or "soul".

    And BTW what good is to be expected from "tribalism" when so many nations have nukes ?

    "War does not determine who is right... only who is left." (B. Russell)