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About Half of Kids' Learning Ability Is In Their DNA

samzenpus posted about 2 months ago | from the in-the-cards dept.

Math 227

Taco Cowboy writes with this story about new research that finds a strong genetic component to a child's ability in math and reading. "You may think you're better at reading than you are at math (or vice versa), but new research suggests you're probably equally good (or bad) at both. The reason: The genes that determine a person's ability to tackle one subject influence their aptitude at the other, accounting for about half of a person's overall ability. The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, used nearly 1,500 pairs of 12-year-old twins to tease apart the effects of genetic inheritance and environmental variables on math and reading ability. The researchers administered a set of math and verbal tests to the children and then compared the performance of different sets of twins. They found that the twins' scores — no matter if they were high or low — were twice as similar among pairs of identical twins as among pairs of fraternal twins. The results indicated that approximately half of the children's math and reading ability stemmed from their genetic makeup.

A complementary analysis of unrelated kids corroborated this conclusion — strangers with equivalent academic abilities shared genetic similarities. What's more, the genes responsible for math and reading ability appear to be numerous and interconnected, not specifically targeted toward one set of skills. These so-called 'generalist genes' act in concert to determine a child's aptitude across multiple disciplines. The finding that one's propensities for math and reading go hand in hand may come as a surprise to many, but it shouldn't. People often feel that they possess skills in only one area simply because they perform slightly worse in the other."

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And what they did not publish (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47646637)

strangers with equivalent academic abilities shared genetic similarities

and these are unequally distributed in different races

Re:And what they did not publish (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47646749)

Just proves that all men an NOT created equal, no matter what the PC crowd would have you believe.

What Mr. Lincoln left out was the rest of the statement, "in the eyes of the law".
That omission has wasted millions of dollars for higher education for those that can't learn. Not to mention the money wasted on "equal opportunity" and "head start" programs.

Some people just can't believe their eyes.

Re:And what they did not publish (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647045)

"Just proves that all men an NOT created equal, no matter what the PC crowd would have you believe."

So what does the Mac crowd believe?

Re:And what they did not publish (4, Funny)

Xenx (2211586) | about 2 months ago | (#47647487)

That they're superior to their PC brethren.

Re:And what they did not publish (1, Insightful)

bradrum (1639141) | about 2 months ago | (#47647057)

More confirmation bias crap. A ton of people just sit around waiting for something that fits their beliefs to post about or up vote.

Usually people that say this kind of shit get their money and claim that it is "wasted" on others. Because no one else has their genius right?

Re:And what they did not publish (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 2 months ago | (#47647397)

Do you have a reference to research that supports your side?

Re:And what they did not publish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647499)

*sigh*

Why do people see a single study, or even a few, and think that science is suddenly on their side? I see it all the time with morons linking to pseudoscientific psychology studies thinking that they've somehow 'beat' their opponent, even though there are other studies that say the opposite, the study hasn't been replicated, the study is bad science, and/or the conclusion hasn't been overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community.

I think I'll wait until there's some consensus reached in the scientific community, thanks. Having a citation war is useless.

Re:And what they did not publish (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647245)

[ ] You do understand what "All men are created equal" mean

Honestly, if we would be all equal. we would all look the same and have the same abilities. The truth is: We are all different. And the equality lies in the common rights we have. Originally, this term come from "all humans are equal before god". Meaning we are all judged by the same regulations. In the enlightenment this was "reduced" to a clause without god.

Re:And what they did not publish (2)

operagost (62405) | about 2 months ago | (#47647295)

What he actually left out was the next phrase in the sentence, "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights", which is not quite the same as saying "in the eyes of the law" as these are also known as "natural rights" while "in the eyes of the law" would suggest the presence of a government.

Re:And what they did not publish (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 months ago | (#47647309)

You are confusing two different things: 1) the assumption that all people have equal intellectual ability (which practically nobody believes), with: 2) the assertion that only those with high potential are deserving of the nourishment needed to reach one's own personal potential. I can see different levels of intellectual ability in my own children; do I pull the less-able one from math? No! If anything, she will benefit more from the extra time devoted to mastering times tables than my other kids would benefit from learning a little more geometry.

Secondly, you completely confused about equal opportunity. There is nothing in this study that says people of equal potential will reach equal levels of attainment if the potential of one is developed while the potential of the other is neglected or discouraged.

Re:And what they did not publish (1)

AnontheDestroyer (3500983) | about 2 months ago | (#47647385)

Behavior = Ability * Motivation

The problem is not that certain individuals above a specific threshold can't learn at all, it's that they'll need a little more motivation to perform at the same level as their more able peers.

Re:And what they did not publish (2)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 2 months ago | (#47647525)

Well on one side, we have the PC crowd with their "everyone is really the same, so anyone can succeed" and it's just the Big Bad Meanies holding some people back because of their race/religion/whatever and take away their will to succeed.

On the other, we have the Meritocracy crowd, with their "anyone can succeed, they just need to work at it" and the Big Bad Meanies want to punish the people who succeeded and take away their will to succeed.

The idea that some people simply aren't going to succeed, period, isn't tolerated by either wing. If they don't succeed, it's got to be someone's fault. and the only real difference is who they want to blame for it.

Re:And what they did not publish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47646781)

Zes I read Adolf Hitler when I first looked at the headline onlz to find enlightening posts here that match mz first impression.

Re:And what they did not publish (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 2 months ago | (#47646969)

And you know this how? *Your* genius? Your ESP?

Re:And what they did not publish (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647281)

strangers with equivalent academic abilities shared genetic similarities

and these are unequally distributed in different races

The word "race does not appear anywhere in the study. The word "ethnicity" appears once in the TEDS study - they only studied people who identified as white with English as their primary language.

So, I ask you, exactly which genes or alleles or associated with academic abilities (name them) are unequally distributed in different races?
What study demonstrates this?
This is a real question. I don't know the answer. Because you made the statement, I'm supposing that you know the answer.

Re:And what they did not publish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647521)

Different AC here: This thing about ethnicity is actually the red flag here. Why did the scientist exclude non-whites in this study ? There can be only one reason, the same reason as for why they excluded other groups: they expected it would impact the result.
That means they, the experts in this field, have reason to think there are differences across races.
note: difference does not necessarily imply anything qualitative.

Re:And what they did not publish (1)

mjm1231 (751545) | about 2 months ago | (#47647291)

Except that, genetically, there is no such thing as race.

Re:And what they did not publish (1)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | about 2 months ago | (#47647377)

Well, that's a bit absurd to claim.

I can certainly genetically differentiate between a Swede and a Spaniard and a Moroccan just as well as I can genetically differentiate between a dalmation, a basset and a corgie.

But this has more to do with regional origin than the relative colour of one's skin, they ARE related and to deny the mere fact is just silly.

Re:And what they did not publish (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 2 months ago | (#47647579)

That is a false statement.

This! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647319)

Claiming there are genes involved is probably true, but our genes are constantly changing base on our environment. Bad diet, your genetics will be off. Lots of stress, same thing. Being brought up believing that "smart is cool", compared to certain ethnic groups believing "dumb is cool" has massive impact on someone's IQ. Knowing how to learn must be learned and reinforced, it has very little to do with genetics (There are always exceptions, like autism).

If it was truly genetic they should be able to point to the Asian math gene, but there is NO such thing! This is yet another attempt at selling eugenics to the masses, masked as 'science'. Seems like most of the slashdot crowd is missing the gag.

Oh, I know.. "science" is in the title and it fits your natural bias so it's really hard to see, but it's there.

Off by 50% (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47646693)

100% of kids' learning ability is in their genetic makeup. If they had no genetic makeup, they'd have no learning ability.

Some knives just can't hold an edge. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47646715)

Now it is proven.

False. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47646757)

What this shows is that identical twins are more likely to be treated identically, while fraternal twins are more likely to be treated differently.

Oh wait, it doesn't show that either. But since this is correlation-is-causation century, I thought I might as well go for it.

(Anyway, if it is/i. true, it shows that meritocracy has no ethical basis.)

Re:False. (2)

Wootery (1087023) | about 2 months ago | (#47646823)

Thank you. Just what I was thinking.

A complementary analysis of unrelated kids corroborated this conclusion — strangers with equivalent academic abilities shared genetic similarities.

This could be of real interest, but racism might skew things.

Re:False. (1)

Wootery (1087023) | about 2 months ago | (#47646847)

I missed this gem:

You may think you’re better at reading than you are at math (or vice versa), but new research suggests you’re probably equally good (or bad) at both. The reason: The genes that determine a person’s ability to tackle one subject influence their aptitude at the other, accounting for about half of a person’s overall ability.

...

The brilliant mathematician — that’s all they do for decades, they just think math and work on math. It’s not like it comes to them with a flash of inspiration. It’s really a long, long process of thinking about these things.

Right, obviously. So why are they assuming that I have similar ability in math as in reading?

Re:False. (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 months ago | (#47646973)

Yeah, unfortunately, there is a cohort in Science (Charles Murray, I'm looking at you), who will inevitably try to make this all about the blacks and the Jews.

Ugliness dies hard in the human spirit.

Re:False. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647049)

Or maybe there's real-world ugly truths that the utopianists and progressives refuse to accept.

Re:False. (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 months ago | (#47647255)

Or maybe there's real-world ugly truths that the utopianists and progressives refuse to accept.

Well, possibly, but experience teaches that flat-out racism is a more likely culprit. We've seen people of all races and ethnic background perform at a very high level at every possible field, including Jewish and Italian basketball players and African-American pure mathematicians. What Murray (and you) are always looking for is the ceiling and floor. That's racist.

Plus, we've learned that there is one additional defining characteristic of racists: They will go to great lengths to try to rationalize their bigotry. And that, was my point. You've confirmed that.

Re:False. (1)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | about 2 months ago | (#47647403)

While focusing on racial issues to the exclusion of other things is asinine and silly, it's also asinine and silly to claim that groups of disparate people will not have differing talents and abilities, in aggregate.

Of course, aggregates tell us very little about individuals, and can't (and shouldn't) be used to make policy, social or legal.

Re:False. (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 months ago | (#47647549)

Thank you. Just what I was thinking.

A complementary analysis of unrelated kids corroborated this conclusion — strangers with equivalent academic abilities shared genetic similarities.

This could be of real interest, but racism might skew things.

If that's a concern the results tests should "double blind"; that is designed so that the person administering them doesn't see the subject, and the person analysing them doesn't have access to data on the subject's racial background

Re:False. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 months ago | (#47647107)

(Anyway, if it is/i. true, it shows that meritocracy has no ethical basis.)

Which would be a freaking bombshell for our civilization.

If true, we could use the finding in one of two ways. To give up on all attempts at equality and create a caste-based society (see also: Gattaca), or to try to move past our primitive ambition for meritocracy and go straight for egalitarianism...and I think we know which one is much easier and more likely :-(

Re:False. (1)

SuperGus (678577) | about 2 months ago | (#47647117)

Thank goodness for all the studies of monozygotic twins reared apart. For example: Bouchard 1990 [missouri.edu] . "The maximum contribution to... trait correlations that could be explained by measured similarity of the adoptive rearing environments... is about 0.03. The absence of any significant effect due to... environmental measures on the IQ scores of these adult adopted twins is consistent with the findings of other investigators."

Flawed "science" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647577)

If the premise is false, so so is the hypothesis. When twins are raised separately how do they control all of the factors in IQ to make their 70% number? Oh, they don't!

Unless someone was providing housing, jobs for parents (and static pay), home education, dialogue in the home, hobbies, diets, clothing, soap/shampoo, household cleaners, etc.. it should be obvious that any number they decide to put into the study will be skewed.

Stop and think for a minute. If they don't control the environment these "studies" are done in, how are they measuring the influence of environment in IQ? They can't! We KNOW that certain chemicals reduce cognitive ability, in fact many over the counter drugs do just that. Yet we don't control all of these influences and can claim to know genetic disposition? Wow, just wow...

Re:False. (1)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | about 2 months ago | (#47647509)

I regard it as *almost* unethical to NOT have a meritocricy.

Imagine a factory, where you had certain specialist robots that were three times as fast at assembling engines, but average at everything else. For the sake of simplicity, imagine all other robots were at the same level for everything else and had no specialization.

Let's assume all the robots *want* to do easier jobs, because there is more idle time, and all robots are paid a fraction of the production of the factory.

If the specialist robots can be convinced to assemble engines presumably by paying them double to do it), the whole factory makes more cars, and everyone is better off.

Now the specialist robots are being paid more than everyone else. Essentially a meritocricy.

This benefits everyone, however, as all robots are paid more (even if the specialists get larger share). Choosing to not allow specialists to be paid more, essentially, is damning the entire group to substandard status because of an argument against meritocracy, on principle, even if it is simply how the robots are constructed and is unchangeable.

Insightful comment lost! (0)

methano (519830) | about 2 months ago | (#47646795)

I was typing something really insightful about this and the stupid page reloaded and it all disappeared. Well, I'm not gonna type it again.

But, I will call BS on this "generalist genes" concept.

Re:Insightful comment lost! (1, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 2 months ago | (#47646885)

I was typing something really insightful about this and the stupid page reloaded and it all disappeared.

CTRL-R is a bitch. Can't handle a simple computer keyboard? Perhaps you're one of the "other half".

Re:Insightful comment lost! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647229)

You're probably just upset that you didn't get to see what he originally intended to write.

Re:Insightful comment lost! (1)

jtwiegand (3533989) | about 2 months ago | (#47647349)

Write up those kinds of posts in a word processor in the future. That way a broken plugin or accidental reload won't hose your progress.

Still uncertain (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47646799)

The study as described by the summary doesn't take into consideration that parents might have a tendency to treat identical twins more equal than they treat non-identical twins.
They will need identical twins that have been separated at birth to be certain.
Assuming that events occurring at birth have no impact on learning capabilities that is.

Doing proper tests on children is tricky, if you care about ethics at all it pretty much puts and end to proper testing procedures.

Re:Still uncertain (1)

SuperGus (678577) | about 2 months ago | (#47647127)

Check out the numerous studies of monozygotic twins reared apart. For example, Bouchard 1990 [missouri.edu]

Re:Still uncertain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647279)

Interesting, but still doesn't take into consideration that we (might) treat people differently depending on looks.
Separate places doesn't necessarily mean separate environments.
As usual further studies are needed to reach a conclusion.

Re:Still uncertain (1)

SuperGus (678577) | about 2 months ago | (#47647351)

Good point. Tidbit: I do believe there was an important study of monozygotic twins reared apart in Scandanavia, where presumably the gross differences in appearance were minimal versus a diverse place like the USA (hair color, skin color, etc.). This study also came to the same conclusion as Bouchard 1990 if I recall.

Meaning (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47646809)

I've got a kid who is clearly ahead of the class with mathematics but clearly behind the class with reading. So, these studies probably mean it isn't a fundamental ability problem, so where do I go from here?

Re:Meaning (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about 2 months ago | (#47646997)

Depends largely on whether you're the parent or the teacher.

Meaning (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647059)

I've got a kid who is clearly ahead of the class with mathematics but clearly behind the class with reading. So, these studies probably mean it isn't a fundamental ability problem, so where do I go from here?

Aptitude is only half the story. The other half is being interested in the subject.

Re:Meaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647303)

He is just starting first grade. I wouldn't be as concerned if he had made it to high school and wasn't interested in plopping down in front of Pride and Prejudice, but he isn't interested in reading a single word of anything.

Re:Meaning (1)

u38cg (607297) | about 2 months ago | (#47647601)

And how much reading aloud do you do with him/her?

The surprise... (3, Insightful)

bradley13 (1118935) | about 2 months ago | (#47646811)

Sure, you can stunt someone, butof course our abilities - our potentials - are genetic. The surprise would be if environment has any effect beyond the ability to stunt an otherwise present potential. Why do PC nuts always hyperventilate, when aptitudes turn out to be inborn.

The link between reading and math runs, as nearly as I can tell from this and other studies, over general intelligence. If you have an IQ of 130, likely you are pretty good at both. If you have an IQ of 80, not so much.

Re:The surprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47646987)

The link between reading and math runs, as nearly as I can tell from this and other studies, over general intelligence. If you have an IQ of 130, likely you are pretty good at both.

The only "genetic" part that they measured is most likely associated with anxiety and fear of failure and its consequences. Most of the rest is basically boloney. Unless you are dyslexic, you can learn to read and do arithmetic, no problem. The only issue here is work ethic and that's associated with fear/reward center of the brain.

Anyone can learn anything, including any language. If that was not true, then why every single child learns one?

Genetics may play a part, but that part is not whether you can run a 5 minute mile. It's whether you can compete at the olympics or be a top researcher in some field. It does not determine whether you can read, write and understand fractions or even know how to apply calculus. The latter *anyone* can learn (ie. be spoon fed the knowledge).

PS. If genetics played a part, someone good at math is not going to be good at languages There is a reason why they are separate subjects and fields. For starters, one loves ambiguities while the other rejects them outright. It's a completely different mode of thinking.

Re:The surprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647119)

Blind assumptions everywhere.

Re:The surprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647399)

Not much different from the study and the comments then.

Re:The surprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647417)

Here is a fascinating study [slashdot.org] that disproves everything you said.

Re:The surprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647425)

If you have an English major in your social media connections, then you will very quickly find there is little room for ambiguity in their hearts as well: just replace there with their or you're with your.

Re:The surprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647021)

Since there is a level that equal opportunity doesn't have equal results, there is a fear that at some point we will say good enough with our equality efforts and we will drop the ball for someone out there. Also as we know from other hotbutton issues if there is a blurry definition for something then we get into a pretty heated definition war and the point of good enough will be a lot further from their goal than desired.

Re:The surprise... (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about 2 months ago | (#47647325)

Environment and upbringing play some role as well.
Small children (toddlers+) are equally interested in pretty much everything because everything is new to them. As their character becomes better defined, they will lean towards something, not necessarily because of an innate preference but because of external factors, e.g. "more toys of that type" or "parents engaging in activities of this type more".
I am too lazy to look this up but my guess is that children whose parents are artists will more likely become artists as well, and people who grow up in a mist of numbers (math) will become better at math, simply because there's plenty of math to go around them.

Two questions (2)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 2 months ago | (#47646819)

1) What is meant with "skill at reading"? This does not become clear from the summary. If they mean just the ability to convert symbols into sounds I'd assume the plateau for that is pretty low and most people reach it pretty early on in their lives. If they mean interpretative ability, how do they quantify that, and how do they distinguish between correct and incorrect interpretations beyond a certain point? In the sentence "When the cat entered the room, he sat down on the mat." it is obviously incorrect to interpret "he" as referring to a dog, but when asked to interpret who or what "the shadow" refers to in Eliot's The Hollow Men it becomes a lot less clear which responses are correct and which ones incorrect. Compared to the high end of interpretative ability, mathematical ability is much easier to test and quantify, so how can they say that reading ability and mathematical ability are comparable? Maybe my reading ability is particularly low, but the more I think about it, the less I understand of what is meant by these researchers.

2) What does "twice as similar" mean? I obviously realize that this refers to some statistical characteristic of the data, but that doesn't make "twice as similar" as an expression any more comprehensible. I guess a fish is twice as similar to a horse as grass is (all three are alive, but only horses and fish have spines, and only horses and fish convert oxygen into carbon dioxide), but I doubt that's what they mean.

Re:Two questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647359)

This does not become clear from the summary.

RTFA

Re:Two questions (1)

Athanasius (306480) | about 2 months ago | (#47647361)

Also, what do they mean by "math ability". Testing 12 year olds, so not all that advanced, right? I'm sure there are adults that read excellently but wouldn't have a clue about something like Tensor Calculus (he says picking something he's only vaguely heard of and *knows* he'd be no good at given experience with UK 1st year University Physics Degree course in the early 90s).

Re:Two questions (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 2 months ago | (#47647481)

1) What is meant with "skill at reading"? [snip] If they mean just the ability to convert symbols into sounds I'd assume the plateau for that is pretty low and most people reach it pretty early on in their lives.

Well, given that the study focuses on 12-year-olds, I'd say that many of them are probably still in the process of achieving their final reading skills.

If they mean interpretative ability, how do they quantify that, and how do they distinguish between correct and incorrect interpretations beyond a certain point?

Umm, the same way most standardized tests do in "reading comprehension" exercises? Your post has a couple ambiguous examples, which would be poor test questions. But there are plenty of ways to generate more complex reading tasks that involve understanding the structure of a complicated argument, etc. A lot of it also is in understanding the connotations of words and things that are not always conveyed literally but clearly implied to fluent native readers.

That's why analogies used to play a big role on the SAT, because they often require you to know more than just definitions for words -- you also need to know a lot about how they are used and the way they might connect to other concepts. But -- surprise -- analogies over the years have come under suspicion, essentially because they tend to test "innate ability" (e.g., IQ) more than other verbal tasks, and hence still show up on IQ tests. But SAT designers have been under pressure from schools to make the tests "more relevant" to stuff that is actually taught in high school, so analogies were removed, and more generic reading comprehension has taken their place. (From a more cyncial perspective, I would note that it's harder for the test-prep services to coach aspiring test-takers on tasks like analogies, since again it's harder to do than just memorizing definitions. Most good readers acquire the detailed knowledge of word nuances needed from actually, well... reading over many years.) But that doesn't mean that analogies can't show anything about comprehension or detailed understanding of the meanings of words.

Certainly you can reach a point when testing adults where it becomes difficult to design tests of reading comprehension and verbal ability that still have clear answers and don't suffer from the interpretive problems you mention. And that's why there is a lot of criticism of "high IQ" tests and whether they can really differentiate people once you get more than a few standard deviations above normal.

But for 12-year-olds, as in this study? There's plenty of ways to create unambiguous reading/verbal questions that show how their abilities are still developing.

Re:Two questions (1)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | about 2 months ago | (#47647537)

I suspect they mean "linguistic" skill when they refer to reading.

These are the "general" divisions of learning aptitudes in primary school, reading and math.

In the long run, reading skill seems to tend to dictate aptitudes in reading, writing, speaking, etc.

Correlation not Causation (1, Insightful)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 2 months ago | (#47646821)

They have not shown a causal relationship.

What's more confusing is they state "..results highlight the potential role of the learning environment in contributing to differences in a child’s cognitive abilities at age twelve." This indicates that if there is a genetic component, it is largely irrelevant as the learning environment has the greater impact.

Answer in search of a problem.

Re:Correlation not Causation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47646943)

why do you think that fraternal twins have more distinct learning environments (between the twins themselves), whereas identical twins have more normalized learning environments?

Re:Correlation not Causation (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 months ago | (#47647043)

They have not shown a causal relationship.

What do you suggest it's down to? Identical twins being under greater pressure to perform similarly?

This indicates that if there is a genetic component, it is largely irrelevant as the learning environment has the greater impact.

I don't read it that way. I think they're highlighting the learning environment's potential because it can be changed, while genetics can't.

Re:Correlation not Causation (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647053)

First of all, they never claimed causation. The title of the article is "The correlation between reading and mathematics ability at age twelve has a substantial genetic component". This is in contrast to something like "genetic causes correlation between..."

This indicates that if there is a genetic component, it is largely irrelevant as the learning environment has the greater impact.

No it isn't. Where does it say that learning environment has a greater impact? And even if that were true, greater just means > 50%. if 40% were due to genetic, that's a huge! Of course, we still don't know for sure, and the authors were careful not to state otherwise.

It's an interesting study, and they have made serious effort to tease apart environmental impact vs genetic impact by looking at fraternal vs identical twins. It's science... it's meant to shed light on a question (and we know what it is here). It's not meant to solve a problem.

Re:Correlation not Causation (2)

Junta (36770) | about 2 months ago | (#47647453)

"The correlation between reading and mathematics ability at age twelve has a substantial genetic component

The problem is "all siblings presumably experience similar degrees of parental attentiveness, economic opportunity and so on" which is of course very unlikely to be a

I think the issue at hand is it isn't quite controlled well enough to trumpet the genetic component as *the* correlation of interest. Other factors are handwaved away by saying "all siblings presumably experience similar degrees of parental attentiveness, economic opportunity and so on". Anyone who has grown up alongside twins (there actually were a few sets of twins in my town growing up, two sets of them identical, one set mixed gender) knows this is too much to presume. When people look identical, there is a much stronger expectation that they *are* fundamentally identical. The identical twin sets both had rhymed names, but the other twins did not. Parents and teachers and fellow kids more naturally treat fraternal twins like any other set of siblings, but identical twins do not receive the same experience. People assume they like the same things, they should hang out together, they *should* be good at the same things. Many believe there is some mystical/telepathic link between identical twins. Fraternal twins are 'just siblings', to the extent that until explicitly mentioned no one may even realize they are *twins*. Identical twins are blatantly obvious from the moment you see them and trigger a large amount of preconception before anyone so much as utters a word. All these societal expectations undoubtedly have *some* impact on their development that shouldn't be so casually dismissed.

Basically, there is no reason to believe identical and fraternal twins receive a comparable life experience in aggregate when raised together. With that in mind, the study should be saying there is a correlation for identical versus fraternal twins rather than 'there is a correlation with genetics'.

Re:Correlation not Causation (1)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | about 2 months ago | (#47647547)

To be pedantic, "has a substantial genetic component" is just a rewording of "is caused, in substantial part, by genetics"

Re:Correlation not Causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647073)

What's more confusing is they state "..results highlight the potential role of the learning environment in contributing to differences in a child’s cognitive abilities at age twelve." This indicates that if there is a genetic component, it is largely irrelevant as the learning environment has the greater impact.

The claim is that if there are significant differences between a child's math and reading abilities then those differences are likely to have environmental rather than genetic causes.

Re:Correlation not Causation (3, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 2 months ago | (#47647179)

They have not shown a causal relationship.

True.

This indicates that if there is a genetic component, it is largely irrelevant as the learning environment has the greater impact.

False. I'm unclear how you came to that conclusion based on the quote you highlighted. It does not say that learning environment has a *greater* impact. It says learning environment has *some* impact. Overall, but it is less than or equal to the importance of genetics.

This result is consistent with other studies on the topic. Unfortunately, this fact pisses people off, especially educators. (Understandably since it is their job to educate everyone equally, and especially to raise the level of the poorest performers). But it is well correlated at this point. Think back to high school: everyone realized this at some point - there were some students who just seemed smarter. Some of them didn't even have to work for it. It sucked if you sat in one of these kids' shadow. It doesn't mean hard work doesn't pay off, it doesn't mean you should not invest in your children, but it does mean that just like in sports, your genes are as big a contributor as the environment.

On that note: why are people willing to accept this in sports, but not in academics? It's totally cool to say something about Nigerian runners having long legs, or say "white men can't jump, hahaha" or "Asians are short" but if you say some people are genetically gifted in intelligence sets off everyone's alarm bells.

Excerpt from Freakanomics [businessinsider.com] :

Eight factors that correlate to higher test scores
        Highly educated parents
        Parents have high socioeconomic status
        Mother was thirty or older at the time of first child's birth
        Child had low birth weight
        Parents speak English at home
        Child is adopted
        Parents are involved in the PTA
        Child has many books in the home

Eight factors that do NOT correlate with higher test scores:
        Family is intact
        Family's recent move to a better neighborhood
        Mother did not work between birth and kindergarten
        Child attended Head Start
        Parents bring children to museums regularly
        Child is regularly spanked
        Child frequently watches television
        Parents read to him nearly every day

Tribute (1)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about 2 months ago | (#47646831)

So half of the twins learned twice as much half the time than the other half of the other twins?

Sounds like one of Tolkien's best lines...

Happy Epsilon-Minus (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47646839)

Before Bernard could answer, the lift came to a standstill.

"Roof!" called a creaking voice.

The liftman was a small simian creature, dressed in the black tunic of an Epsilon-Minus Semi-Moron.

"Roof!"

He flung open the gates. The warm glory of afternoon sunlight made him start and blink his eyes. "Oh, roof!" he repeated in a voice of rapture. He was as though suddenly and joyfully awakened from a dark annihilating stupor. "Roof!"

He smiled up with a kind of doggily expectant adoration into the faces of his passengers. Talking and laughing together, they stepped out into the light. The liftman looked after them.

"Roof?" he said once more, questioningly.

Then a bell rang, and from the ceiling of the lift a loud speaker began, very softly and yet very imperiously, to issue its commands.

"Go down," it said, "go down. Floor Eighteen. Go down, go down. Floor Eighteen. Go down, go."

Re:Happy Epsilon-Minus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647327)

The study was about genetics, not about injecting alcohol into the womb.

Standardized Testing Implications? (4, Interesting)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 2 months ago | (#47646855)

What I'm wondering is what implications this will have for standardized tests. Most of the tests assume that everyone is on the same playing field - but if this is true, and genetics play a role equal to 50% of a student's learning ability, this would essentially mean that some students will intrinsically perform better than their peers simply because they have the genes and other people don't.

I'm willing to bet that the second they come up with a test for these genes, there will be lawsuits by school districts who lose funding over standardized tests, claiming that they are at an unfair disadvantage because their students simply don't have the genetic makeup to score well on the tests.

Re:Standardized Testing Implications? (2)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 2 months ago | (#47646941)

some students will intrinsically perform better

Perform better at what?

Most people have a natural talent for certain categories of things, and suck at others. That's the problem with all IQ tests, or "performance" tests: they don't take into account that there are many forms of intelligence.

Re:Standardized Testing Implications? (2)

SuperGus (678577) | about 2 months ago | (#47647149)

The existence of generalized intelligence is well-established and largely uncontroversial. See, for example, G-factor [wikipedia.org] . It's also not really controversial that it's largely driven by genetics.

Re:Standardized Testing Implications? (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47647505)

That's the problem with all IQ tests, or "performance" tests: they don't take into account that there are many forms of intelligence.

It's only a "problem" per se if you're attempting to use the tests for things for which they are not designed. The IQ tests don't test for creativity, which is the primary skill needed for problem-solving in the real world. They test for the other surrounding skills, which without creativity are good mostly for following orders. That's the only part with which "the establishment" is truly concerned. See also: the state of public education today in the USA.

Re:Standardized Testing Implications? (1)

StormReaver (59959) | about 2 months ago | (#47647311)

I'm willing to bet that the second they come up with a test for these genes, there will be lawsuits by school districts who lose funding over standardized tests, claiming that they are at an unfair disadvantage because their students simply don't have the genetic makeup to score well on the tests.

I would bet on a different outcome; school districts will plead for more money:

"Wee nede mor mony bekus hour stuudants r dumm, and mor mony wil undumm them."

the other 1/2 is spirit based compassion? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47646895)

all things being equitable.. any notion of real justice is based entirely on mercy, the centerpeace of momkind's heartfelt connection with creation

being spiritually & creatively merciful with each other takes out the (media/fear) drama of the hateful fear & loathing punishment features. are we not each our very own reward? punish as we would wish to be punished? WMD on credit 'weather' is not punishment enough? https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=wmd+weather+media news http://www.globalresearch.ca/weather-warfare-beware-the-us-military-s-experiments-with-climatic-warfare/7561

Due to excessive bad posting from this IP or Subnet, anonymous comment posting has temporarily been disabled. You can still login to post. However, if bad posting continues from your IP or Subnet that privilege could be revoked as well. If it's you, consider this a chance to sit in the timeout corner or login and improve your posting. If it's someone else, this is a chance to hunt them down (&/or demonize them....) based on speculation of ill intent... peace out /. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m39DWVFK-Bw

mynuts won; AD agency based moderation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647085)

smell the fear....

Intelligence is about pattern recognition. (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 2 months ago | (#47646921)

There is general pattern recognition (Hm, this artist it clearly talented, he has created something similar to, but not identical to Picasso's early work.) and specific pattern recognition (This is an example of the subspecies called a "Spotted Owl".) As such, anything that helps pattern recognition will help all intelligence. Things that help certain kinds of pattern recognition will only certain skills.

Specifically:

Singular neurons are simple things, their value and complexity grows only when you have many of them connected in a network.

Genes (and other things) that make neurons work faster and allow for more connections, make for 'general intelligence'.

Genes (and other things) that affect which specific complex network, will only help skills that use those specific networks of neurons.

Intelligence is about pattern recognition. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647121)

Reminds me of the "schizophrenic AI" results for an experiment involving machine learning rates set too high. Doing so also causes them to make bogus connections. While it may cause them to recognize patterns quickly it also causes spurious connections to emerge, lose meaning and see links that aren't really there.

Obviously there are questions about how comparable this model is to actual human brains. However the implications are highly interesting.

I doubt it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47646929)

Like anything else knowledge and learning come with effort. Most likely the reason why groups of children performed as the did is because of their parents and environment. With the exception of mentally ill people, Anyone has the ability to be smart. Its just a matter of how much an person is willing to exercise their brain.

FWIW: there are two groups or people. People that are physically lazy and use there brain to devise alternative means to perform labor, or those that are mentally lazy and choose to use physical activity to perform labor. Yes this is an very generalization, dumbed down to avoid writting a lengthly article on the topic.

I have taught computer skills and absolutely agree (3, Informative)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 2 months ago | (#47646945)

In my many years of computer consulting, I have ended up teaching many people various computer/math skills. I have no doubt that some people simply come under the category of thick headed. I will explain something simple 8 different ways and they just don't get it. While other people might not have a knack for things computery they only need to be shown something once.

The same with math. For some reason I have ended up teaching people elements of math. Some people I have shown how to calculate percentages multiple times, while others I will show something far more complex such as how to calculate a mortgage payment and it sticks. Both groups will have had roughly similar math educations.

I wonder if this is where some people choke when learning to program. There are many concepts in programming that must be mastered. There is no wiggle room with each concept such as ifs, whiles, switches, etc. You either get it or you don't, and with so many to learn they must be gotten quickly in a typical intro to programming course. Again I have helped people with their programming homework and while some would instantly absorb what I was saying there were groups to whom I might as well have been just making up words.

Maybe I am a lousy teacher but lets say I am teaching someone to do the local sales tax (15%) and I tell them to do 1 x 1.15 to get the total on a calculator. I might even explain that the 1 represents the original price and the .15 is the tax and together they get the total. But I also just say, do 1.15 and it will just work. Write it on the calculator if needed. Easy Peasy.

Re:I have taught computer skills and absolutely ag (1)

operagost (62405) | about 2 months ago | (#47647357)

Egads... with 15% sales tax the streets must be paved with gold.

Anyway, the method you teach is something I actually learned in grade school (I guess fourth grade) from my vice principal, of all people. He was sitting in the class and suggested it along with the "standard" method of "x + %x" that the teacher was using. The handful of kids who had trouble grokking it (or were just annoyed by the extra step) got it right there.

Definitely no PC there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647041)

They are saying that twins with the exact same genes show more correlation in some useful skills than twins with differing genes.
So genetic makeup affects useful skills.
One thing to consider is that all twins have at least similar genes and due to this, one would expect there results to be minimal.

It is interesting that they can not yet correlate specific genes to this.
Over time, it seems likely that this will be doable.

No doubt a problem for folks who think society should provide equal outcome instead of equal opportunity.
No child left behind may be an impossible task given this.

Anecdotal (4, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 months ago | (#47647051)

It's just anecdotal evidence, but my kids Adopted from Africa... he's smart but in regards to entirely different things than I am. I'm your typical computer guy... terrible with people but good with math, bad at spelling and grammar. He's totally outgoing, a natural leader. I take him to the park and he's organizing group activities with all the kids within minutes. It's truly amazing. I couldn't do that now, as an adult! He's 6, and already reading at a level I wasn't at until middle school. So genetics are definitely a factor.

That being said, I'm intensely interested in the mechanics of just about everything. How do you build a fence? How does a lawn mower work? I've passed this curiosity on to my son. So nurture is a factor to.

I've learned more about life by adopting than just about any other thing I've ever done in my life. I highly recommend it, you'll get more out of the venture than you ever had to put in.

Re:Anecdotal (4, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 months ago | (#47647129)

How does a lawn mower work?

Followed shortly by "What's the fastest route to the hospital?"

Re:Anecdotal (1)

internerdj (1319281) | about 2 months ago | (#47647353)

My oldest is 6 and naturally curious about how it works. You could go through all the mechanics and he would be captivated with the description but never touch it. My youngest is 4 and you've got to be careful merely doing things in his presence.

Re:Anecdotal (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 2 months ago | (#47647315)

Interesting, and thanks for posting this.

Apologies for the uninteresting followup, posted to remove an accidental down-moderation. I suppose it would be too much to hope that the next version of Slashdot will not let you mis-moderate simply by releasing the mouse when it's one pixel off from the intended target.

Re:Anecdotal (2)

tomhath (637240) | about 2 months ago | (#47647473)

Anyone who has more than one child will tell you that they're different from birth. Personalities, intelligence, artistic ability, everything - right out of the package.

Re:Anecdotal (1)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | about 2 months ago | (#47647565)

Skills in leadership are almost entirely down to confidence. People who are good leaders generally have almost irrational confidence.

I wonder if this is genetic, too, or learned?

Once again, science fact follows science fiction (1)

storkus (179708) | about 2 months ago | (#47647063)

*HOW MANY* stories have been written over the years with just this premise? Frankly, I've lost track.

Science Fiction has already predicted the consequence: designer children. Whether the consequences predicted of THAT come to pass remains to be seen.

Gattica / Brave New World indeed...

If for one welcome our plantain overlords! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647177)

Half of Kid's ability to be a Banana is in their DNA! More at 11...

The elephant in the room. (-1, Flamebait)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | about 2 months ago | (#47647195)

The evidence and data on racial differences of IQ are pretty well established. In the scientific community, there is virtually no question that there are major differences in IQ between races, with Orientals and Caucasians at the high end and Negros, Mesoamericans, etc at the lower end. There are massive differences in biochemistry, physiology and neurology in almost every area between racial groups, including brain size, skeletal structure, biochemistry, genetics, eye color, skin color, and so on, for instance Caucasians are the only racial group where most adults can digest Lactose, and this is clearly due to tens of thousands of years of divergent evolution that caused some races in cold climates to develop higher IQ and larger brain capacity. A strong and compelling scientific argument has been made by many, such as J.P. Rushton, et al that racial genetics is the cause, for instance, the fact that IQ differences show up by age 3 before education has had a large effect, the MRI studies that have shown that Caucasians have a larger brain that the Negro, and as well the strong predictor that IQs are of SAT scores. Studies of black children living with adoptive white parents show that blacks still have the same IQ as black children living with black parents. The study found that even that where white children and black children were living with the same adoptive parents, the white children still scored 20% higher despite growing up with the same parents. The higher IQ of caucasians likely developed due to the cold, temperate climate of Northern Europe which required more long term planning and skilled crafts to develop technologies to survive the cold winters. The cold winters heavily selected for higher IQ, whilst the tropical environment, where the fruit hangs on the true all year, does not. SAT scores and IQ scores are accurate predictors of life outcomes a well, showing that IQs are a very accurate measurement of a persons intelligence occupational capabilities. As in the book, IQ and the Wealth of Nations, the success of countries is tightly coupled to the average IQ levels, and since IQ levels is the result of the racial makeup of the population, it reflects the racial groups. This is why you can very easily predict GDP of different countries with the racial demographics of the countries, as well a predict a vast number of other things from test scores to rates of homicides. Some have also looked at the fact that Caucasians have a larger frontal lobe than even orientals, where impulse control and creativity is based, which could explain why Caucasian majority countries have had longer lived, healthier democracies, especially the US. Orientals have excellent math skills, but seem to have a totalitarian streak. Caucasians and Orientals have been shown easily beat the average Negro in mathematical tests.

It is pretty clear that entire civilizations are nothing more than the reflection of microscopic DNA that constructs the neurological system and constructs human behaviour. Cultural interactions can share information and influences, but the more of the high IQ racial groups you have, the most of such sharing and origination occurs. The population tends to take on the characteristics of the average individual rather than the outlier. For Einstein to do his work required a country that had a well established industrial base, faciliitated by a high IQ, highly capable population that could provide the environment stable enough that things could move a bit past basic sustenance level of existance, that there was enough industrial base to provide for labatory equipment for instance. Einstien was building on previous work, of others as well, so these things do not come about as a result of the lone genius but require a country that is well populated with High IQ genetics. If Einstien had been born in Nigeria, no matter how intelligent or smart he was, he wouldnt have gotten very far for the lack of everything that he would have needed. Indeed, there is a feedback effect, the high IQ population caucasian and oriental countries are most fertile for science because of the general nature of the population being favorable, and the larger number of contributions by many.

IQ differences most visibly show up when doing math studies, and math tests and such intellectual work that requires high level computation and processing. The effects that become blatantly visible in a regular or mundane conversational interaction below an IQ of 80 or so.

Even when the IQs are corrected for the Flynn effect, large IQ gaps remain. Negros seem to have a pre-flynn IQ level of about 70 in subsaharan Africa, with an 85 post flynn IQ in the USA. Causasians seem to have an 85 pre-flynn iQ and a 105 post flynn IQ in the USA. It seems as though higher level brain functions need a little training to be used. It is quite possible that lower IQ groups have a less variable and less moveable IQ. For instance, a racial group that has a maximum potential IQ of 105, can score anywhere from 0 to 105 on an IQ test, if they wished, but, a population that has a maximum potential average IQ of 85 could score less only a very short distance before reaching a level of profound mental retardation, that is, with a maximum IQ level of 85 you have much of a shorter distance downward before reaching a level of mental retardation than the 105 maximum IQ races. An IQ of 85 is marginal intellectual functioning while 70 is the line of mental retardation. The Subsaharan African groups do score borderline metal retardation, and the general negro population in the USA scores marginal, mediocre functioning. It may be that for a racial group that has a 105 maximum IQ average, that it takes a little effort to reach that, while reaching an 85 IQ level for those races is effortless. For a negro to try to reach higher IQ levels would take vastly more effort, dozens of times more effort, if they can reach it at all. So for a Caucasian or Oriental, with a little work they an get to 105, with a Negro, it can be dozens of times more difficult or impossible.

Here is a synopsis of some evidence from the Rushton study:

"Race differences show up by 3 years of age, even after matching on maternal education and other variables," said Rushton. "Therefore they cannot be due to poor education since this has not yet begun to exert an effect. That's why Jensen and I looked at the genetic hypothesis in detail. We examined 10 categories of evidence."

        The Worldwide Pattern of IQ Scores. East Asians average higher on IQ tests than Whites, both in the U. S. and in Asia, even though IQ tests were developed for use in the Euro-American culture. Around the world, the average IQ for East Asians centers around 106; for Whites, about 100; and for Blacks about 85 in the U.S. and 70 in sub-Saharan Africa.

        Race Differences are Most Pronounced on Tests that Best Measure the General Intelligence Factor (g). Black-White differences, for example, are larger on the Backward Digit Span test than on the less g loaded Forward Digit Span test.

        The Gene-Environment Architecture of IQ is the Same in all Races, and Race Differences are Most Pronounced on More Heritable Abilities. Studies of Black, White, and East Asian twins, for example, show the heritability of IQ is 50% or higher in all races.

        Brain Size Differences. Studies using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) find a correlation of brain size with IQ of about 0.40. Larger brains contain more neurons and synapses and process information faster. Race differences in brain size are present at birth. By adulthood, East Asians average 1 cubic inch more cranial capacity than Whites who average 5 cubic inches more than Blacks.

        Trans-Racial Adoption Studies. Race differences in IQ remain following adoption by White middle class parents. East Asians grow to average higher IQs than Whites while Blacks score lower. The Minnesota Trans-Racial Adoption Study followed children to age 17 and found race differences were even greater than at age 7: White children, 106; Mixed-Race children, 99; and Black children, 89.

        Racial Admixture Studies. Black children with lighter skin, for example, average higher IQ scores. In South Africa, the IQ of the mixed-race "Colored" population averages 85, intermediate to the African 70 and White 100.

        IQ Scores of Blacks and Whites Regress toward the Averages of Their Race. Parents pass on only some exceptional genes to offspring so parents with very high IQs tend to have more average children. Black and White children with parents of IQ 115 move to different averages--Blacks toward 85 and Whites to 100.

        Race Differences in Other "Life-History" Traits. East Asians and Blacks consistently fall at two ends of a continuum with Whites intermediate on 60 measures of maturation, personality, reproduction, and social organization. For example, Black children sit, crawl, walk, and put on their clothes earlier than Whites or East Asians.

        Race Differences and the Out-of-Africa theory of Human Origins. East Asian-White-Black differences fit the theory that modern humans arose in Africa about 100,000 years ago and expanded northward. During prolonged winters there was evolutionary selection for higher IQ created by problems of raising children, gathering and storing food, gaining shelter, and making clothes.

        Do Culture-Only Theories Explain the Data? Culture-only theories do not explain the highly consistent pattern of race differences in IQ, especially the East Asian data. No interventions such as ending segregation, introducing school busing, or "Head Start" programs have reduced the gaps as culture-only theory would predict.

Re:The elephant in the room. (1)

operagost (62405) | about 2 months ago | (#47647423)

I guess the only reason you haven't been modded to -1 by the PC set is because you didn't include a TL;DR version.

Re:The elephant in the room. (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 months ago | (#47647511)

There are massive differences in biochemistry, physiology and neurology in almost every area between racial groups, including brain size, skeletal structure, biochemistry, genetics, eye color, skin color, and so on, for instance Caucasians are the only racial group where most adults can digest Lactose, and this is clearly due to tens of thousands of years of divergent evolution that caused some races in cold climates to develop higher IQ and larger brain capacity.

So, are run-on sentences a racially based thing, or is that just you?

IOW, try to avoid big blocks of text - shorter sentences and paragraph structures make things easier to read, and more likely to be read.

The Rest Is White Man Keepin' Us Down (1)

Baldrson (78598) | about 2 months ago | (#47647241)

So what? Everyone knows that race is a social construct so there can't be any genetic correlations with race of social significance independent of racism's social construction.

Therefore, the racial disparities that appear in society are the result of the White Man keepin' us down! The Heterosexual White Man that is.

Open the borders!

Dumb summary: Reading and Math are not equal (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 2 months ago | (#47647269)

The Slashdot summary draws a conclusion that seems unsupported by the paper:

You may think you're better at reading than you are at math (or vice versa), but new research suggests you're probably equally good (or bad) at both.

But the paper says otherwise:

The genes that determine a person's ability to tackle one subject influence their aptitude at the other, accounting for about half of a person's overall ability.

So your score is 50% correlated, not equal. That is a really important difference! If the paper said people were equally good at math and reading, that would be a startling conclusion!

Genetics or education? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647391)

What I see here is a test where they compare two individual with the same DNA and the same education. So if you share the same DNA and the same education you are able to get the same performance.

What they did not test is if solely the DNA is really half of the learning ability or if their parents taught their kids properly how to learn even more. Learning to learn, is just another expression to say "stay calm, listen and do what you're told in the permitted limits" which is a not so simple part of a kid education.

Effect might be real, but this study is garbage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647475)

How many confounding variables are present in this data set? Do people in the biological sciences even bother to learn statistics?

This experimental design is never going to reliably yield real effects. You cannot control for the myriad of confounding factors, especially when you don't have any specific proposed mechanism for the effect in the first place. Large population-scale studies of this sort of thing are /always/ going to be polluted in this way, and anyone with any understanding of experimental design knows that this is not really worth anything.

Obviously, it's likely that there is some genetic component to learning ability (look at Ramanujan, Newton, or Galois - if you think those men were not biologically inclined toward mathematical genius, you are deluded). The nature and extent of the effect(s) will /only/ be discovered through understanding of the underlying biology. You will never figure it out through this sort of large-scale misguided data-sifting, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a lousy scientist.

Garbage in, garbage out. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47647541)

"Variance component analysis
For twin and population-level analyses, we consider a general partitioning of a quantitative phenotype Y (either reading or mathematics ability in our study) into five components Y=A+D+I+C+E, where A, D and I correspond to additive, dominance and interaction genetic effects over the whole genome, respectively, and C and E are within-family and individual environmental effects, respectively. We assume that these components are defined to be uncorrelated with each other and thus the phenotypic variance is also partitioned into five components VY=VA+VD+VI+VC+VE."

Note the start of the last sentence. Good luck justifying that assumption, especially in a data set drawn from the general population.

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