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Genetic Engineering Intelligence

  1. Jan 31, 2009 #1
    I came across this article a while ago


    which essentially says that a decade ago researchers in Princeton genetically engineered mice to be smarter (demonstrated by their ability to solve mazes faster and remember objects better).

    To what extent can something similar to this be done to humans so as to make our own species more intelligent, given today's technology?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 1, 2009 #2
    There may be promising ways to use neuroscience to increase intelligence... I don't think NR2B likely to be one of them though. There are too many reasons not to want to mess with NMDA...
  4. Feb 2, 2009 #3
    What I actually had in mind was that rather than doing something risky like introducing new genes into the human genome we could simply see what alleles are correlated with high intelligence (high IQ test scorers, top researchers in academia, etc.) and then engineer a human who has the optimal combination of alleles (as the statistics dictate). Nothing abnormal should happen except possibly the existence of a human who possesses intellect vastly superior to that of anyone else on the planet.
  5. Feb 3, 2009 #4

    jim mcnamara

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    If what you want were all that simple, and ethical, then it would have been doable early on and people like the ones in the eugenics movement would have been able to create super-smart folks. Did not happen.

    One of the consequences of selecting for one group of traits is the possibility of a hitherto non-problematic recessive trait becoming an issue. Dog breeders have run into this. In the pursuit of 'conformance' to breed standards we now have hip dyplasias in German Sherherds, blindness in Dalmatians, and so on. We could end up with supersmart people who could not grow their own food, for example. :) -- because they could not walk out into the fields.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2009
  6. Feb 3, 2009 #5
    My concern is that there may be some simple things that can be done that are not because of moral reasoning that I do not agree with.

    Can't the issue you've mentioned be remedied by performing less manipulation to reduce the risk, and isn't it unlikely to begin with?
  7. Feb 4, 2009 #6


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    What we're seeing in the newly revised "head start" program is that children who are exposed to stimuli regarding music, literature, math and other subjects on a one on one basis... with reward initiatives included... are showing development of the alleles associated with high intelligence etc... So the engineering involved is really on the outside and has to do with teaching methods and tutoring as well as catching children at a young age. Nutrition is also a factor in "turning on" the "brainiac" alleles in human children. No injections of specific whale or spider genes encased in retro-viruses required.

    Here's an event you may want to attend.

  8. Feb 4, 2009 #7
    You can ensure that a chimp has excellent brain development too, it still won't be able to learn anywhere near as well as the average human. Likewise no amount of nurturing will turn the average child into a brilliant one.

    Brain development is important and I think most parents do a decent enough job of raising their children in that sense. While there is definitely room for improvement it won't amount to anything close to what I'm suggesting might.
  9. Feb 4, 2009 #8


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    Do you have any proof of what you're suggesting?
  10. Feb 4, 2009 #9
    Can you state what it is you want proof of explicitly? There's more than one thing you could be referring to..
  11. Feb 4, 2009 #10


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    Let me put it this way...

    you said

    You are suggesting what procedure? And what proof do you have that this procedure will raise the IQ or the intelligence of humans in general?
  12. Feb 4, 2009 #11
    The procedure is mentioned in the third post of this thread. I don't really understand what there is to prove, its been shown that intelligence is strongly dictated by genetics and there have been genes correlated with high IQ scores and other indications of high intelligence. Its natural to conclude that these genes affect the functioning of the brain in some positive way and that a person with these genes will be more intelligent.
  13. Feb 4, 2009 #12


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    Yes, thank you.

    You say

    "Introducing new genes" to the human population is easy to suggest. Are you going to lace everyones cornflakes with them? What is the procedure? What I am pointing out, with interventionist programs like Head Start, is that there is a more practical, proven and less complicated way of raising levels of intellect in a population. Plus... the head start program is proven to have raised the number and activity of alleles specific to higher intelligence in %100 of those who received the program. So far I haven't seen proof that genetic engineering can do the same. And that's what I'm asking you to show us. Thanks.
  14. Feb 5, 2009 #13
    I already explained why I'm not interested in Head Start and it is really not relevant to this thread. The article I linked to in my first post is an example of how genetic engineering can do more than 'environmental engineering'. You can look into the procedure yourself.
  15. Feb 5, 2009 #14


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    You mean the article that states it "may be possible":

    He's right about that. The interactions between genes are hugely complex and never as easy to predict as one might imagine.

    This kind of intervention, if its ever going to be effective at all, is a long way off. If education, nurturing and nutrition etc... are neglected in the mean time there will probably be even less chance of it happening in the future.

    I like the idea of a gene therapy for dementia mind you. These patients are mostly gone as it is, so any attempts to bring them back into a more cognizant state of mind would, no doubt, be welcomed. Thank you.
  16. Feb 5, 2009 #15
    Good, now read post #3.
  17. Feb 5, 2009 #16


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    I think I'll wait for the movie.
  18. Feb 5, 2009 #17
    So, ever hear of taurine's effects on cognition, memory, and preservation of both at old age, on mice?
  19. Feb 6, 2009 #18
  20. Feb 11, 2009 #19
    i can only speak from an american perspective on this. i dont completely agree with your concept of 'no amount of nurturing will turn the average child into a brilliant one'. the reason i dont agree is that here in america there are so many things working against kids.

    first, most parents really have no education in nutrition, so as the child grows up they are forced to learn with a brain made out of McCheeseburgers. you are quite literally what you eat. most people consume incredible amounts of refined table salt which often contains anti-caking agents, some of which are aluminum based (which has a possible link to alzheimers). when i read that it made a lot of sense to me. everyone is always complaining about their memory now days, and what is in almost everything and everyones diet? "salt". since moving to sea salt i have noticed an improvement in my own memory, and now when i come across refined salt my body reacts to it in a toxic way. this is all my own speculation, but i wouldnt be surprised if this is validated one day. i wont even go into the thousands of chemical additives that we consume and their possible effects.

    moving on.. the next big strike against children is our public school system. the curriculum is pretty sad and most of the teachers are nothing but drones working from the text book with no real passion for the subject. so how can the children really get into it?

    third, just like "you are what you eat" "you are what you think" and there are so many distractions polluting minds today. trash tv and video games to name the big ones. the more trash you fill your mind with, the less clearly you can focus on the good stuff. i know this first hand. people like mozart grew up with parents that didnt allow distractions and kept them focused on something. this in combination with a passion for music and perhaps above average dexterity is what i think generates a 'child prodigy'. calling him a musical genius is purely subjective as i dont personally care for his music so i would never define him as such. genetics dont have much to do with it.

    i could go on and on with those three points but i think that should be clear enough. so what we are left with are the few people blessed with really smart parents. i think it has more to do with how they raise their children and what information they pass on and in what manner, rather than the genes they pass on. also, i think a big part of it is what bad genes arent being passed on. blah blah blah, im done ;p
  21. Feb 11, 2009 #20
    Those are all super idealistic points of view. Furthermore, America is anything but bad for kids; we have an education system, the ability to feed our people, and a way to keep our people entertained. Despite how much you dislike entertainment in anything beyond "fruitful endeavors", I want to disagree with you on how its trivial. I grew up on video games, furthermore, most of the PhD students I see, grew up on video games. I know for a fact that the people struggling in my science classes haven't played as much video games as I have (I can brag about getting 20 hours into a game after a slow weekend). The reason is that video games, and other forms of entertainment, are intellectually stimulating. Infact, I'd like to say that playing something like Valkyrie Profile is more intellectually stimulating than general chemistry. It's video games that thought me trial and error learning, perseverance, and problem solving; not some jerk pontificating passionately about a subject in front of me in a classroom environment.
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