December 01, 2009
Human Genetic Revelations Coming In 2010

Writing in The Economist Geoffrey Miller says in 2010 human genetic research results will show some politically incorrect beliefs about human nature are correct. Looking ahead to 2010 and beyond I am reminded of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's 5 stages of death. I think these apply to beliefs as well.

Human geneticists have reached a private crisis of conscience, and it will become public knowledge in 2010. The crisis has depressing health implications and alarming political ones. In a nutshell: the new genetics will reveal much less than hoped about how to cure disease, and much more than feared about human evolution and inequality, including genetic differences between classes, ethnicities and races.

Miller says the political earth-shaking data has been collected and is in the publication pipeline for Nature Genetics and other leading research publications. This is a case where the future is happening faster than I expected. I've been writing posts filed under my Biotech Advance Rates chronicling the rapid decline in costs for genetic testing and DNA sequencing. The price drops have been in the orders of magnitude and were even faster than I was optimistically hoping for. With the cost of full genome sequencing below $10k and headed soon below $1k the amount of DNA sequencing data has turned into a flood. Hence the resulting flood of research papers.

DNA chips have enabled cheap comparison of lots of people for DNA sequence variations associated with physical and behavioral (e.g. criminal, personality types, behavioral problems) traits.

About five years ago, genetics researchers became excited about new methods for “genome-wide association studies” (GWAS). We already knew from twin, family and adoption studies that all human traits are heritable: genetic differences explain much of the variation between individuals. We knew the genes were there; we just had to find them. Companies such as Illumina and Affymetrix produced DNA chips that allowed researchers to test up to 1m genetic variants for their statistical association with specific traits. America’s National Institutes of Health and Britain’s Wellcome Trust gave huge research grants for gene-hunting. Thousands of researchers jumped on the GWAS bandwagon. Lab groups formed and international research consortia congealed. The quantity of published GWAS research has soared.

The DNA chips can only test for known variations and it is my impression (someone correct me if I'm wrong) that the DNA chips can only check for single letter differences - not large copy variations. But the plunging costs for full genome sequencing will enable pretty much all genetic differences to be compared and we can expect even bigger discoveries in 2011, 2012, and out years.

A lot of people are going to be upset by the truth about human nature and for a number of reasons. Certainly people who want others to think of all humans as equal aren't going to like seeing tons of details about our innate inequality reaching the mainstream. Also, the discovery of a long list of genetic differences that cause behavioral differences will reduce the extent to which we can think of ourselves as possessing free will. Implications for criminal justice arise. If some guy can be shown to be innately criminal then why let him free in civilization?

I expect cheap genetic testing to change mating practices in many ways. For example, someone who wants a faithful spouse could surreptitiously test a potential mate for genes that contribute to marital infidelity. The gene AVPR1a also influences altruism and monogamy. Mates might also be selected based on genes that influence trust-related behavior.

I expect online dating services will compare genetic profiles to allow people to find mates who have desired genes. I expect online dating services to start doing genetic comparisons by 2015 if not sooner. I also expect more women will opt to use sperm donors once they are in a position to compare the genetic profiles of guys who are willing to raise kids with them to the best genetic profiles for sperm bank donors. Already more single women are using sperm donors. Detailed information about the benefits and downsides of each man's DNA will heighten competition and, as a result, evolution will accelerate.

Parenthetically, Miller is an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico and author of some useful and insightful books about human nature. I am currently reading his book Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior and can highly recommend it. The book will make you more aware of your own instinctive desires for higher status and help you restrain your desires to buy things to demonstrate higher status. As Miller reports, research into status signals finds that guys who buy Rolexes, fancy cars, and other status symbols overestimate the status-boosting effects these goods will have on others. My advice: Spend less on status symbols and save your money to spend on the first rejuvenation therapies. They aren't coming as soon as the genetic truth about human nature. But rejuvenation therapies are coming.

Update: What I want to know: Will Leftists once again embrace eugenics? Or perhaps will both the Left and Right split into new rival camps over selective breeding of future generations of humans? New moral issues (at least new to the larger public) can reveal differences within existing factions.

I expect eugenic breeding practices to widen the differences between nations and cultures as different groupings make different decisions on average about offspring genetic endowments. If for some reason we are not replaced by robots or nanobots I expect the human race to splinter into new and not entirely compatible species.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 December 01 08:49 AM  Brain Genetics


Comments
dlp said at December 1, 2009 9:27 AM:

Sounds like the genetic research is of several magnitudes of complexity and comprehensiveness of results compared to the (relatively) crude one-dimensional statistical analysis of IQ data presented by Murray and Herrnstein a decade and a half ago that nevertheless ignited a firestorm over issues of race and culture.

The GWAS scientists and their conclusions (if similarly controversial) may not be so easily dismissed as Murray.

Blinker said at December 1, 2009 11:12 AM:

Genetic dating services! Great idea. More science fiction that is becoming reality? We'll have to see.

Scientists can keep politically incorrect ideas under wraps for decades. Just ask Phil Jones and Michael Mann how. All you need to do is to get the media's acquiescence in the coverup, and get politicians and celebrities on the side of politically correct censorship.

Brian said at December 1, 2009 11:32 AM:

The long term effects may be even more interesting, especially coupled with increasing use of sperm donors.

Does this have the potential to increase selectivity for intelligence? Within which sections of society might that happen? Might society stratify even further than it is today? What are the political and social implications two or three generations or more hence?

I say two or three because I'm not sure it will matter after another 60 years. We are likely to be facing even more interesting challenges and opportunities.

James Bowery said at December 1, 2009 1:09 PM:

Well, all I can say is: Boas and company owe us a "do-over" on the 20th century.

not anon or anonymous said at December 1, 2009 3:01 PM:

The flip side is that uncovering the genetic roots of these traits also makes them more amenable to treatment and improvement. Many Mendelian diseases can be treated simply by artificial supplementation of a single enzyme or protein, and the same might partly be true of these genetic differences between "classes" and income levels.

Marky Mark said at December 1, 2009 3:31 PM:

A commentator over at Steve Sailor's blog made the point that there has been overwhelming evidence for gender & ethnic group differences for all to see for a long time but as a society we have simply ignored it. I don't see why genetic evidence will be any different. In the 19th century gender and group differences were taken for granted and were rejected gradually over the 20th century for well meaning but ultimately political reasons.

The evidence will be attacked viciously, spun and then ignored.


kurt9 said at December 1, 2009 4:33 PM:

DNA testing checks for the resultant proteins. Most DNA does not code for protein. It codes for regulatory mechanism that are not shown by the existing tests. We need new testing technology that can test for the regulatory mechanisms as well.

th said at December 1, 2009 6:15 PM:

"will the leftists embrace eugenics?"
From their standpoint, it sure beats a meritocracy, where they would have to face all those idiots they elevated by their guilt and make nervous wrecks out of them if they actually had to prove their worth, particularly in the area of ivy league education.

Randall Parker said at December 1, 2009 6:24 PM:

kurt9,

Lots of SNPs in non-expressed regions have been identified and found to have effects on phenotypes. So I do not understand your statement.

Mthson said at December 2, 2009 2:59 AM:

"The evidence will be attacked viciously, spun and then ignored."

That doesn't matter, because this time realists can just use reprogenetics for their own advantage. The leftists and supernaturalists in up-and-coming generations won't see why they should turn off half of their brain whenever someone says "genetics."

When we can finally elevate the left half of the bell cure, everybody wins.

John Gordon said at December 2, 2009 5:53 AM:

Clearly it's time for a leftie-commie-pinko perspective.

Firstly I imagine several of the above correspondents believe the evidence will bless their particular tribe. Unless they are South Korean women they may be disappointed.

Secondly there have been many cycles of hype and retrenchment in genomics. I can recall about four personally. This will be less than you expect.

Lastly, and above all, there is a misunderstanding among some of the above respondents. My comrades and I do not say that "all men are created equal" (which meant in the eyes of the law, but I digress). We say things like "from each according to their strength, to each according to their need". Whether that need is by genes, environment, trauma or bad habits matters not. If science were to tell us that white men are hopelessly inclined to mistreat children, we would be obliged to aid them rather than curse them.

Lono said at December 2, 2009 8:27 AM:

John,

Your compassion for the Human race makes me sick!

Your genes will be the first removed from the pool when tshtf!!!

Mthson said at December 2, 2009 10:12 AM:

"Firstly I imagine several of the above correspondents believe the evidence will bless their particular tribe. Unless they are South Korean women they may be disappointed."

Some commentators might hold tribalistic views, but overall, most advocates of human biodiversity go with the picture presented by the Nobel Prize record, in which the Ashkenazi average is the most skewed. Last I read, estimates were that US Jews were 18x overrepresented among US Nobel Prize winners (36%) relative to their proportion of the US population (2%). (Source)

Good. That's what happens when you select for cognitive ability. For the general background to that topic, see http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/002812.html.

philw1776 said at December 2, 2009 12:20 PM:

There is a credibility danger here. Like all new discoveries of scientific knowlege unfortunately it is probable that some subset of newly touted 'facts' will later turn out to be incorrect. Due to the PC volitility of anything gender, ethnic or race based any such errors will be siezed upon as proof that the entire enterprise is fataly flawed. Best to make haste slowly with not just peer review but with completely independent verification of controversial claims. We all know of the instances of outright fraud in biological science. Unlike with the flawed insular methodologies of Climate Science, no faux intellectual property claims should be allowed to inhibit outside verification of controversial discovery claims.

The next decade will be very exciting for biological science. Like with computing pre-WWW, we may be astounded at the unanticipated societal implications taken for granted in 2020.

James Bowery said at December 3, 2009 2:22 PM:

John Gordon, the reason I say Boas and company (including commie pinkos like Gould and Lewontin) owe us a do-over of the 20th century is because you guys basically made it so that we couldn't solve the humanitarian problems you profess to care about so deeply.

You did it by imposing a new theocracy's pseudo-science. Justifying it by pointing to prior cases of opposing pseudo-science does not excuse you or your ilk.

History will be much kinder to Hitler than to you folks and that doesn't mean it will be kind to Hitler.

not anon or anonymous said at December 3, 2009 2:51 PM:

From the BBC: a drug therapy might reverse cognitive impairment in Down syndrome. This is why the genetics of "normal" human variation is important: once we know which genes are responsible for which human traits, we can track down the effects of each gene and address any detrimental effects with drugs and/or somatic gene therapy.

Compared with the actual research outlook, the "political concerns" mentioned by Miller stand out as incredibly petty and trifling. They are eerily reminiscent of the way Lysenkoism set back agronomics and genetics in the USSR by decades.

Mthson said at December 3, 2009 4:15 PM:

"History will be much kinder to Hitler than to you folks."

Folks who denied genetics were motivated by pro-social impulses - they were just betrayed by the limits of human cognition - so that comment sounds like unnecessarily succumbing to Godwin's Law.

Russell said at December 4, 2009 1:34 PM:

man.. this is bs. i dont care how many space ships u can build or sports u can play the labor of the human history has always been hijacked by the dominating heirarchical structures of the time. Genuis means nothing in the face of injustice. Science is far from being free of class intrest. I can already see the bS data gathered from "aftrer the fact" research infuencing deluded aspirations of greatness. the real tragedy is that any real difrences in geneological developement in diffrent culture will not be used to exemplyfy what's wrong with capitalism and the state but to further prove that we need it. What possible good could such inane conclusion from statistical difrences in groups of people possibly offer anyone other than theres something wrong with our value system?

Bob Badour said at December 4, 2009 4:54 PM:

There's clearly something wrong with your value system. Socialism is a disaster responsible for 100 million plus murders in the last century or so, while capitalism has driven standards of living to heights unimaginable 70 years ago.

James Bowery said at December 5, 2009 9:30 AM:

Mthson writes: "Folks who denied genetics were motivated by pro-social impulses"

No they weren't. They were motivated by pro-Jewish paranoiac impulses without regard to the wider implications on humanity not to mention the actual long-term impact on Jews themselves. High verbal IQ doesn't mean people won't do incredibly stupid things with their intelligence.

Mthson said at December 5, 2009 4:20 PM:

Research on Jewish intelligence (and Asian intelligence) is pretty uncontroversial compared to research on non-Asian minority intelligence, so it seems like the driving factor in Leftist's aversion to genetics is exactly what it looks like: socialism's concern for social justice and human rights, rather than Jewish anxiety.

I know far too many non-Jewish liberals with a natural (i.e. genetic temperament) aversion to genetics/reductionism to think it's a Jewish thing.

elitist said at December 6, 2009 6:41 AM:

Progs. should be developing a new discourse on race difference BEFORE the shit really hits the fan.

I am willing to help, have writen a good manifesto:

"Rediscovering Human Biodiversity – And Completing Darwin’s Revolution:
A Call for a Progressive Discourse on Racial Difference"

which should be posted somewhere prominently and debated.

The "Boasian interregnum" (good, huh? you are welcome, now let's get it into circulation, please) on race is almost over because of the onslaught of new genetic knowledge, and the truth will get out eventually despite all the censorship.

The core issue that matters politically is not subtle differences in temperament or lovemaking styles between chinese and europeans, or between germans and italians.

It is instead simply the massive and persistent cognitive underperformance by certain racial minorities (and mainly blacks) in 1st world countries like the US and their absolutely amazing propensity for violence and social chaos. The institutional structures put into place (quotas etc.) to cope have become entrenched but will lose their legitimacy once the news gets out.

That is why it is the core left/right issue, why progs are so terrified: we have staked EVERYTHING on the myth of racial sameness/cognitive equality.

Subtract this issue, and human biodiversity becomes an amusing side issue (can orientals really sit still longer? is that why they invented meditation??)

Laughin Jack said at December 6, 2009 5:59 PM:

As someone with a genetic disease this research is great. I only hope it is not interfered with, or slowed down by, politically correct stupidity. Also, commies are funny when they try to be taken seriously.

trent telenko said at December 6, 2009 8:16 PM:

>>The evidence will be attacked viciously, spun and then ignored.


Cheap genetic screening is a technological killer application & social/cultural Roe v Wade that will be used by someone, somewhere, thus everyone, everywhere, will follow.

The US and other nation's military's will genetically screen for desired traits in soldiers in terms of dealing with stress, ability to maintain alertness, and other factors. The implications and advantages for getting good pilots, special forces troops and other combat specialists is simply too high to put up with PC academic cant.

Small businesses and dating services will to the same, whatever the implications for Federal civil rights or the Americans With Disabilities Act.

This is one where too many people can gain too much economic and genetic advantages for any political/legal force to stop.

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