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Genomic Analyses of Modern Dog Breed Development (cell.com)
81 points by fern12 on July 6, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments



The high and highly detailed predictability of individual dog behavior from breed alone is interesting and, particularly given many breeds' relative youth, heavily weights the nature/nurture debate in the former's favor for me.


.. for dogs. Don't let that encourage you to over-generalise about humans.


Why should it not also be the case with humans? Sure sure, our environment, development, nutrition, family bonding, etc, all has an effect on our intelligence.

Dog breeding is just a euphemism for eugenics.

Presumably all domestic dogs are descendents of one species of wild dog, so given that:

Give me ~12,000 years and I'm willing to bet I can give you a breed of super intelligent humans (Border Collies) and a breed dumb dumbs (Bulldogs).


I don't doubt that you could succeed in breeding humans, but I think that there are two ENORMOUS roadblocks that ought to be mentioned:

1. The Ethics Problem. Puppy mills are still around and still bad, and breeders in the past probably did some pretty terrible things to their dogs, but the human analog of the work performed by even the most humane dog breeders would still be a terrible travesty of the most basic human rights. Maybe I'm not creative enough or open-minded enough, but I can't conceive of a way to do this ethically.

2. The Nurture Option. A well-trained bulldog can be a much, much better dog than an untrained border collie. And one person can accomplish this training with a dog in a few years. Why spend 12,000 years breeding humans instead of putting a bit more effort into training the perfectly serviceable brains that we already have?

I tried to find some statistics to back up the latter point. The US spends about 2.7%, or 102 billion of the 3800 billion federal budget, on education. States average about 30% of their budgets, or (very roughly) 550 billion of the 1850 billion sum of state budgets, on education. A further complication is that much of education funding is done using local property taxes, which vary wildly by location, but are generally similar to the sum of federal and state funding. This is a total of about 1.2 trillion in education funding. Honestly, that compares pretty favorably to a 19 trillion GDP. And it ignores all the extremely important effort and money spent by parents to educate their children, and private spending on post-secondary education.


>>The Nurture Option. A well-trained bulldog can be a much, much better dog than an untrained border collie. And one person can accomplish this training with a dog in a few years. Why spend 12,000 years breeding humans instead of putting a bit more effort into training the perfectly serviceable brains that we already have?

The cynic in me says that's exactly what's been done with humans. The school system in the United States was created, in large part, to train factory workers and be obedient citizens.


The trajectory of eugenic dog breeding is not one I would wish on my own species. https://dogbehaviorscience.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/100-year... It's sobering that the problem lies less in methodology, but in the caprices of the breeders. Even modern molecular techniques are susceptible to the problem of goal alignment.


2. The problem here is that you can't train a bulldog to herd sheep. You can't train a poodle to be a livestock guardian.

Much of what working dogs do is pre-programmed. It's instinctive. Very little (if any) training is required.

Why try to train things to be things they were not already designed to be? It's FAR more efficient to breed the traits and instinct you want into a breed.


Are you trying to make some kind of analogy to humans being limited to a certain skill set because of genetics? I hope I just reading too much into your reply to this thread.

Anyways, you can train poodles to be livestock guardians. http://www.vipoodle.org/HRP/VIP_herdingpoodles.html


Are you implying that every human can do everything equally well? Talent is a thing. I wouldn't beat Usain Bolt no matter how much I trained.


No, but I'm not implying that you can't train up to the 95% percentile. Not every dog can be Balthazar[1], but almost every single dog can be trained to sit. Not every human can be Albert Einstein, but almost every single one of them can learn Calculus.

[1]http://metro.co.uk/2017/04/23/britains-biggest-dog-is-7ft-an...


> Are you trying to make some kind of analogy to humans being limited to a certain skill set because of genetics?

Of course I am. Do you think anyone can be a great basketball player?

Trying to pretend that all races are "the same" is blindness.


That we pit nature against nurture has within it the implicit assumption that what "nature" gives nurture can't change.

DNA is mechanistic in how it operates. Its power comes from our ignorance of the way it affects us. When we know how it works we're able to get in there and change our destiny. "Nature" and "nurture" aren't opposites, they're tightly integrated. To the extent they seem distinct it's because we are ignorant of how they relate in specific instances.

E.g. we might find that a particular gene is highly correlated with the early onset of kidney disease/failure. "Oh no!" says the person who finds out that they have a (say) 90% probability of kidney failure in before they're 60. What if, however, the entire reason that this gene led to kidney failure was because it decreased a person's desire to drink water? Low water consumption then led to stones leading to kidney disease. Given this information, the impact of the gene on kidney failure in an individual is entirely negated, because they can internally correct and just choose to drink more water.

This same line of reasoning can apply to intelligence: what if our genes code not for some mysterious magical "competence", but instead for a predisposition to find certain things interesting? And what if we're able to make the right things interesting in the right way? This enables us to significantly diminish the impact of those genes, too.

Similarly with dogs -- the impact of genes as an animal grows from being a baby to an adult is not on eventual outcome, it's on development. Some dogs are less trainable because they're less food motivated. What if, during the dog's development, we could slightly restrict access to food, and grow in the dog the desire for it? Now the dog is more trainable.


You would want the breeding option in addition to the nurture option. Nurture can certainly help in reaching the full potential of a dog, but the maximum is almost certainly limited by genetics ("talent").


> Dog breeding is just a euphemism for eugenics.... Give me ~12,000 years and I'm willing to bet I can give you a breed of super intelligent humans (Border Collies) and a breed dumb dumbs (Bulldogs).

Of course it is a euphemism, but 12 millennia is not enough. First of all dogs can breed at about a year while humans need about 12X the time. Though that alone isn't as bad as you might think; most of the modern breeds are very modern -- less than a couple of hundred years old. And even if you look at older photographs of dogs you'll see that they have changed a lot recently.

However that reflects the second, larger problem, which is that Canidae exhibit an extraordinarily high degree of phenotypic plasticity. You would have a hard time adapting any animal to the degree exhibited by dogs. All our modern food and working plants and animals have been subject to human selection but none show anything close to the degree of specialization that dogs do. Not even parasites; the closest I know if is lice (e.g. pediculus humanus capitis vs pthirus pubis) or the influenza virus.


humans need about 12X the time

That's a great point. I might need to be less enthusiastic about my bet in the future.

Canidae exhibit an extraordinarily high degree of phenotypic plasticity.

Another great point. I'll further revise down my odds. I've often wondered about this. How has it come about that Chihuahua and Great Danes are both Canis lupus familiaris?

Do we have any idea why dog exhibit extraordinarily high phenotypic plasticity?


I know there's been quite a bit of literature on this specific subject recently but I'm afraid I don't follow it, sorry.


Note that you're answering a different question than the original comment in this chain: "can we breed for human traits, including intelligence?" versus "is the behaviour of dogs/humans/animal species AS THEY ARE RIGHT NOW more skewed towards nature or nurture?"

Nature/nurture is not a yes/no question, but one of ratios. Nurture inherently reflects the ability to learn things that are not innate - so the more intelligent a species is, the more room there is for nurture.

With that in mind, arguing that any other species is more skewed towards nature than nurture compared to humans is stating the obvious, comparable to saying "because of genetics you cannot train a dog to grow up to become an elephant."

This however does not state anything about what that nature/nurture ratio is among humans.


In 800 years you can get a population to a mean IQ of 112 (+1 standard deviation)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashkenazi_Jewish_intelligence


...without trying too hard


I'm sure you could breed "super intelligent humans" but I wonder what unintended consequences would be introduced.

My own border collie as a child had to be put down because he would not stop worrying livestock on nearby farms.


I feel a visceral reaction to your last sentence.

Did it not occur to you that perhaps your Border Collie could be adopted away from farm animals, to a person who could afford it the time to train it to be focused and calm around people and animals.

Perhaps I misunderstand something about the circumstances?


Possibly, but I was 6 at the time.


But let this encourage you any time:

https://www.gwern.net/Mistakes#genetics-links


Beautiful cladogram


woof


On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.


Unless it's HN, then everyone knows.


sub-woof

(i mean literally)




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