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(see "The Blank Slate")

The book The Blank Slate was published almost a decade ago


and research has moved on. The chapter in The Blank Slate that has the most to do with heritability of cognitive abilities is largely based, as author Steven Pinker acknowledges in his bibliographic references, on the work of Eric Turkheimer. But Turkheimer has revised his point of view in the last decade, and if Pinker is still reading Turkheimer's writings, Pinker should too. I'll recommend here two articles from Turkheimer's faculty web page


that more readers of Pinker's book ought to know about, to bring their understanding of human behavioral genetics up to date.

Johnson, Wendy; Turkheimer, Eric; Gottesman, Irving I.; Bouchard Jr., Thomas (2009). Beyond Heritability: Twin Studies in Behavioral Research. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 4, 217-220


is an interesting paper that includes the statement "Moreover, even highly heritable traits can be strongly manipulated by the environment, so heritability has little if anything to do with controllability. For example, height is on the order of 90% heritable, yet North and South Koreans, who come from the same genetic background, presently differ in average height by a full 6 inches (Pak, 2004; Schwekendiek, 2008)."

Another interesting paper,

Turkheimer, E. (2008, Spring). A better way to use twins for developmental research. LIFE Newsletter, 2, 1-5


admits the disappointment of behavioral genetics researchers.

"But back to the question: What does heritability mean? Almost everyone who has ever thought about heritability has reached a commonsense intuition about it: One way or another, heritability has to be some kind of index of how genetic a trait is. That intuition explains why so many thousands of heritability coefficients have been calculated over the years. Once the twin registries have been assembled, it’s easy and fun, like having a genoscope you can point at one trait after another to take a reading of how genetic things are. Height? Very genetic. Intelligence? Pretty genetic. Schizophrenia? That looks pretty genetic too. Personality? Yep, that too. And over multiple studies and traits the heritabilities go up and down, providing the basis for nearly infinite Talmudic revisions of the grand theories of the heritability of things, perfect grist for the wheels of social science.

"Unfortunately, that fundamental intuition is wrong. Heritability isn’t an index of how genetic a trait is. A great deal of time has been wasted in the effort of measuring the heritability of traits in the false expectation that somehow the genetic nature of psychological phenomena would be revealed. There are many reasons for making this strong statement, but the most important of them harkens back to the description of heritability as an effect size. An effect size of the R2 family is a standardized estimate of the proportion of the variance in one variable that is reduced when another variable is held constant statistically. In this case it is an estimate of how much the variance of a trait would be reduced if everyone were genetically identical. With a moment’s thought you can see that the answer to the question of how much variance would be reduced if everyone was genetically identical depends crucially on how genetically different everyone was in the first place."

I've enjoyed learning about this line of research from several well known behavioral geneticists, including some of the doyens of twin research, as I participate in the journal club in individual differences psychology and behavioral genetics


at the university where those researchers are based. There is always lively discussion on what the data show, and what the data don't show. Thus far, there are no data to show that poor people are poor solely because they lack academic ability (and anyway studies show




that poverty is a meaningful disadvantage even for high-ability young people).

Nor is there any predictable limit on how much poor people might be able to use their abilities, whatever their current ability level, to improve their condition in life if the undeniable disadvantages of lacking money were alleviated.

If you want a modern reference on the heritability of intelligence, read Paul Thompson from UCLA:


He and his colleagues can predict IQ from a 3D brain scan, a concrete dataset of voxels; it is not just about correlations between relatives any more.

Read his numerous papers and those of his peers; the heritability of intelligence is an empirical, easily verifiable fact based on direct scientific measurement. The observed associations between brain structure, inheritance, intelligence, and income exist even if one refuses to look at them.

A press release? I'm a lot more familiar with the relevant peer-reviewed literature than that.

The self-promoted study you kindly linked has many of the usual problems with study design


common in studies cited by the popular press about IQ. Try again when you can cite something meaningful, better peer-reviewed, and more on point to the subject of this thread (causes of poverty).

Thompson's work is peer-reviewed. Of course, that does not mean it does not fall into some of the experimental issues pointed out by Norvig. His works certainly has no link with poverty.

You paste that link over and over again. I do not think it means what you think it means. And if you look at Thompson's 200+ papers, including the linked one that is the subject of the press release, you might be enlightened.

For whatever ideological reason you've convinced yourself that genes have nothing to do with brains, intelligence, or wealth.

IQ tests don't measure anything in particular unfortunately.

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