I mean, from what we understand so far of the genetics of IQ, there might be some slight differences based on ethnicity - which is nothing unexpected, as you can see the same variability for blood groups, hair color, HLA, etc.
Basically different groups of people have a different distribution of some genes than other groups of people, and therefore a show a difference in the expression of these genes that can be aggregated at the group level to show... a difference in the visible characteristics between groups. Wow, what a shocking discovery.
The really interesting thing is these genetic differences between ethnic groups are dwarfed by the difference a good upbringing (alimentation and education) can get. And since there are also promising results about the inheritability of IQ, these inter ethnic group differences might also be dwarfed by INTRA group differences.
That is the best argument if this watchdog group really want to disprove that "targetting of particular racial groups"
So instead of crying wolf, they should embrace such research- after all, when we have pinned down some alleles that confers good advantages, one can think a drug could be created, or gene therapy, or whatever - in the end, the whole human population would benefit from it.
Stop thinking about ethnicity. Only the end result matters. It's a shame people in north america and europe are such crybabies about these issues. Thanks China for taking such an endeavour that might benefit humanity - even today naysayers.
(and I say this as someone who does not believe that IQ can be accurately identified or measured with todays techniques, but still there is some noticeable difference between people innate abilities - and trying to understand causes them is a good thing. many genes are likely to be involved, and 10 000 certainly won't be enough, but it's a good start)
As a species we have considerably more experience with racial/ethnic judgement leading to suffering than leading to something beneficial.
Not to say that it's impossible, but it strikes me as very reasonable for us to argue very thoroughly about the potential implications of this kind of research. I hope we can find a way to improve life for all people. When vaccines first became available there were probably jerks like me moaning about imagined terrible consequences. But that doesn't mean every change made possible by science would necessarily be as equally beneficial.
If we find out that people from East Whateveria have a mean IQ 25 lower than the global target, does that mean we have a right or obligation to "fix" them? What if they don't want to be fixed? I'll attempt stop short of pulling a Godwin, but note that this sort of 'fix defective populations for the benefit of the whole human populations' has a mixed record.
But if by any chance I found that I had this same mutation and could take advantage of their fix, I would be interested.
If you found out say your son had the same mutation, wouldn't you be interested as well? Please note we are not taking about East Whateveria or how West Whateveria might gloat about not having this mutation. We are just talking about how oneday we might have the freedom to take such a decision for ourselves.
Because it's all about freedom, and unfortunately without having the scientific know-how it's pointless to speculate about what we might do.
This is why I support such initiatives- it will offer more possibilities, possibilities that we can only dream about now.
You assume that, I don't. At least not for enormous numbers of humans past and present.
Unfortunately, watchdog groups like to argue that having that option is detrimental. They usually conflate it with claims of "ethnic eugenics". Btw, to a large extent today you already have the ability to make genetic modifications before insemination or embryo implantation. Screening too..
If you sit down to a standardized IQ test, your score won't change because someone thinks the distribution of scores within the population is wider than someone else does.
If this were not true, people's IQ scores would change depending on the makeup of the tested population, but in fact, it's the other way around -- the statistical makeup of the population, the mean and standard deviation, depends on assessing many individual scores, each of which is immutable and unrelated to the population's overall statistics.
If your position were valid, if one person took one IQ test on a desert island, he would not be able to get a score at all, for lack of a population to give a context to the test result. But this is not how IQ testing works.
Let's simplify this. Let's say it's an arithmetic test of 200 questions of gradually increasing difficulty. An average test-taker can answer 100 of the 200 questions. A very smart person can answer 150 questions. Do you really think an individual's score depends on the average score and distribution of the population of which he is a part?
I must add that, if IQ scores really depended on the population's traits, then IQ testing would really deserve its present terrible reputation. Apropos:
Some scoring systems use an initial standardization where the standard deviation is 15 points, others use 24 points, so the same test performance can get you IQ 115 or IQ 124 depending on whose test you take.
Unless, of course, different groups of testers are using different assumptions, but without being driven by the analysis of the largest possible collection of standardized test scores. If so, it casts IQ testing into doubt as a reliable tool.
Evidence for this being a settled issue is the fact that workers in this field report a gradual increase in IQ over the decades:
If mean IQ really was adjusted to agree with current test scores, the mean would always be 100, regardless of test score changes over time.
> Some scoring systems use an initial standardization where the standard deviation is 15 points, others use 24 points, so the same test performance can get you IQ 115 or IQ 124 depending on whose test you take. [ephasis added]
The conclusion is still false -- the tests itself doesn't change, only the scoring assumptions. Those who assume σ = 15 could acquire the tests from those who assume σ = 24 and add them to their own dataset, and vice versa. Also, I have to say, either the standard deviation can't change the test scores, or the test scores have no meaning.
One more thing -- the standard deviation shouldn't be an assumption, with one group arbitrary choosing 15 and another choosing 24. The value should be derived from a large set of test scores, not a committee casting a vote.
Your argument seems to be that one's IQ score depends on the population result, along with some arbitrary assumptions like σ = 15 or σ = 24. But that's the reverse of normal statistical practice, in which the mean and standard deviation derive from test scores, not the other way around.
Obviously I'm not doubting that what you say may be so, only that it shouldn't be so -- the standard deviation shouldn't be based on anything but the analysis of a large set of standardized test scores.
I'm not making an argument about problems with the actual process of measurement, I'm making an argument that the confusion between two reported values sounds quite a lot like a confusion between two reported lengths would sound if they were of the same object, but one had been made with a centimeter ruler and another with an inch ruler, but both had been labeled just "length" in the report.
You can obviously trivially convert between the scales and convert things to the modern scale, once you know that the value you got uses the different SD value. But when the values get just thrown around as "x IQ", you don't know if they are on the old scale.
I'm not entirely sure what you think I'm arguing, but so far you've been talking about something quite different the entire time.
(*Wikipedia says there are actually three common IQ scale conventions, two psychologists had some sort of feud and one of them picked SD=16 to piss the SD=15 guy off.)
Yes, I'm not doubting that this is so, only that it shouldn't be so in a scientific endeavor. If IQ testing were purely scientific (as opposed to being partly political), all those involved in IQ testing would allow a large set of test scores in a standardized test to produce the mean and sigma values on which everyone would need to agree. In other words, an empirical outcome.
> I'm not entirely sure what you think I'm arguing, but so far you've been talking about something quite different the entire time.
Apparently so. My point is that IQ test scores must be collected on an absolute scale based on testing results, before any of the adjustments you're describing. If this weren't the case, if test outcomes depended on something other than the direct performance of the subjects measured in a uniform, reliable way, the testing procedure would be fatally undermined.
Bottom line: I doubt that changes in mean and sigma can produce two different IQ scores in a standardized test as you're claiming. For this to be true, the relationship between the population statistics and the analysis result (mean, sigma) would have to be reversed -- it would put the cart before the horse.
Imagine this conversation:
Q. How do the statistical results derive from the test scores?
A. By a straightforward procedure -- the test scores are subjected to a classical statistical analysis, resulting in a mean and standard deviation.
Q. How are the original test scores arrived at?
A. They're derived from (a) the test results, but (b) adjusted by the the mean and standard deviation values of the population created above.
Q. (after a long pause) But ... but ... doesn't that create an example of circular reasoning, in which the scores rely on the stats and the stats rely on the scores?
A. What? I'm not following you. Can you draw a picture?
A. Okay, I get it. So the statistic analysis depends on the test scores and the test scores depend on the statistical analysis. I don't see a problem with that.
Q. Have a nice day, doctor.
1) This study and others like it discover genetic components to intelligence.
2) China conducts large scale genetic analysis of the intelligentsia / upper classes etc. to find carriers
3) Strong incentives provided for couples to use IVF/embryo selection/whatever to produce children with the maximum number of these intelligence genes
4) 25+ years from now China all of a sudden has a lot more smart people than anywhere else does
More specifically, this study may publish some marginal results about genetics of extreme IQ, but any single effect will likely be so small that nothing actionable will come from it.
If (4) is the goal, I suspect they'll have much more success exploring drugs and other cognitive enhancements. What genetics can do is help inform how to discover those drugs - ie. what genes should you study.
(Shameless plug: if you like genetics and writing python, drop me an email if you want to work on studies like this!)
This has been known for a long time, but there has been no large scale, serious attempt to implement a eugenics program breeding for intelligence. I don't see how this research would change anything, successful or not, other than by getting the subject some attention in the news.
I expect it to be easier to find genetic components for intelligence than for other polygenetic traits like height -- the brain has fewer components influencing development.
What do you mean by that? I'd argue the opposite. In a sense, we already have discovered genes for high height with Marfan Syndrome.
I think IQ is orders of magnitude more complex. Awesome conversation but probably hard in an online forum, so I'll just cite my favorite example: Dickens and Flynn 
I absolutely think this study has a chance of revealing some signal, my skepticism is just that it will have any actionable conclusions. Here's a litmus test: what results would allow you to choose from a group of 10 men and 10 women, based only on genotype, which pair is most likely to have a high IQ child. And how would your power compare to just reading all their resumes?
Growth involves many systems with many types of cells interacting -- digestive, skeletal, endocrine, etc. There's a lot of complexity when you have so many systems involved.
By comparison, there are relatively few distinct types of cells in the brain, so the effects of different alleles should be more apparent. In particular, genes controlling sensitivity to and production of neurotransmitters directly impact brain function.
If they find many specific mutations that cause better performance on specific tasks (working memory, pattern matching, verbal ability, ...) it should be possible to predict high IQs.
I don't expect 100% accurate predictions, but to not find _anything_ would be surprising. Maybe that's your point-- if they only get 10% heritability, it's not really enough for breeding decisions.
I would imagine there are a number of genes that are associated with lowered intelligence. For example, one might start by looking at genes such as the Dopamine D4 receptor gene, for which the 7-repeat allele seems to be a pretty good indicator of ADHD , which in turn is associated with significantly lower IQ. Of course, chains of correlation don't always work, and that is why it would be important to have tens or preferably hundreds to thousand of things like that to look for. While it would be nice and easy to look for an "intelligence gene", that may not be feasible. However, my guess is that looking for "mild cognitive impairment" genes and then selecting the pair with the lowest number of those genes could give a rate of successful guessing well above random.
So this study, alone, would not be likely to allow you to make a prediction that's much better than random, and resumes are going to be hard to beat period (though with the resumes and the genetic data, you might be able to make better predictions). And if Zhao and his team do find a gene that correlates with increased intelligence, that will be big news (though I would not give good odds on that actually happening).
In any case, I agree that IQ is complex, but I don't think that either the "intelligence gene" hypothesis or Dickens and Flynn's hypothesis is the whole story, because identical twins raised apart still have a significant and fairly high correlation in IQ scores .
(unfortunately paywalled, though I'm sure someone will accidentally drop it if you need it).
What, exactly, would be the harm to humanity of a coming generation of hyper-intelligent Chinese nationals?
technology drives military power. Therefore, one's POV will be influenced by nationality.
Or in plain English, an American probably wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of Chinese drone airforce.
Of course, such combinatorial traits are much harder to tease out of data.
When there are thousands of possible genes to consider, there are thousands of opportunities for a gene to be "lucky" and have a coincidental correlation with intelligence in your sample. Previously published efforts have produced almost entirely false positives:
"Most Reported Genetic Associations With General Intelligence Are Probably False Positives" - http://pss.sagepub.com/content/23/11/1314
Let's hope that BGI doesn't merely torture the data until it confesses, as so many have.
Regarding Ashkenazic Jews (disclosure, I am one) and their high IQ, Jews instituted universal education until 6th grade for all males beginning 2,000 years ago -- about 1,750 years before any other ethnic group. It was required of all Jewish males to study the Old Testament and The Talmud and Jewish law since that time. It was around that time that Jewish males were encouraged to move away from agriculture to occupations that required reading, writing, and math.
The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492
Athletic ability is especially sensitive to nurture as well.
Talent is fine; most of accomplishment is application and practice. I can completely believe that Feynman had an IQ of 125. Applied with a depression-generation self-discipline, it can (did) accomplish amazing things. It's disingenious to take a counter-example to an argument and pretend its supporting that argument.
 TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson, "Do schools kill creativity".
Since it is unclear how much of IQ is determined by the "macro" structure of neurons and synapses and how much is caused by intracellular events, it is really impossible to say how much an intervention could do to increase intelligence. The current state of the nootropics field, however, is not very encouraging.
In any case, I would not pin my hopes on gene therapy. The hurdles that would be required for regulatory approval of "cosmetic" gene therapy (as this would be classified) are nearly insurmountable.
Since higher IQ (at least up to a point) correlates positively with good health and other desirable characteristics including overall happiness  would this really be considered "cosmetic"?
to qualify for inclusion in the Study of Exceptional Talent.
As another few replies have already noted, IQ is polygenic, and no one can identify any genes with a strong effect on IQ. But there are plenty of educational practices that spare a minority of United States young people the lousy elementary mathematics instruction that most receive, and the pupils who got a good start in mathematics stand out when they take a mathematics test at an unusual age, if the parents think to arrange the test.
A really good bibliography about IQ and human intelligence topics can be found at
as part of Wikipedia userspace, references to reliable sources that ought to be used by more Wikipedians to update the articles there.
Prediction: the study reported on in the article kindly submitted here will not find any genes with strong effect on IQ.
The review article Johnson, W. (2010). Understanding the Genetics of Intelligence: Can Height Help? Can Corn Oil?. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19(3), 177-182
looks at some famous genetic experiments to show how little is explained by gene frequencies even in thoroughly studied populations defined by artificial selection.
"Together, however, the developmental natures of GCA and height, the likely influences of gene-environment correlations and interactions on their developmental processes, and the potential for genetic background and environmental circumstances to release previously unexpressed genetic variation suggest that very different combinations of genes may produce identical IQs or heights or levels of any other psychological trait. And the same genes may produce very different IQs and heights against different genetic backgrounds and in different environmental circumstances. This would be especially the case if height and GCA and other psychological traits are only single facets of multifaceted traits actually under more systematic genetic regulation, such as overall body size and balance between processing capacity and stimulus reactivity. Genetic influences on individual differences in psychological characteristics are real and important but are unlikely to be straightforward and deterministic. We will understand them best through investigation of their manifestation in biological and social developmental processes."
I know the WAIS caps at 155, but the Stanford-Binet test accomodates 160+, does it not?
Maybe, maybe not. Know why there's so much uncertainty? The population of possible subjects is too small. For a population with a mean IQ of 100 and a standard deviation of 15, the proportion above 160 IQ is only 0.003%. For a population of 300 million, that's about 9500 people. And remember that choosing the subjects would be a self-referential quandary -- you need an accurate IQ test even to select the population to submit to the IQ test.
So no, there's no basis for asserting accurate measurement in that part of the IQ distribution.
Extra credit -- Marilyn Vos Savant is supposed to have an IQ of 228. Oh, really? I'm not disputing that it's possible, only that there's no way to accurately measure an IQ like that. It's not reliable science or statistics.