Here's the opener to my My Oct 22, 2012, column at at the New York Times:
Few of us are as smart as we’d like to be. You’re sharper than Jim (maybe) but dull next to Jane. Human intelligence varies. And this matters, because smarter people generally earn more money, enjoy better health, raise smarter children, feel happier and, just to rub it in, live longer as well.
Other genetic factors may be at work: A report last year concluded that several hundred gene variants taken together seemed to account for 40 to 50 percent of the differences in intelligence among the 3,500 subjects in the study. But the authors couldn’t tell which of these genes created any significant effect. And when they tried to use the genes to predict differences in intelligence, they could account for only 1 percent of the differences in I.Q.
“If it’s this hard to find an effect of just 1 percent,” Robert Plomin, a professor of behavioral genetics at King’s College London, told New Scientist, “what you’re really showing is that the cup is 99 percent empty.”
But is the genetic cup really empty, or are we just looking for the wrong stuff? Kevin Mitchell, a developmental neurogeneticist at Trinity College Dublin, thinks the latter. In an essay he published in July on his blog, Wiring the Brain, Dr. Mitchell proposed that instead of thinking about the genetics of intelligence, we should be trying to parse “the genetics of stupidity,” as his title put it. We should look not for genetic dynamics that build intelligence but for those that erode it.
Read the whole thing at the Times.