August 1, 2018 Meeting

Genes and Society in the News:

Articles for discussion


  • This study is a meta-analysis using the same approach as the earlier, smaller study by Okbay et al. which reported a 3.2% polygenic score. This larger study reports a score accounting for 11% of the variation in educational attainment.
  • Group asked how is this useful? How is this not getting into realm of eugenics? One claim is that polygenic score could be used to control within a randomized clinical trial setting, but controls such as reading comprehension can control for a much higher 30 -40%.
  • The effects of the non-inherited alleles may create a parental rearing environment that also leads to greater educational attainment in the progeny: Kong, A. et al. The nature of nurture: effects of parental genotypes. Science 359, 424–428 (2018).
  • Last two paragraphs do mention environment and appear socially responsible. Paper does not put much emphasis on gene by environment interactions but in these concluding paragraphs they do point out limits to the study as well as possible environment or genetic variability confounders.
  • Additionally, there is a extensive FAQ available
    (updated from the one included with the Okbay study mentioned above). The polygenic score is greatly attenuated as a predictor in a different population (African Americans) from the discovery population (Europeans).
  • They point out that the upper limit to the heritability of educational attainment is around 20% (based on twin studies?)
  • Group wondered how we would present these studies and make them approachable to non experts.
  • Flynn effect describes an increase in IQ scores of around 3 points per decade. Flynn debated Jensen. Flynn claims IQ is malleable. Causal relationships not determined.
  • This study in Norwegian population is from army recruits over 1962-1991. This covers a period of rising scores of about 3 points and falling scores, also of 3 points. The dysgenic effect was a hypothesis to explain falling scores.
  • Premise for this study is that environment including dysgenic effects are less likely to account for changes in the IQ scores over time if pattern of IQ changes can be demonstrated within families. This is based on a correlation of relative higher IQ difference between older and younger brothers in times where the general population IQ is rising; and a lesser IQ difference in periods where the general population IQ is falling.
  • Group discussed and questioned reliability of IQ testing in general, re culture and language of origin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *