Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Genetic Influences

I have often wished there were some way of requiring social scientists to raise at least two children past the age of eight before they are allowed to teach or do research.  It would give them a healthy respect for how much genetics matters.

Today's question:  Social sciences usually means psychology, anthropology, sociology, and education.  Should we include history or economics in that discussion?


Laura said...

I think it would need to be: raised at least two adopted children past age 8, or be adopted themselves and then meet their birth family. I know plenty of people who think that, say, their kids are good readers because of all the effort the parents took in reading to them as babies and young children. It never occurs to them that they're good readers because 1) they have the mental horsepower to keep up with basically any writer's thought stream without heavy effort, and 2) they're free of any physical/emotional condition which would make sitting still and focusing on the page difficult/impossible.

But imagine if reading in English was as mentally difficult for you as, say, reading in French after two years of high school language class-- you could make it out for simple things, but with effort, and you would lose the train of thought as soon as the writer did something "artsy" or complicated. Or, if sitting down to read felt like being forced to crouch uncomfortably, or there were constant distractions (noise, light, etc.) You wouldn't read for fun, you wouldn't be a "good" reader, regardless of how much your parents read to you.

Texan99 said...

The word "science" has a pretty loose definition. Its hard definition--a discipline susceptible to the scientific method--would exclude most of what's done in the social sciences and, frankly, medicine. Its soft definition is more like "concentrated and systematic study," which could include nearly anything you like.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Interesting. We have two adopted and one inherited nephew, all of whom arrived in early teens, in addition to our first two. Yes, they really reveal genetics. It's interesting how much environment did and didn't affect. It's certainly easy to screw a child up in the moment, by making him anxious or distracted or hungry. But setting them down in a good environment they made up ground quickly. (Quickly meaning 1-4 years.)I'm not sure what we would unequivocally attribute to early environment at this point. There's some, but it's pretty clear that some things were hard-wired.

RichardJohnson said...

For genetic influences, I think of my grandfather. Though he didn't have an engineering degree, he showed the attributes of an engineer. Back in the 1930s, he designed and built a wooden house trailer that was, for the time, close to being state of the art. Of his 7 grandchildren, 3 became engineers. One of the grandchild engineers lived near the grandparents until he was 6. I am told that our grandfather gave him manually operated clocks to take apart and try to reassemble, which may have been an example of nurturing engineering skills and proclivities. But the other two grandchild engineers saw our grandfather for only a week every year.

Regarding genetics, I know some examples of children adopted by parents who were professionals. The adopted children had IQs that tended towards the mean. Surprise, surprise. By contrast, the parents had IQs in the 95th+ percentiles. This difference caused problems for the children.

From my hometown, I know of two families where artistic ability has been manifest for 3 or more generations. One irony here is that one of the families has some "social scientists" in the family tree- and we know what "social scientists" tend to think about heredity.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think people simply have to accept it in narrow instances like musical ability, drawing, and some specific athletic abilities like speed and hand/eye - so they do accept it. That is, they believe that sustained environmental support such as music lessons could bring you to the same point, but that there is simply a knack, which some children in the family have more than others, and some families have more than others. Sometimes people include mathematics in this as well, though there's more reluctance with that. They might downplay it, regarding it as only a head-start or a finishing turbocharge, but they acknowledge it in their real-life conversations all the time.

And then forget about it.

james said...

I have very little experience with psychology or sociology profs. From what I have read over the years, I suspect that these are theory-driven disciplines, as opposed to chemistry, which is experiment-driven. (The theories are extensive and solid _because_ the field is experiment-driven.)

Wisconsin, and in particular Madison, is doing some soul-searching about "the achievement gap," which is wider here than most places. I don't recall hearing anything, aside from the infamous priming studies, that remotely resembled a systematic analysis of what was known to work and what was known not to work. It was all either anecdote or theory ("It is prejudice" or "It is lack of opportunity" or "With a mentor they will do better").

Assistant Village Idiot said...

This is the collision. In education, they know about "the achievement gap" and talk about how to fix it, though they are locked into social science solutions which have repeatedly not worked. In other social sciences (well, in psychology and social work) this is known but downplayed because it's just so obviously correctable if everyone wasn't racist. But out in the other humanities, and in journalism, this achievement gap is not even really known. It is held to be entirely a product of bad schools, unfair tests, etc. It's just obvious. Why even mention it except to criticise schools and budgets?

That puts a lot of pressure on the people in education who are often nice people who would like this all to be fixed easily but keep getting blamed when it isn't.

RichardJohnson said...

Wisconsin, and in particular Madison, is doing some soul-searching about "the achievement gap," which is wider here than most places.

Enlightened Dane County is finally paying attention to what the benighted Iowahawk was telling us wingnuts six years ago.Longhorns 17, Badgers 1.
So how does brokeass, dumbass, redneck Texas stack up against progressive unionized Wisconsin?

2009 4th Grade Math

White students: Texas 254, Wisconsin 250 (national average 248)
Black students: Texas 231, Wisconsin 217 (national 222)
Hispanic students: Texas 233, Wisconsin 228 (national 227)

2009 8th Grade Math

White students: Texas 301, Wisconsin 294 (national 294)
Black students: Texas 272, Wisconsin 254 (national 260)
Hispanic students: Texas 277, Wisconsin 268 (national 260)

2009 4th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 232, Wisconsin 227 (national 229)
Black students: Texas 213, Wisconsin 192 (national 204)
Hispanic students: Texas 210, Wisconsin 202 (national 204)

2009 8th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 273, Wisconsin 271 (national 271)
Black students: Texas 249, Wisconsin 238 (national 245)
Hispanic students: Texas 251, Wisconsin 250 (national 248)

2009 4th Grade Science

White students: Texas 168, Wisconsin 164 (national 162)
Black students: Texas 139, Wisconsin 121 (national 127)
Hispanic students: Wisconsin 138, Texas 136 (national 130)

2009 8th Grade Science

White students: Texas 167, Wisconsin 165 (national 161)
Black students: Texas 133, Wisconsin 120 (national 125)
Hispanic students: Texas 141, Wisconsin 134 (national 131)

Iowahawk wrote this in response to Herr Doktor Krugman's fulminations about backward