Monday, March 28, 2011

If You Want Super-Smart Kids, Marry a Pygmy

However, if you happen to be a pygmy, that is, one of the small-statured ethnicities of central Africa, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, then your best bet is probably to marry someone from Sweden or the Ukraine.  It confounds me that some researchers still talk of racial differences in intelligence.  They operate from the disproved premise that those with the highest levels of cognitive functioning will be those of inbred European ancestry.

The healthiest human beings both cognitively and physically, will be those whose genome suppress the largest number of recessive genetic and chromosomal abnormalities.  Thus genetic distance, where one parent has the most geographically removed ancestry from the other, is the key to giving birth to super-smart  as well as super-athletic kids. 

Of course a whole host of cultural prejudices obscure this basic point as do more practical matters. If you want your child to end up in the NBA,  you will also have to take height into consideration.  In that case, if you are a tall European, your best bet will be a tall Namibian, from the southwestern part of Africa, or perhaps a tall person from China.  If religious considerations determine the culture and continent from which you will seek out the  ideal genetic mate, then the process remains the same.  The hardiest and smartest Israeli Jews will be those born of Russian Jewish parentage, married to Ethiopian Jews.   

Another  obstacle is the false dualism of  "brains versus brawn."  Cultural reasons exist for giving the two attributes an inverse correlation, not rational ones.  Some people still believe that brunettes have higher IQs than blonds, and that an inverse correlation exists between a female's brassiere size and intelligence.    
   
Of course, critics will argue that if height can be manipulated genetically, so can intelligence. But put quite simply, nature doesn't work that way.   The reason may be that nature does not put a premium on tallness,  even though certain human societies might do so for aesthetic reasons.  Pygmies are short because it is an appropriate adaptation to the densely wooded forests in which they live.  Intelligence, however, is not a neutral attribute, like shortness or tallness.  Evolution favors high rather than low intelligence, on every continent, within every ethnic and  population group, because this trait gives humans our greatest tool for survival  -- adaptability.     If intelligence has any genetic constellation of components at all, and your goal is still, after reading this post, to have super-smart kids, then marry a genius from a different population group than your own.   

However, the problem inherent in that course of action is that whatever group is making the IQ tests to determine "intelligence," will unwittingly or not, make sure that their children  have the highest scores.  So, you'd best not trust European IQ tests if you're looking for a pygmy bride.  In 1897, an American scholar named G.R. Stetson decided to investigate black-white differences in intelligence.  Stetson devised a test in which four stanzas of poetry were read to 500 African-American children and 500 European-American ones.  When the black children outperformed the white ones, Stetson made the determination that  a child's ability to memorize was not an indicator of intelligence. [G.R. Stetson, "Some Memory Tests of Whtes and Blacks," Psychological Review, 4, 1897, 285-289].  

 So little has been researched and written about the role genetic distance plays in determining the health and intelligence of a child.  Even though U.S. society elected its first black president in 2008, a man of Kenyan and white European/American background, our society is still not ready to address its last unbroken taboo.  As late as the 1960s, some Southern states, still kept anti-miscegenation laws on the books, making it illegal for a black and white to marry.  


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