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Why Breeding Smarter Humans Won’t Work: Basic Genetics 101

Biochemist Michael Denton explains that, in human genetics, everything is connected to everything else; geneticists call it pleiotropy

Recently, we looked at the question of whether human IQ could be artificially increased via genetic engineering. One proposal was to mass produce human embryos, implanting only the smart ones and discarding the rest. All other issues aside, it’s unclear how to determine which kids will turn out to be the smart ones. Now biochemist Michael Denton, author of a number of books including the recent Miracle of Man (2022), writes to tell us that the idea won’t work due to fundamental genetics. Noting that theoretical physicist Stephen Hsu, who advanced the idea of discarding embryos above, is not a medical geneticist, he told Mind Matters News, Its true there are many genes involved in brain development but most genes…

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Could We Really Increase Human IQ via Genetic Engineering?

One suggested approach is to only implant “intelligent” human embryos and discard the rest, to avoid editing individual genes

At Big Think, we have been told by the managing editor, in a tone of considerable confidence: Because intelligence is such a strong genetic trait, rapidly advancing genetics research could result in the ability to create a class of super-intelligent humans one-thousand times higher in IQ than today’s most brilliant thinkers. Stephen Hsu, Vice-President for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University, believes we are only a decade away from identifying the many thousands of genetic variants that control for intelligence. These variants, called alleles, could then be selected for by the parents of a soon-to-be-conceived child, and possibly genetic engineering could be done on adults to boost their intelligence. Orion Jones, “Genetic Engineering Will Create Super-Intelligent…

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Jumping Genes … A New Clue to Octopus Intelligence?

Despite being very different, the human brain and the octopus brain share the same sort of jumping genes

The fact that octopuses are unusually intelligent (like mammals) — even though they are solitary invertebrates — means that they now receive some protection against cruelty. Protection that no one bothers about for, say, clams and oysters. But the science puzzle remains. How did octopuses and some of their close kin among the cephalopods get so smart? Theories about how mammals and birds got to be smart may not work here. A recent paper adds a little more information to the controversy. Studying the common octopus and the California octopus, researchers found that the same “jumping genes” are active in the octopus brain as in the human one — even though the two types of brain are very different. Jumping…

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Could the Dinosaurs Have Had a Now-Lost Civilization?

Geoscientist Dirk Schultze-Makuch asks us to be sure why we believe it couldn’t be true. Not as simple as it first appears…

That’s just crazy talk, right? Geoscientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, author of The Cosmic Zoo (2017), asks us to think again before dismissing it: Let’s imagine for a moment that some civilization went extinct millions of years before hominids even appeared. Although there isn’t a precise definition of “civilization,” we usually associate it with a species capable of altering its physical environment on a regional or even planetary scale. How would we know, millions of years later, that they had been here? All evidence of their technological achievements is almost certain to have disappeared long ago, as persuasively shown by Alan Weisman in his 2007 book, The World Without Us. Cities and large constructions like dams would quickly crumble and return to…

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Experts Guess: How Might Humans Change Over the Next 10,000 Years?

So much has changed in the past few thousand years that the past may not be a reliable guide to the future

Evolutionary biologist Nicholas R. Longrich thinks he knows how human beings will change in the next 10,000 years: It’s hard to predict the future. The world will probably change in ways we can’t imagine. But we can make educated guesses. Paradoxically, the best way to predict the future is probably looking back at the past, and assuming past trends will continue going forward. This suggests some surprising things about our future. We will likely live longer and become taller, as well as more lightly built. We’ll probably be less aggressive and more agreeable, but have smaller brains. A bit like a golden retriever, we’ll be friendly and jolly, but maybe not that interesting. At least, that’s one possible future. Nicholas…

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Has the Human Sense of Smell Declined in Recent Millennia?

Researchers found that people with “ancestral” genes perceived various odors as more intense

Recently, a group of researchers embarked on an unusual experiment. They screened the genomes of 1,000 Han Chinese people to find genetic variations that were linked to the way participants perceived 10 different scents, including musk and underarm odor. They then repeated the experiment for six odors in an ethnically diverse group of of 364 people to check their results. They reported that people who had “ancestral” versions of the scent recognition genes perceived the odors as more intense: Participants carried different versions of the musk and underarm odor receptor genes, and those genetic variations affected how the person perceived the scents. In combination with previously published results, the researchers find that people with the ancestral versions (the version shared…