‘Smart Genes’ Prove Elusive

Ewen Callaway, Nature, September 8, 2014

Scientists looking for the genes underlying intelligence are in for a slog. One of the largest, most rigorous genetic studies of human cognition has turned up inconclusive findings, and experts concede that they will probably need to scour the genomes of more than 1 million people to confidently identify even a small genetic influence on intelligence and other behavioural traits.


In 2011, an international collaboration of researchers launched an effort to bring more rigour to studies of how genes contribute to behaviour. The group, called the Social Sciences Genetic Association Consortium, aimed to do studies using practices borrowed from the medical genetics community, which emphasizes large numbers of participants, rigorous statistics and reproducibility. In a 2013 study comparing the genomes of more than 126,000 people, the group identified three gene variants associated with with how many years of schooling a person had gone through or whether they had attended university. But the effect of these variants was small–each variant correlated with roughly one additional month of schooling in people who had it compared with people who did not.

In a follow-up study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [Ed: Full text here], the team went looking for genetic variants associated with IQ and other cognitive abilities. To do this, they looked again for gene variants linked to schooling in more than 106,000 people who had been part of the 2013 study.

The researchers picked out 69 gene variants most strongly linked to education level. To establish a more direct link with IQ, they cross-checked this list with genetic variants in a second sample of 24,000 people who also had taken tests of cognitive ability. Three gene variants were found to be associated with both educational attainment and higher IQ scores.

The three variants the researchers identified were each responsible for an average of 0.3 points on an IQ test. (About two-thirds of the population score between 85 and 115.) That means that a person with two copies of each variant would score 1.8 points higher on an intelligence test than a person with none of them.

To put those figures in perspective, those variants have about one-twentieth the influence on intelligence as do gene variants linked to other complex traits such as height, says Daniel Benjamin, a social scientist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who co-led the study.

Benjamin says that studies of more than 1 million people will be needed to find enough common gene variants to explain 15% of the variation across people in IQ scores, educational attainment and other behavioural traits.


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  • MekongDelta69

    I’m sure they’d have NO trouble finding ‘smart genes’ if blacks had mean IQs of 150.

    • Ike Eichenberg

      If blacks had IQs in that range, they probably would have enslaved Europe and Asia.

      • Melvin Bonzarelli

        Actually they tried just that. But their sneakers became waterlogged, making it impossible for the Africans who were swimming across the Mediterranean to conquer Europe to stay afloat, and they all drowned.

    • APaige

      They had no trouble informing their readers that two-thirds of people fall in the IQ range of 85-115.
      They did have trouble informing their readers that only half of Blacks have an IQ at 85 or above.
      Only 2.2% of Blacks have an IQ at 115, while 16% of Whites are that high.

      • LHathaway

        Only “16% of Whites are that high (115 or above)”.

        Oh, the joy of having to listen to an endless number of new AmRen comments written by intelligent commenters but many pretending to have an IQ or around 110 or less, so as to, ironically appear ‘authentic’, and so more readily ‘influence’ us?

        • Spikeygrrl

          WHAT?! Maybe I’m just not completely awake yet, but are you seriously suggesting that less-smart people are perceived as more reliable opinion-leaders than more-smart people?!

          That is so gobsmackingly counterintuitive that I’d have to see reputable confirming data before giving such a claim even the time of day.

          • Usually Much Calmer

            I don’t have data, but people trust those like them and most people are average or thereabouts, so average seeming people are trusted more?

            Dunno. Hathaway is a riddle at times.

          • Spikeygrrl

            Your theory would explain my high-end skew on opinion leaders. I’ve been fortunate to have spent most of my life being educated, working, living, and socializing among fellow “gifties.” The 130-and-down crowd doesn’t really impact my life except for errand-running and (sigh) the aftereffects of letting them vote

          • Usually Much Calmer

            Don’t brag, girl. It’s unseemly.

            Take pity on those of us in gen pop.

          • Spikeygrrl

            I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to brag. I am in no way “proud” of my intelligence: I didn’t make that! It’s just a datum, like my age or my height. It carries no moral weight.

            Here’s some other data, all of it true, which I hope will compensate for any offense I inadvertently caused: I am old, overweight, and unattractive. I am estranged from my only two living relatives. I am a financial parasite on my husband due to a permanent physical disability. I am a “foodie” snob.

            Better now?

          • Usually Much Calmer

            I was not offended. I am not dumb myself, but I live among them. That’s where I envy you. Now give LHathaway a thumbs up.

          • Sick of it

            Don’t forget violent crime against your person as well as theft of your property. And then there’s the fact that such people currently rule the world.

          • Spikeygrrl

            Unfortunately, Guys In Bad Guy Hats exist in all IQ neighborhoods. The smarter they are, the more dangerous to the more persons and the more social structures.

          • LHathaway

            I meant something else, but in reality, I was expressing my anger over never getting more than one or two positive for my comments. This stuff I write is gold. Maybe if I tried to sound like an angry, yet educated, 12 year old I would get more positive up-votes. . . haha

          • Usually Much Calmer

            Man, you are funny.

            You’ll get your upvotes. And what’s more, I hope you meet Ann Coulter and she is so awed by your golden writing that she throws her overeducated 12 year olds into the gutter for a few hours of bliss with you.

          • LHathaway


      • Garrett Brown

        That’s honestly not that much of a difference. I would have thought it was a much larger gap.

  • Rocky

    Does anyone believe this study will be conducted to conclusion with no PC influence taking over. This is not a field where any answers that are likely to result are going to be wanted or accepted, why would anyone even bother to try?

    • JohnEngelman

      Anyone who announces the discovery of smart genes will have his announcement drowned out with shouts of “Racist!” and demands that he be fired.

  • JackKrak

    “Smart genes prove elusive” if you’re looking anywhere near MLK Boulevard, Foot Locker, Section 8 housing or the nail salon in the WalMart plaza but there are plenty of places that have much better odds. Try the library.

  • Bunky

    They should be looking for dumb genes.
    It would be easier to find them since there a lot of dummies running around MLK.

    • Ike Eichenberg

      While I enjoy the humor, scientifically I wonder if the “dumb” genes in sub Saharans correspond to the same genes in the dumber Europeans.

      • journey

        Would not be surprised. Plenty of them in India and some of them also migrated into southern Europe.

  • Adolf Verloc

    This is not much different from what Wade suggested in “A Troublesome Inheritance.” There are a lot of genes each of which make a small contribution to Spearman’s g. I’ll reserve judgment on how PC the researchers will be.

  • journey

    Keep on trying and looking. Research is only as good as the technique and equipment used which is controlled by evolution and change.

    Inherent racial differences, of course, exist confirmed just by empirical observation alone. But this is not regarded as “scientific” even though observable and verifiable for centuries.

    Educational level or degrees is not the best indicator to use should use the type of
    profession instead, especially like the hard sciences. Believe this area has not been heavily
    invaded by AA, yet.

    • JohnEngelman

      Those who pretend that The Bell Curve has been “decisively refuted” refer to criticisms of methods Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray used. The basic assertions of The Bell Curve are so obviously true that the scientific method is unnecessary to prove them.

  • dd121

    Whites have a larger brain size which means genes for a bigger cranium. Might want to start there.

  • JohnEngelman

    The truth is out there. It will be discovered. It will batter down the walls of political correctness.

    • journey

      Don’t think so, John. Once it gets too hot, all will be shut down.

  • cloudswrest

    This study of normal variation in cognitive performance confirms that there is no gene with a large effect on this trait. There is no “gene for intelligence” – instead, cognitive performance is likely to be influenced by thousands of genes, each having a small effect.

    I think it’s neither a large number of genes with a small effect nor a few genes with a large effect. It is most likely a medium number of genes with an “encrypted” effect. That is the individually relevant genes do not act orthogonally or independently in their effects. For example two separate genes A and B with alleles a, A and b, B, aB and Ab may be intelligent and aa and BB may be dumb. Now instead of two, think perhaps 200 and it’s a job for the NSA.

  • 313 48224

    I think intelligence is like cancer in that there is several different causes. It’s like a combination lock, get the right digits and bingo.

  • Stan D Mute

    This “study” is very much like a mob (mafia) controlled union “job”. In other words, it’s a study where the researchers cannot find the answers or they’ll lose their jobs and most likely their careers. We already know the genes controlling intelligence are tied up with race somehow and therefore identifying those genes will definitively prove whites, Jews, and northeast Asians are more intelligent than Africans, south Asians, Amerindians, and Pacific Islanders. Likely it will specifically quantify these differences in a manner less debatable than the IQ testing data we have now. The net result will be labeling the researchers as “Nazis” and “white supremacists” (regardless whether northeast Asians and Jews have more intelligence genes than whites), and possibly shutting down all gene research into the human brain entirely.

    Look what happened to Dr James Watson for merely suggesting that Africans may not be as intelligent as other races. The man who *discovered* DNA is a pariah who couldn’t get a job as a janitor in any lab in the country.

    What is going to happen here is the Chinese will unlock this science and begin genetic engineering (via eugenic breeding programs if nothing else) a population of hyper-intelligent humans. We know they’re already working on it now.

    • El Baga Doucha Libtard

      I participated in the BGI Cognitive Genomics study (in like 2012) and I have not yet received anything from them. Last year, I emailed them and they said that the process was taking longer than expected. Anyway, the good news is that the complexity of determining which genes are responsible for intelligence buys the West time. If some part of the West can get its act together soon (I am optimistic about the goings on in Europe), then we will be right there with the Chinese.

      One thing that I’m not certain about is that the Chinese will be able to use their information to enact a eugenics program to the extent that Richard Lynn thinks they can/will. Lynn mentioned the government of Singapore trying to get intelligent mothers to have more children, but that plan failed. In order to make such a plan viable, the incentives would have to be prohibitively expensive. Embryo screening (which is how, I guess, the Chinese would go about their eugenics program) to select the smartest child sounds like something that a lot of parents wouldn’t go for.

      My guess is that the information and technology used to select the most intelligent children will be shared (even if the Chinese don’t want to share) and it will be a rich/poor thing, not a Chinese/non-Chinese thing.

      Jared Taylor — in his piece on America is 2034 — mentioned 2024 as year when the data is indisputable about the genes responsible for intelligence not being evenly distributed across races. I realize that he was just guessing and that 10 years from now is nice, round number, but I wouldn’t be surprised if discovering those genes does prove to be elusive for a while. In the meantime, the race-denial experiment will continue to cause economic disruption and the West will inch closer towards a revolution. The good thing about liberalism is that it’s a self-correcting mechanism — the West became a bunch of liberal hippie douches and now Russia and China are stepping up and showing the world that the West isn’t what it once was. That brings us closer to the collapse/revolution. Like I said, liberalism is a self-correcting mechanism.

      It’s all a matter of who wins the race: does China discover and use the information about genetics and intelligence before the West has its revolution?

      • LHathaway

        “Embryo screening (which is how, I guess, the Chinese would go about their eugenics program) to select the smartest child sounds like something that a lot of parents wouldn’t go for”

        I doubt they wouldn’t go for it. I suspect the process will be one of screening for the ‘best’ sperm and choosing the ‘best’ egg. Whether further screening would be done After such a conception is another question. It’s not like this isn’t going on already, attempting to choose the best one.

        • El Baga Doucha Libtard

          It was my impression that they would select the smartest embryo, not the sperm and eggs capable of producing the smartest embryo. I stand by my comment about embryo screening, if that means screening existing, not potential, embryos. If we’re talking about screening sperm and eggs, then doesn’t seem like as much of an imposition.

      • Fredrik Nero Negerfeldt

        If the Chinese do not want to share it will not be shared. They would be dumb to share it, so it wont. CIA has complained a lot about how difficult it is to get so called human intelligence out of China.

        • El Baga Doucha Libtard

          There are Americans working on the project and I doubt that the Chinese can keep that research a secret.

    • JohnEngelman

      Put a gold star next to that man’s name.

    • Jack Burton

      Intelligence is power. Do you really think the Chinese elite want a nation of super intelligent citizens that could be a threat to their rule? That’s the opposite of what they want. No, it will be used by the elites to maintain their power over the proles.

  • gah

    Why haven’t they done a massive study to identify genes that influence criminality, and other anti-social activities?
    I doubt that this “smart gene” study will be left alone by the PC police, they’ll make sure that the results come out that blacks have just as many “smart genes” as everyone else.

  • Fredrik Nero Negerfeldt

    Fun fact: most higher educated people are just unthinking commoners with a greater ability to learn by rote, which this study proves. If you do not believe me, I would like to point out that the bigger the slice of the population that has a post-high school degree, the lesser demanding higher education has to be, otherwise these degrees would not have been awarded. In Sweden, the parliament decided ten years ago that 50% of the population should have a degree from higher studies, it means that there has to be university courses that can be completed by people with an IQ of 90something because not everyone over 100 goes on to post high school studies.

    • Sick of it

      Approximately 50% of graduate degrees earned in America are from soft disciplines.

  • none of your business

    Even if the Chinese do breed for intelligence, what about regression to the mean?
    I remember when I was in college in the sixties and lots of women began going to grad school and law school. There was speculation that when Drs started marrying Drs instead of nurses and MBAs started marrying other MBAs instead of secretaries their children would be naturally bred for more intelligence. As far as I can see, it didn’t happen.

    • Jack Burton

      What’s the mean of their families for say 10 generations? That’s the point.

      Changing the mean would require selective breeding for many generations, not just one or two.

    • Melvin Bonzarelli

      Most if not all of the Kennedys, generation after generation, have been alcoholics, adulterers and drug addicts. Is there a ‘Kennedy gene’ that could account for this? Kind of a Kallikak family, but with a lot of money. (google the Kallikak family – absolutely fascinating reading).

  • Melvin Bonzarelli

    If you add the IQ’s of two blacks together, you have an IQ of 150. That’s genius range! This means that every two blacks = one genius.
    That was easy.