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Biotech

Chinese Clinic Uses DNA Tests To Predict Kids' Talents 98

Posted by Soulskill
from the this-one-will-be-a-level-80-death-knight dept.
Death Metal writes with this excerpt from CNN: "About 30 children aged 3 to 12 years old and their parents are participating in a new program that uses DNA testing to identify genetic gifts and predict the future. ... The test is conducted by the Shanghai Biochip Corporation. Scientists claim a simple saliva swab collects as many as 10,000 cells that enable them to isolate eleven different genes. By taking a closer look at the genetic codes, they say they can extract information about a child's IQ, emotional control, focus, memory, athletic ability and more. For about $880, Chinese parents can sign their kids up for the test and five days of summer camp in Chongqing, where the children will be evaluated in various settings from sports to art. The scientific results, combined with observations by experts throughout the week, will be used to make recommendations to parents about what their child should pursue."
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Chinese Clinic Uses DNA Tests To Predict Kids' Talents

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  • It's only a small step from testing for these purported genes in kids, to testing for 'em in embryo bits. Then we get eugenics and kid selection, and surprise, there's a superhuman race inheriting the earth. *shrug* I think we all know how these things go.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)

      "Certainly, the eugenistic and racial ideologies that in the past humiliated man and provoked immense suffering are not being proposed again, but a new mentality is creeping in that tends to justify a different consideration of life and personal dignity . . . The tendency, therefore, is to give precedence to the active faculties, to proficiency, to physical perfection and beauty, to the detriment of other dimensions of existence that are not thought to matter. This weakens the respect that is due to eve

    • by keeboo (724305) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:54AM (#29074027)

      It's only a small step from testing for these purported genes in kids, to testing for 'em in embryo bits. Then we get eugenics and kid selection, and surprise, there's a superhuman race inheriting the earth. *shrug* I think we all know how these things go.

      KHAAAAAAN!!!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TheSpoom (715771) *

      All this means is that Star Trek is right, again. And I thought we'd avoid the eugenics wars. :^(

      Where's time-travelling Jean Luc Picard when you need him?

    • by b4upoo (166390)

      Current medical care in the US already involves eugenics. The less popular class (the poor) are denied decent medical care under the banner of economics. That kills off the poor to some degree just as things like miserable prisons, lack of mental health facilities and states that offer zero dental care for seniors, lack of public housing, transportation etc.. Then there are additional policies that support eugenics such as allowing gun stores and liquor stores to infest ghetto areas with the store ow

      • Current medical care in the US already involves eugenics. .... That kills off the poor to some degree just as things like miserable prisons, lack of mental health facilities and states that offer zero dental care for seniors, lack of public housing, transportation etc..

        Seems to be working really well doesn't it? Concept Fail.

        If you were really thinking hard, you might consider these sorts of negative things as merely selecting the 'less successful' members of this 'underclass' so you would create evolu

        • "how" the evolutionary response works.

          Nature just hates it when you anthropomorphise her.
    • by Surt (22457)

      It's the only way we'll have a shot at defeating the aliens, so we really better get with the program.

    • For a discount price of $500 (first 1000 entrants only).

      /s
    • by mikiN (75494)

      That's one small step for man, a giant leap for the Greys [closely-encountered.com].

    • by kheldan (1460303)
      Are you kidding? China wouldn't use eugenics techniques to create a super-race, they'd more likely create a race of more docile people!
  • Obvious bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daemonax (1204296) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:19AM (#29073871)

    they say they can extract information about a child's IQ

    A quick scan over the summary and spotting that set off my bullshit alarms. The genes that go in to shaping someones intelligence and IQ are likely to be multitude, and we have virtually no idea how the genes, working together, come to influence ones IQ.

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @02:12AM (#29074305)

      I think actually the actual small nugget of truth these tests are going to be based off of is going to be something very similar to the following:

      The little bit of DNA they sequenced, once through, was more similar to a musician's and most dissimilar to an architect, so that "indicates" he would be best as a musician. Over the course of the summer camp, he was told repeatedly that he wanted to play music rather than draw buildings, and rewarded for learning to play a little something to convince his parents that he actually had talent and they didn't waste their money.

      The whole genome will not be sequenced in any case, and there obviously won't be any attempt to do anything besides correlation. They haven't identified anything like a "musical talent" gene, it's all pure correlations.

      It's going to be a slightly more technical version of Japan's blood type = personality fortunetelling [thegreatgeekmanual.com] or good old fashioned phrenology [wikipedia.org]. Although, anyone I talked to about it in Tokyo regarded the blood types as we would regard horoscopes: with a grain of salt. It seems to really continue as a novelty, and only is around because it's so cheap to identify your blood type. Shelling out $880 for the equivalent? I doubt this pseudoscience crap is going to take off, at least until they offer sequencing and comparisons for cheaper.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        That's interesting, but it will really have better accuracy in telling if the musician who provided to DNA sample had previously provided a meiotic DNA sample to a groupie.

      • The problem with this is that this is done at the early childhood, and decisions about the child's education will be based on this. Thus, it has the great danger of getting a self-fulfilling prophecy: They predict that children with a certain genetic pattern will have a better chance to be good musicians, in response to this those children get better musical education, which increases their chance to be good musicians afterwards. The same goes with science etc.

        • Which is the real reason behind the "testing". What better way to make sure there is a steady stream of factory workers then to tell parents that is the best future profession for their child?
      • by stockard (1431131)
        There's already a company [atlasgene.com] in Boulder, Colorado that tests kids' DNA for a "sports" gene. Apparently there is some sort of link between the ATCN3 gene and athletic ability (like running speed or endurance). This just looks like they're looking at other genes that have a tenuous association with other abilities. That being said, even an overall sports ability is probably based on more than just that gene, so I don't think any of these types of tests are detailed enough to give much of a good result. There
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I agree that they probably will not (yet) have an idea over how the genes influence IQ, but that doesn't mean they can't correlate genes with IQ. In fact, it's already been done ... On average, Ashkenazi Jews and most Asians have higher IQs than non-Jewish Caucasians[1], and specific genes have been correlated with higher IQ. For instance The DTNBP1 and CHRM2 have already been studied[2]

      I could go on with more sources of other genes and relevant studies ...

      The hapmap project may be of interest: http://www

    • They mention in the article they are examining 11 different genes out of over twenty thousand in the whole genome. Obviously they are not concerned with what those genes actually do, but only that certain variants may correlate with improved performance sometimes. The best estimates of heritability of intelligence are somewhere from 30% to 50% genetic, meaning at least half of the variation in intelligence is due to environmental factors or multiple gene interactions.
    • Why it works ... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tomhudson (43916)

      If your parents are stupid enough to pay for this, you're obviously from the shallow end of the gene pool as well, though you can be assured that the parents will ALL be told that their kids are above average - which is a statistical impossibility in a large-enough sample, but hey, there's one born every minute ... or in China's case 34.69 every minute*

      * 1,330,044,544 / 1000 * 13.71 / 365 / 24 / 60 (chinese pop / 1000 / birth rate per thousand per annum / 365 days / 24 hours / 60 minutes :-)

      • by skeeto (1138903)

        the parents will ALL be told that their kids are above average - which is a statistical impossibility

        Not impossible. Example: most people have more than the average number of legs.

        • by tomhudson (43916)
          ... but most people don't have more than the median number of legs ... :-)

          ... and IQ scores aren't limited to 3 options (0, 1, or 2).

          Besides, my point was that only the more stupid would fall for this scam - so there is no way their kids are all going to be above average.

          • by skeeto (1138903)
            Yeah, it didn't make a difference to your point. Just being annoyingly pedantic. :-P
    • by magarity (164372) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @08:46AM (#29075485)

      set off my bullshit alarms
       
      I've been living in China for the past year and I can tell you Chinese parents have no bullshit alarms when it comes to anything that any huckster is selling to improve their one child's chances. A tiny percentage get into college and then a fraction of those are able to land college requiring jobs. Anything promising to give them an edge is bought up.

      • by Daemonax (1204296)
        Indeed. When I was living in Fuzhou in Fujian, there was a lot of credulity everywhere unfortunately. There was a recent survey I read about on the BBC that was done in China that come out saying that Chinese people trust "chickens" (I'll assume you know what that means) more than scientists and politicians. This kind of bullshit just gives them more reason to not trust scientists.
      • Whaaaat? What China are you living in? Kids can get into college - actually the problem is a vast pool of college graduates who can't find jobs. Getting into the best colleges is hard, but that's hard anywhere. A "tiny percentage"...maybe you live way out in the rural where kids are stupid.
      • "You are a product of your environment." --Clement Stone
    • by Surt (22457)

      And probably more importantly, we do know, with numerous studies, that for all popularized tests, IQ is more than 90% training determined and not genetic.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        And probably more importantly, we do know, with numerous studies, that for all popularized tests, IQ is more than 90% training determined and not genetic.

        This is simply not true. IQ has shown to have little variance from about ages 5 - 60, but does decline in the late stages of life. In other words, if you are tested at age 8, you should be in the same percentile as when you are tested again at age 20. Your "trained knowledge" can indeed increase as you get older, but since IQ is a normalized score, your percentile does not vary significantly.

      • by oni (41625)

        citation needed

  • Pygmalion Effect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HockeyPuck (141947) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:22AM (#29073881)

    Nicely done China, you have discovered the well documented Pygmalion Effect. [wikipedia.org] This is so common in society. For example, in Chinese culture there is significant attention paid to the oldest son. He's expected to do better, to succeed and eventually become wealthy. So he's encouraged. This encouragement and positive reinforcement can cause the child to succeed. Whereas other children are not given the same expectations and relatively do poorer.

    So you these people will take their kid to this clinic, who will say, "this kid should become a scientist." Then the parents will do whatever it takes to make the kid a scientist. Possibly ignoring the signs that he/she might be attuned to being a musician or artist.

    In other news... Looks like the Chinese have also watched and decided to implement in real life the movie Gattaca [wikipedia.org].

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by djupedal (584558)
      Load 'of crap....didn't you ever go to the counselor in school and have an aptitude test? Stop beating up on another culture just because they've found a different way to do something your culture did when you were a child...
      • I can't speak for the original poster, but I've never had an aptitude test. I've never actually heard of people doing that outside of TV show plots.
        • I remember taking them. They said I should be either a fashion photographer or a priest. And amazingly enough, I'm both now!

          Joking aside, they were a little silly, but the introduction of genetics is a little scary.

          It used to be, once upon a time, that you had to list your parents names and occupations when applying for a job. If you were trying to be a banker and your father was a miller, good luck to ya.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by pjt33 (739471)

          The careers department at my school gave us all a questionnaire to fill out when we were 17. The results were pretty much exactly what I expected them to be, so it was a waste of time.

      • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        Those aptitude tests are just as much a load of crap.

    • by cbraescu1 (180267)

      Families part of the Chinese urban population nowadays most likely have only one child. No, there is no Pygmalion effect, just a very natural effect of having to ensure the genes of *two* people (aka "parents") have the best chances to be perpetuated later.

      I can only imagine what the Chinese will do to increase their only offspring 10-15 years from now, when their GDP would be double as a nation (but most likely 3-4 times bigger for the same urban sample).

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by justinlee37 (993373)

        This has nothing to do with the "one child" policy. The Pygmalion effect is the part where when the doctors say "this child has the genes to succeed," it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy due to psychology, and that child's success due to the prophecy will in turn support the doctors' original assertion that the genes are related to success, statistically! There are lies, damned lies, and statistics, as they say.

        If everyone believed it you could start just predicting that redheads would be smarter than

    • That was /close/ to my feeling as well, only...

      What has surprised me is that nobody is congratulating these guys on being great capitalists! They've found a very clever way to separate people from their money, while providing at least /some/ real value, so they're not so quickly seen as simple scammers.

      Here's what I see happening, and what it seems most have missed, here. They're doing a several day summer camp -- only they're selling it as MORE than that -- and, if their advice isn't taken to extremes, i

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      this kid should become a scientist." Then the parents will do whatever it takes to make the kid a scientist.

      Which creates the funny situation wherein the child may actually become a succesfull scientist and than might have to disspell this pseudoscience even though it "predicted" his own future correctly.

    • in Chinese culture there is significant attention paid to the oldest son.

      What would you expect under a one child policy? That they pay more attention to their dog?

  • We do not know enough (or anything for the sceptics...) about the actual genes that control these traits, so I doubt this test is any more efficient than just examining the parents phenotype and predicting based on that. In fact, given they are stupid enough to think they can predict better, they probably are doing worse...
  • by djupedal (584558) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:39AM (#29073947)
    "My kid has better genes than yours and I can prove it..."
  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted @ s l a s h d ot.org> on Saturday August 15, 2009 @01:04AM (#29074071)

    I remember reading a big article in the German science magazine "Spektrum der Wissenschaft", that there is no such thing as innate talent.

    They tried to find out, what made geniuses geniuses. And they found, that it's not relevant what you were born with.

    What is relevant, is to keep yourself in proper balance between choosing too hard and too easy tasks to grow from. The closer this balance is to your abilities, the faster your abilities will grow. I can also say from my own experience, that it's true.

    The other factor is, to be able to structure your thoughts and knowledge. Even for sports.
    For example in chess, a beginner would try to keep the position of every figure in his mind,
    While an advanced player might store the same state as "the Someguy move" with "the Otherguy variation" and "this pawn is advanced one field".
    And a masterful player would most likely think of it as "the Fooguy setup" with "the Barguy move" and "this pawn doing the Bazguy-style attack".
    So you put your thoughts into sets that fit in one of the eight (on average) short-term memory "registers" you have. And to create many associations in your long-term memory, so you can quickly get to many related things.

    That's all there is to geniuses. So whatever someone told you about you being unable to do: As long as it is still physically possible (i.e. you're not 75 and trying to win an Olympic medal for 100m running), you can do it!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      So are you a genius yet? Most people have inadequate memory and computational capacity to come even close to genius. And even if they did, they would still lack additional brain specializations like linguistic ability, spatial visualization, etc. that true genius requires. It's true that with time anyone can develop expertise--and this will put them above most of the rest of the lazy morons--but the average person still will be a golden retriever in comparison to exceptional individuals. I suspect that maga
    • I mean ok this is an annecdote an all but lets use me as an example. I almost didn't graduate from college because I couldn't pass the foreign language requirement. My school pretty much insists that there is no such thing as being bad at languages and that everybody can do it and it always benefits people who take it.(I don't know if they're just wrong or lying through their teeth.) The fact I could take the same course multiple times, fail repeatedly, and actually do worse the more I studied suggests that
  • by TheNarrator (200498) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @01:20AM (#29074131)
    Ok this sounds a bit like B.S. Besides, being more of a trans-humanist I look forward to a future where we can modify our bodies to posses any of the biochemical advantages that are today delivered by genetics. Look at something like Viagra. Before it came along people thought that not being able to get a stiffy was all in one's mind. Now anyone of any age can get one without having to read a ton of self-help books and years of Freudian psychoanalysis B.S. It will be hard for people to accept but the same thing will probably soon happen with athletic ability and intelligence. Soon the dream of everyone becoming what they dreamed of being but never had the natural ability to do will be realized. It will still take hard work, but at least it will be possible and those with genetic gifts will move up to an as yet undreamed of level of human potential.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You forgot to add a little something: if they can pay for it. Exactly what today's societies need, more money-based discrimination to increase the divide between richt and poor. But I guess China and the US won't have any problems with that. The one because surpassing others is their holy grail and the other because people without money are real humans anyway.

      I wonder which sci-fi story will be this issue's 1984. GATTACA really lends itself to it.

    • by inKubus (199753)

      China is really the perfect place for this type of research. Relatively isolated genetic population, huge population to sample from, totalitarian government to keep it all under control. If this is what they are making public, imagine what their military is working on.

  • This reminds me so much of Gattaca. If you send your children to this camp and one does well and another does poorly, you can't help but feel differently about the children. This is evil

  • G.O.A.T. (Score:2, Funny)

    by baKanale (830108)
    They can do that in the Gene Projection now? Wow! Back in my day we had to wait until we were 16 to take the G.O.A.T. and find all that out!
  • It's a scam (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Incidently, I am in Shanghai. And working in biology. I have heard of these clinics (there seem to be several), because they
    are picking up up young graduates from the Universities to do the work. They pay well (compared to what the graduates get when
    they do a postdoc), but obviously more money will disappear in the pockets of the managers/directors of said clinics.

    From a biological standpoint, the whole thing is a scam. Perhaps they can predict some things a little bit, but from what I have seen I think the

  • Seriously, has any of this turned up in the literature? I want to see what for what they are looking.

    Forget prediction for children, there's a number of different companies out there that do personal genome screening, and plenty of adults who don't know what they want to be when they "grow up" or want to change careers, etc.

  • This is good stuff for the eugenicists like Holden, the US science advisor. Check out his book Ecoscience where he writes about Eugenics. It's going to be a bit like Brave New World, apart from non-Utopic, more satanic - like the worshipping of the Owl Moloch that the previous US presidents do at Bohemian Grove where they perform a mock human sacrifice. Hmmmm, can't wait for the future to come.
  • So.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @07:16AM (#29075227) Journal
    how do they handle things when you find out that you have the next Mao Zedong or Stalin?
    • how do they handle things when you find out that you have the next Mao Zedong or Stalin?

      In China? They promote him to leadership roles, obviously.

    • The second to last sentence in the article. Maybe they have. "I want to be the president of China," said three-year-old girl, Liu Xiao Liao. "Then people will be scared of me."
    • by vadim_t (324782)

      I think that at any time, in a country as large as China, there are tens, maybe even thousands of potential Mao Zendongs or Stalins.

      But they don't get there, because there can be only one supreme ruler, and not all rulers will succeed at all times.

      Hitler for instance came in at the right time. Germany was hummiliated, and he was the sort of guy that would make it great again. But his actions created such disgust, that if he was reborn right now, he couldn't get to power.

      Rasputin started as a peasant and man

  • and apparently I'm alone in thinking that. How many parents wouldn't want to know what their child's best chance for success will be? The whole 'denying that genetics play a role in development' thing is just wrong and passe.
    • by sxedog (824351)
      You are obviously not a parent. Giving your kids the best chance of success takes strong lessons of morality, honesty, character building and hard work ethic not hocus pocus 'your genes tell you you will be good at x'.
      Focusing on one child over the over is the perfect way to make one successful over the other child. Is it worth it to destroy one of your own offspring at the cost of another's chance of success just because 'the gene test' says so?
      No.
      Besides, scientists haven't been able to cure most of t
      • Besides, scientists haven't been able to cure most of the world's deadly diseases in all our years of existence.

        1.) "Most"? That's asking an awful lot. 2.) How is that even relevant to genetic screening?

        Seems kind of sneaky that we can all of a sudden jump to gene manipulation with any success...

        TFA had no mention of gene manipulation. Only scanning for traits.

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