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Chinese Clinic Uses DNA Tests To Predict Kids' Talents 98

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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  • 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.

  • 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].

  • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:40AM (#29073953) Homepage

    "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 every human being, even in the presence of a developmental defect or a genetic illness that could be manifested at some point in his life . . "

    Or even if you're just not genetically "perfect," you misshapen worthless drags on society's productivity. [www.cbc.ca]

    -- Pope Benedict XVI, with regards to human dignity in the face of genetic enhancement technology
    (cue the kneejerk ad-hominem anti-Catholic/papal tangent.... again...)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 15, 2009 @01:55AM (#29074261)

    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 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.

  • Why it works ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Saturday August 15, 2009 @04:53AM (#29074871) Journal

    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 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 Nathrael ( 1251426 ) <nathraelthe42nd@@@gmail...com> on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:33PM (#29076509)
    Which would be a good thing. Why wait thousands of years for humans to evolve (if at all - it's not the super intelligent scientists and other successful people who have the most kids, quite the contrary) if you could make the jump right now, with much more impact? And I wouldn't even worry too much about the transition phase and conflicts between modified and unmodified people too much either - if we can genetically engineer unborn humans today, we can genetically engineer and otherwise modify already living humans tomorrow.
  • by The Archon V2.0 ( 782634 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @01:05PM (#29076719)

    Which would be a good thing. Why wait thousands of years for humans to evolve (if at all - it's not the super intelligent scientists and other successful people who have the most kids, quite the contrary)

    You assume genetics is the only determinant of intelligence.

    if you could make the jump right now, with much more impact?

    For the same reason you don't hand an oxyacetylene torch (or administrator access to a company network) to a five-year-old and ask why he should wait until he's an adult to start learning marketable skills. We still don't know enough about genetics to start testing for more than a handful of things, and definitely don't know enough to start tweaking things in a living, thinking human being. Trying it now is just driving nails with a wrecking ball.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 15, 2009 @01:33PM (#29076909)

    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.

Basic is a high level languish. APL is a high level anguish.