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Geneticists And Economists Clash Over "Genoeconomics" Paper 213

scibri writes "One side is accused of supporting ethnic cleansing; the other of being intellectually naive. Geneticists and economists are struggling to collaborate on research that explores how our genes influence and interact with economic behavior. Top economists are publishing a paper that claims a country's genetic diversity can predict the success of its economy. To critics, the economists' paper seems to suggest that a country's poverty could be the result of its citizens' genetic make-up, and the paper is attracting charges of genetic determinism, and even racism. But the economists say that they have been misunderstood, and are merely using genetics as a proxy for other factors that can drive an economy, such as history and culture."
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Geneticists And Economists Clash Over "Genoeconomics" Paper

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  • by alan_dershowitz ( 586542 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @01:20PM (#41609581)

    In an open letter, the group said that it is worried about the political implications of the economists’ work: “the suggestion that an ideal level of genetic variation could foster economic growth and could even be engineered has the potential to be misused with frightening consequences to justify indefensible practices such as ethnic cleansing or genocide,” it said.

    Well, I guess scientists had better go back and un-invent and un-discover any empirically verifiable or useful thing they may have invented or discovered that has the potential for misuse.

  • by NinjaTekNeeks ( 817385 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @01:22PM (#41609609)
    Religion in most of the world has a huge impact on economic success, as does the availability and quality of education. In addition the current financial state of a region makes a huge difference, when I don't worry about finding food I can read and study more. When clean water and sanitation are taken care of I can focus more on research and development of new ideas and technologies. A person forced to read a holy book instead of a science book probably won't be much help developing the next IPhone,
  • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @01:26PM (#41609657)

    It's ok for genes to predicate athletic ability, but not other abilities or behaviours?

    Obviously our genes influence other behaviours. The small minded might not like that, but that's the way it is. Those who cry "racism" do a diservice to humanity in general - the bell curve applies to all populations, and the distribution of genes within a population is widely distributed. Studying how those genes interact is a good thing!

  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @01:34PM (#41609755) Homepage Journal

    Now show me the papers that correlate genetics with government policy.

    Check out the genetic profiles of those living:

    1. In govt run "projects" housing

    2. In govt funded Welfare

    3. In govt funded food stamp programs

    4. In govt funded Medicaid

    Adjust for % of each race in the the nation...and see what you come out with?

    Regardless of your findings...which if done soundly with regard to the science of numbers...you'd get roasted over a public open fire and branded a racist.

    While there is a huge cultural component to this...perhaps the culture also is somewhat genetics based?

  • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @01:35PM (#41609765)

    Many people learned to read science books because it was first considered important for them to be able to read holy books. Universities started off as not much more than seminaries.

    Being someone who has read both holy books and science books, I'd say that the real cause of people having problems with science is either that they are uninterested or unable to read. Holy books don't really impinge too much on my reading of journals.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @01:38PM (#41609801)

    Because chances are...you would be a racist, justifying your racist opinions with sloppy pseudo-science.

    Just like the Bell Curve people, who purported to have objective science, but were really just basing their premises on a very subjective analysis. And the more they insisted they were basing things on their hard science, the more it was obvious they weren't.

    There's a slight chance a person wouldn't actually be racist, but would be simply misguided, but I've rarely seen that to be the case.

  • Re:If you RTFA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @01:40PM (#41609815) Homepage

    That's impossible. Immigration is the only cause of genetic diversity in humans.

  • Re:If you RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @01:54PM (#41610011)

    That's impossible. Immigration is the only cause of genetic diversity in humans.

    No, it isn't. War, for example, is traditionally a huge cause of genetic diversity (after conquering a place, soldiers would often... well, rape the local women, to be frank, and even in a less-extreme scenario often slept with the more willing local women as they traveled). There is a reason there were often massive population booms after an invading army swept through a country. Any traveler has a possibility of spreading diversity, even if they aren't immigrating, and genes will spread across borders slowly over time even if the population remains relatively stationary.

  • by cryptolemur ( 1247988 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @01:55PM (#41610029)
    Especially so when dealing with pseudoscience like economics, where any explanation that justifies greed and sosiopathy is considered valid.
  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @02:04PM (#41610139) Homepage

    This and very much this. It's hard to imagine a marriage between genetics, a real science and economics - something that tails astrology and is just one jump ahead of homeopathy as a 'science'.

    You will never get anything useful out of it. Economists should not be allowed to pretend to read hard science papers. It will just give them airs.

  • by claytongulick ( 725397 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @02:22PM (#41610401) Homepage

    Education and Society dictate a persons capabilities.

    Do you have any supporting evidence of this other than a naive "I wish it were like this so it must be so!"

    Want to throw out decades of research that support genetic influence of behavior on such diverse issues as alcoholism, personality disorders, etc...

    A simple search of scholarly articles will give you plenty of studies conducted on identical twins raised in diverse social and economic situations, that have a genetic predisposition towards specific behaviors.

    According to your point, if I had the right education, in the right society, I could be a NFL linebacker, correct?


  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @02:44PM (#41610727)

    The people working on these papers expressing opinions like this are dangerous and should be locked up.

    People shouldn't be locked up just for having opinions. In fact, on the scale of dangerous ideas, these papers are nothing compared to what you just wrote in that quote.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @02:47PM (#41610783)

    I guess it was European oppression that kept them from developing written language for thousands of years after everyone else.

  • by scot4875 ( 542869 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @02:47PM (#41610801) Homepage

    No, you're not necessarily a racist, you just don't know statistics.

    Verifiable fact: there are more poor people in jail than non-poor in the US. There is a much larger correlation between economic status and crime than there is between race and crime.

    So, the fact that you "illustrated" this, shows one of a few possibilities. 1) you were unaware of this tighter correlation. 2) you are aware of this correlation, but don't believe it. (why?) 3) you are aware of this correlation, but don't understand it, and choose to promote the sloppy "more black people in jail" statistic as if it had any meaning by itself.

    So you can continue lying with statistics -- very similarly to how people do with the male/female "wage gap" -- or you can adjust your rhetoric to include and account for all relevant data. My guess is you and cayenne8 will both continue lying with a smug superiority complex about how "you're not racist, you're just stating facts".


  • Re:If you RTFA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @02:52PM (#41610887) Homepage

    War of conquest is a form of immigration.

  • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @02:59PM (#41610967) Homepage Journal

    Yes. The world's longest-lived and wealthiest societies in all of history prove your thesis. NOT!

    Egypt commanded through 3 principal epochs - over 3000 years of culturally continuous and reasonably enlightened civilization, outstripping the dreams of wealth in over that period.

    They were able to accomplish this without your revolting melanin-deficiency.

    This is but one example. Somehow, northern barbarians - who until a few short centuries ago, slept in the straw, still matted with their own dinner-filth - think they are the center of the universe. The maths and science they inherited from central and south asia have been used to rip the planet to shreds. Then they blame the victim as proof of their moral superiority.


  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @04:18PM (#41611931) Homepage Journal

    You may be unaware, but black people in the U./S. being regarded as somehow too dirty or inferior to use the same water fountain, lunch counter, or school as white kids is still within living memory.

    Equal opportunity? You're saying Joe Blow stands just as much opportunity to get a multi-million dollar friends and family investment in his new widget company as Daddy Warbucks kid? I think not.

    The U.S. provides more opportunity than a country with an active caste system, but the claim that the opportunity is anything like equal is pure fantasy.

  • by tragedy ( 27079 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2012 @06:20PM (#41613443)

    It's been about 147 years since the thirteenth amendment. That puts the era of slavery outside living memory, true. However, if we consider a lifespan of about 80 years, that means that there can certainly still be people alive today who are only one generation removed from slavery. So, the era of pre-thirteenth amendment slavery may be history, but it's a long way from being dead history.

    Add to that the fact that the thirteenth amendment hardly fixed everything. For starters, it didn't actually ban slavery. The amendment quite clearly left the door open for slavery as a punishment for crime. This does stop hereditary slavery, but otherwise leaves pretty much every other element of slavery open to continue (except for the nebulous protection of the eighth amendment's "cruel and unusual punishment" clause) for anyone convicted of a crime. Convicting poor, black, illiterate (nearly always, since it was a crime to teach slaves to read in most slave states) former slaves of crimes was pretty easy in the former slave states. For example, most former slaves were pretty much instantly guilty of vagrancy. Chain gangs and forced prison labor persisted well until... well, now actually.

    Then there's the civil rights situation. Despite the passage of the 13th amendment (ratified by Mississippi in 1995), Jim Crow laws persisted until 1965 and anti-miscegenation laws weren't declared unconstitutional until 1967 and weren't all repealed until Alabama finally did so in 2001. So, there are plenty of people alive today who experienced active legal discrimination in their lifetimes.

    Given all that, it's ridiculous to claim that the past racial discrimination of the US is just a "crutch or excuse" for social problems. The kind of effects that sort of thing produces can persist across numerous generations.

    As for people starting with nothing then rising to great success, that certainly is possible, but those are statistical outliers. If you're going to consider people en masse then those born to disadvantaged circumstances are going to stay disadvantaged and pass it on to their children and their children's children.

The optimum committee has no members. -- Norman Augustine