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A day is a long time in genetics research. Yesterday I made the following prediction about the method that David Piffer has used to estimate racial intelligence:
Prediction: we will need very many more SNPs before we can attempt predictions of individual IQs across different races at better than a correlation of r=0.7
Having made that bold prediction, it struck me I should ask Piffer if his newly enhanced predictive equation could make a fresh calculation as to the intelligence of James Watson and Craig Venter. It was the inability of his method to classify these two leading lights of genetic research which Professor Neil Risch had used to make fun of Piffer when giving his American Society of Human Genetics Presidential Address in 2016. Piffer turned down my request, saying “Well, that would be like carrying out another mini GWAS (or better, a case control study) with 2 people instead of 100,000. No scientific value beyond anecdotal curiosity.”
Ever bold, I championed the cause of anecdotal curiosity. To keep him motivated, I did not say that his getting a positive result was no more likely than bird droppings in a cuckoo clock. An n of 2 is very, very silly, but I am ever a curious person. After a few hours Piffer relented, and this was his reply.
I looked up the 9 SNPs (the “perennial reliables”) for Educational Attainment. Note that these are the same SNPs that Michael Woodley and I used to successfully predict evolution of intelligence since the Bronze Age. They were identified by myself by finding the replicates across Educational Attainment GWAS. They are highly predictive of population IQ (r= 0.9). One of those SNPs was missing from Watson and Venter but the odds ratios and frequencies are in line with predictions.
This is the matrix with allele count and results of Fisher’s Exact test. Not significant (p=0.17) but odds ratios (O.R.= 1.53) are quite good (indicating the overrepresentation of intelligence-enhancing alleles in Watson and Venter’s genomes compared to the average White American (CEU) person.
Intelligence-enhancing allele Intelligence-decreasing allele Watson and Venter 12 10 1KG CEU (White American) 497 691
In sum, it would appear that even this general method of predicting racial differences in intelligence can be pressed into service to hazard a guess that the two scientists in question are more intelligent than the average European.
I would have been interested if it had been possible to add the DNA of Francis Crick, but you can’t have everything. I presume there is also no DNA for Maurice Wilkins, with whom I worked with very briefly when carrying out a study on the effects of the Christmas Island nuclear weapons tests, but he mournfully declined to add his name to the letter we wrote to the Lancet in 1983 describing that work, saying by way of apology: “Critics say I sign too many letters, so it’s better that I don’t sign this one”. I should have got a buccal swab from him instead.
Onwards and upwards to the sunlit uplands.