“Luck” vs. genes: is there a moral difference?

January 29, 2022 • 11:00 am

Not long ago, I reviewed for the Washington Post Kathryn Paige Harden’s newish book on genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of human traits and how we can use the results to bring about social change. Click on the screenshot to read my take, or request a pdf:

Harden wrote the book with a social purpose that. she thought, could be implemented through the new technique of GWAS. I explain the method in my review, and so won’t reiterate it here, but it aims to identify many regions of the human genome responsible for genetic variation in a chosen human trait in one population. The trait she concentrates on is “educational attainment” (years of schooling), which is highly correlated with nearly every measure of “success” that you can think of—particularly wealth and income. And indeed, Harden, summarizing previous work, points out that over 1200 regions of the DNA can affect the value of this trait.

What this means is that even in a newborn child, you can predict how well a child will succeed. The predictability isn’t anywhere close to 100%, but still you can “rank” children by their GWAS scores in their likelihood of “success.”

Now this sounds like a hereditarian nightmare, with the possibility of ranking people as Aldous Huxley did in Brave New World: alphas at the top and the useless epsilons at the bottom. But although Harden is a hereditarian, her aims are not stratification or ranking, but equity. Her view is that once we know the genes responsible for academic achievement, we can use that information to help achieve equity in academic achievement.

And that’s where the big problem lies in her book: she couldn’t propose a good a way to use this information to achieve “equity”.  While her description of the genetic work in the book’s first half is excellent, the remedies she proposes in the second just aren’t there. In fact, I can’t see myself how to use this kind of genetic information to promote academic success. Suppose you know from genotyping an infant that that kid has an expected chance of graduating from high school that’s only 80% of the average value. What do you do with that information? Start tutoring the kid as soon as possible? Give more money to schools to boost everyone (this hasn’t worked)? There is no solution that doesn’t involve differential treatment, but Harden doesn’t want that, for it creates classes of “smarter” and “dumber” people, branding them from the outset.  It turns out that I wasn’t the only reviewer to spot this problem. And I’d claim that it’s easier to manipulate the school environment than to genotype a gazillion kids. (All genetically-based interventionsmust be tested empirically, anyway.)

But I’m not writing this to reiterate my review, but to bring up some stuff that I had to leave out of my review. So I’ll put below an argument that I thought was important but omitted from that review, both because I was severely limited by space and because a few people who looked at my draft saw this as superfluous. Now I regret not having written what I say here. Bolding below is mine.

These are quotes from my rough draft about Harden’s argument that we need to pay special attention to inequalities based on genetics because they’re a matter of “luck”.  I had to omit these bits (indented):

Harden’s motivation for using genetic differences to engineer equality comes from the fact that those differences are a matter of luck: the vagaries of how genes sort themselves out during egg and sperm formation. It’s unfair, she says, to base social justice on randomly distributed genes: “People are in fact more likely to support [wealth] redistribution when they see inequalities as stemming from lucky factors over which people have no control than when they see inequalities as stemming from choice.” [p. 206]

But is there really “choice”? Like many scientists and philosophers, I’m a determinist who rejects the idea of free will—at least the kind that maintains that there is something more to behavior than the inescapable consequences of your genetic and environmental history as well the possible indeterminate (quantum) laws of nature. In this pervasive view, at any one moment you could have chosen to do something other than what you did.

But there’s no evidence for this kind of free will, which would defy the laws of physics by enabling us to mystically control the workings of our neurons.  No inequalities stem from “free choice” and so everyone’s life results from factors over which they have no control, be they genetic or environmental.

Harden actually admits this dilemma: “If you think the universe is deterministic, and the existence of free will is incompatible with a deterministic outcome, and free will is an illusion, then genetics doesn’t have anything to add to the conversation. Genetics is just a tiny corner of the universe where we have worked out a little bit of the larger deterministic chain.”  [p. 200] And with that statement she pushes her whole program into that tiny corner.

But then Harden adds something like “I’m not going to get into the issue of free will.” By doing that, she punts on the most important issue of her book. Since our lives are completely the uncontrollable results of our genes and our environments, which even a compatibilist will admit, why should we see genes as a matter of “luck” but environment not? The family we’re born into, the people we meet, and all the influences of our lives are a matter of “luck”—and by “luck” I mean “naturalistic factors over which we have no willful control.”  It’s not pure “luck” which way a coin falls when you toss it: it’s actually determined by the laws of physics at play when you flip it (velocity, wind currents, and so on). The outcome, like that of our lives, are determined. Or, in some cases, not absolutely determined by the laws of physics (i.e., theoretically predictable if you had perfect knowledge) but are still absolutely produced by the laws of physics, since quantum mechanics, which so far as we know is inherently indeterministic, can affect some circumstances. But, as we know, quantum mechanics cannot support the common notion of free will: “I could have chosen other than I did.”

People will argue about this, but I don’t really want to argue about free will here; I want to make a point about determinism.  And that point is this. If you think that your genes, which partly determine your success in life, are the result of “luck” (I guess Harden means by “luck” those factors over which we have no conscious control), then so is everything else that determines your success in life.  In other words, as Harden suggests (but then dismisses) the idea that genetic “luck” is somehow physically an morally different from “environmental luck” is a bogus distinction.

And if that be the case, then people’s feeling that you need to be more concerned with fixing genetic inequalities than with fixing environmentally-based inequalities is unfounded.

The point isn’t really how we define “free will”, for all rational people are naturalists, accepting that our wills cannot change the laws of physics that really control our lives. And even if you are one of those rare libertarian free willers—who are largely religious people—I can’t see any rationale for being more concerned with genetically based inequalities than with environmentally based ones. (I note her that “environmental inequalities” can also have a genetic basis, so the distinction isn’t completely clear-cut. For example, we have evidence that there are genetic propensities to choose certain people as your friends, and your friends are immensely important in determining how you turn out.)

I applaud Harden’s motivations; who wouldn’t want to improve everybody’s chance of educational achievement? But by punting on the issue of determinism, it seems to me that Harden undercuts the whole social value of her genetic program. And because she’s a true progressive leftist, she’s more or less forced to evade that issue. But it’s fourth down and 25 yards to a first—what else can you do?

44 thoughts on ““Luck” vs. genes: is there a moral difference?

  1. Comment before reading :

    “The trait she concentrates on is “educational attainment” (years of schooling), which is highly correlated with nearly every measure of “success” that you can think of—particularly wealth and income.”

    Is there a distinction made between e.g. vocational/technical school, university/academics, medical, or art/performance schools?

  2. … the idea that genetic “luck” is somehow physically an morally different from “environmental luck” is a bogus distinction.

    Morality is actually pragmatic. The point of morals (why we have them, in evolutionary terms) is to influence people’s behaviour (including our own behaviour).

    The distinction between “environment” and “genes” is that we can influence people’s environment (moral approval and disapproval are part of people’s environment) but we cannot change people’s genes. That’s why they are morally different.

    We are more willing to tolerate unequal outcomes that arise from, say, hard work than those that arise from genetics, because, by adopting that stance, we can encourage people to work hard.

    As ever, determinism is correct, but is not what social constructs such as morality and “just deserts” are about.

    1. I think you hit the key point when you talk about hard work. Genetics and environment are both a matter of luck, but that’s not really the point. What most people want who share Harden’s “equalize away the luck factors” view, is that reward should track (A) hard work plus (B) pro-social orientation.

      And for that, both imaginary metaphysical (libertarian) free will and the real physics of causality (which underwrites compatibilist free will) are irrelevant.

    2. We can also improve the performance of genetically disadvantaged people by urging them to work hard. Harden doesn’t claim that 100% of the variance in performance is due to variance in genes. It’s more like 12%.

      Are you saying, then, that from the outset we should ignore Harden’s argument because “you can’t change genes but you can change behavior”. Why, then, does she say we should concentrate on helping the genetically disadvantaged.

      This is like saying that doctors should ignore genetic diseases like Huntington’s or metabolic disorders because, after all, they’re based on genes and can’t be changed. We should concentrate on environmentally induced diseases like lung cancer or lead poisoning. Leave the sickle-cell kids alone; it’s genetic. Can’t be helped.

      You see the fallacy of this argument. Environmental interventions can go a long way to ameliorating genetic “deficiencies.” And that’s what Harden is proposing. The question I raised is WHY WE SHOULD CONCENTRATE ON THOSE PEOPLE WITH GENES FOR LOWER ACHIEVEMENT RATHER THAN THOSE HAVING ENVIRONMENTS ASSOCIATED WITH LOWER ACHIEVEMENT.

      1. “We can also improve the performance of genetically disadvantaged people by urging them to work hard.”

        Exactly. And to do that we have to approve of hard work and disapprove of sloth. (Which is different from our attitude to genes, since approving/disapproving of genes won’t change them, so is not appropriate.)

        “Are you saying, then, that from the outset we should ignore Harden’s argument because “you can’t change genes but you can change behavior”.”

        I’m not saying we should ignore her argument. I’m pointing out that moral approval/disapproval is best applied to things that can be changed by that approval/disapproval.

        “Why, then, does she say we should concentrate on helping the genetically disadvantaged.”

        Because they most need help?

        “This is like saying that doctors should ignore genetic diseases like Huntington’s or metabolic disorders because, after all, they’re based on genes and can’t be changed.”

        But while the genes cannot (currently) be changed, the effects can be ameliorated by environmental interventions.

        “Environmental interventions can go a long way to ameliorating genetic “deficiencies.”



        But don’t we do both? The idea that we might give extra help to a kid from an impoverished background is well established. Indeed, in general, that is perhaps a more accepted concept, since many blank-slaters reject the idea that someone can be born with a less-advantageous set of genes.

      2. If we can identify either of these factors genes or the environmental factors associated with future lower academic achievement.

  3. There’s a difference between genetic “luck” and the environmental kind. We truly have no control (yet) over the former but the latter can be changed by our actions. We mostly choose our friends and our environment during the course of our lives. We make our own luck, as the saying goes. This is agency and, although it derives ultimately from physics, we are still able to play it out. We are the process.

    1. I guess you’re not a determinist then. In fact, as I said above, the genetic influences on academic achievement explain only a small portion of the variance.

      The rest of what you said is impenetrable to me. Any rational construing of “agency” means that you could do any of a number of different things. And by “play it out”, do you mean “humans are the organisms that show behavior determined by the laws of physics?” If so, that says nothing to me about whether determinism differs between meiosis and neuronal behavior.

      And if behavior is changed by our actions, it’s not because we decide to change; it’s because we had no choice but to change under our (determined) environments.

      I find it odd that Harden recognizes that determinism devalues her whole argument, but the readers here don’t. Also, remember that Harden’s thesis is that we need to work HARDER to improve the genetically disadvantaged than to improve the environmentally disadvantages. Yet people keep saying that we should pretty much give up on the former because you can’t change genes. That’s right, you can’t, but unless heritability is 100%, which it isn’t for ANY behavioral trait, there’s always room for improvement.

      1. I am a determinist but believe that we have agency regardless. I suspect that Harden is confused about how free will and determinism relate — a common problem. She probably accepts the argument for determinism but her gut tells her that people can still make decisions that affect outcomes. As you often point out, these ideas conflict if you look at them a certain way. I look at them a different way. Harden probably hasn’t worked it out yet. She knows enough to see there’s a problem but hasn’t resolved it and still wanted to get her book out.

  4. It sounds to me like Harden’s thesis is moot based on a close look at determinism. So, of course, her suggestions for egalitarianism are missing. The old fashioned way to equality was to provide good schooling which, if there is little we can do about genes, must become careful individualized instruction. But, this leads to stratification of students, ranking, if you will, because a very bright kid would not attain optimal learning if held back by a low ranking pace of instruction. When I was in high school, there was a college bound track and within that group a few select students took advanced math. Later, during my daughter’s time, there was advanced placement classes. What new can be added to that formula? It does segregate students from early on, but to try to equalize instruction to a single common mode for all would be inefficient.

  5. Here is a review of the same book by two folks with strong creds and they do a lot of punching:

    “As we have laid out, we believe instead that current PGS for educational attainment are neither interpretable nor particularly meaningful. GWAS undoubtedly captures
    some causal genetic effects, i.e., more than confounding alone, and there is interesting science
    to learn from these initial findings. But we currently understand next to nothing about the
    causal paths from GWAS findings to educational attainment, notably the extent to which
    they include analogs of Jencks-style “red hair effects” and the legacy of accumulated indirect
    effects. That may not matter when PGS are to be employed as a statistical tool in the study
    of the impact of social interventions, but it matters greatly when they are used to elucidate,
    let alone redress, social inequalities”


    1. The problem with Kathryn Paige Harden is that she makes the left-wing assumption that equity (equality of outcome) is not only desirable, but also attainable. And if we are not attaining it then we’re organising society wrong.

      I don’t think that equity is attainable, at least not without so much draconian authoritarianism that the cure would be way worse than the disease.

    2. Thanks for this; I hadn’t seen it, though I know both Graham and Molly and they do indeed know their stuff. Sadly, Harden herself says in the book that her advisor (who doesn’t agree much with her thesis) nevertheless said that “this is the book that will make you famous.” It didn’t.

    3. Behavorial genetics is dying a slow death. The idea that “years of schooling” can be defined as a human trait has always been ludicrous, no matter how many correlations you find between this and other socioeconomic/status attainments. To be fair, it was born at a time in which twin studies was all that was available to try and tease out empirical data around the relevant issues, people had to make do with this ridiculously poor conceptual framework. GWAS has undoubtedly delayed the dismissal because of the shiny new data points but it’s pretty clear by now it does not make the case more convincingly. In a few decades people will look back to some of the still ongoing flavors of social sciences (evolutionary psychology included) and wonder why there was such a reluctance of letting go of deeply flawed frameworks.

      1. Of course “years of schooling” can be defined as a human trait, just as “years of life” can. Whether there are genes that affect that trait is a different issue, but all signs are that they can. And I disagree with you that behavioral genetics is dying a slow death. It certainly isn’t in other species, and it won’t in humans, even if there is some flawed work. You are making pronouncements that are flawed.

  6. I maintain over these “free will” topics a determinism as a model is wholly incompatible with all others we use. Each and all of them. But the trouble is, it’s often not even seen as a specific model.

    Let’s compare this to Chomsky’s discussion of language models: when you say “h2o”, you are invoking a specific model of chemistry where these letters make sense and aspire to have reference, 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen atom. We can “translate” that to “water” in our everyday folk vernacular, but that water isn’t truly the same as h2o — we mean something very different by “water”. We can associate these, but they remain different models. Most people who know of h2o will be able to talk about molecules and atoms a little bit, but we are just pretend-chemists for a moment, borrowing from their systems. The model in chemistry is not intuitive, but it works nicely for chemistry. We can infuse it with metaphors, like stuff that is made of little ‘cores’ like you find in an apple; stuff that can “bond” and “radiate”. We can carry metaphors back, and say people who “bond” well have a great “chemistry” together. But strictly, in everyday language anything goes, and most might use those idioms without knowing a thing about chemistry.

    When we discuss determinism, we jump into a model of the universe, where, at an instant, we lose all terms, and all meaning. Everything we bring in here is metaphorical. It’s all just a soup of stuff which inexplicably goes through certain motions, or so it seems. On metaphor of determinism is the clockwork. It’s meaningless for the cog in a clock to observe itself turning. What does that even mean in that model? You can’t say “it turns because …” there is no teleology of it “wanting to turn”. You can‘t talk oughts and shoulds, because there are none. It just turns. All your thoughts, all your writing, all reactions, every argument, every shism, every friendship, every followup actions are just turning of the wheel. That does not mean these are futile, or the conclusion is nihilism — wrong — all these things are the turning of the cogwheel, one click of the gear tooth at a time pushing onwards. All part of the clockwork, and yet in that model, there is nothing happening but inexplicable motions. All other models loose their meaning there.

    This is why, indeed, everything is (bad) luck, when we smuggle our everyday perspective into determinism. But that’s just stopping halfway. These are just labels for stuff that happens where we don‘t know the causality.

  7. It seems eccentric to regret not having written what you say here if you don’t believe you could have done otherwise, but I suppose you believe that the regret is pre-determined also.

    1. As I’ve written before, I have a lot less regret than I used to since I accepted naturalism. If you couldn’t have done anything else, there’s nothing to regret. And yes, regret, like our feeling of true free will, is something that is probably hardwired, and perhaps created by natural selection.

      I don’t appreciate your characterizing this idea that you FEEL and act as though you have free will–even if you don’t–as “eccentric’. You can make an argument without being snarky. There’s no hypocrisy here though you’re hinting at it.

      1. No such implication intended, and I’m sorry if it came across that way. I genuinely find belief in determinism odd, but this discussion isn’t about that, so I won’t go on about it.

  8. “People are in fact more likely to support [wealth] redistribution when they see inequalities as stemming from lucky factors over which people have no control than when they see inequalities as stemming from choice.”

    I’m not sure it matters to Harden whether people really have choice. She is arguing that if people see inequalities as stemming from lucky factors, not choice, then rightly or wrongly, they are more likely to support redistribution of wealth. Whether their idea about choice is correct or not doesn’t matter. She is concerned about what the teeming hordes think, not whether the academics agree with their view of choice.

  9. While I agree that there is no such thing as free will, I don’t agree that the universe is deterministic. All events are probabilities, and determinism implies that if you knew “everything about the past to the present” you could predict “everything to come,” but the probabilistic nature of the universe says that just ain’t so. However, we don’t “choose” to be hungry, nor to be cold, nor what to dream about, nor to suddenly remember a song and start singing it. I’d say that the entire notion of “free will” has only a religious significance as a way to justify our damnation if we make the wrong choice. But, as an atheist, I never “chose” to not believe in god, it simply dawned on me that there wasn’t one. At that same time, I understood that the concept of free will is meaningless. We are all unique combinations of our genes and our environments and how they interacted to give us our “phenotype.” We “feel” like we are free to choose things, but we can only choose those things for which there really is a choice, like between a red and white wine when they are both offered. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder if the putative link between “educational attainment” and “success” isn’t really just environmental. If we had good universal education and health for all from the very beginning, we’d be more likely to improve educational attainment more than any amount of genetic manipulation could.

    1. You haven’t read any of the many posts I’ve written about free will, have you? What do you mean by “the probabilistic nature of the universe”? If you mean we can’t know everything for certain, and must assign probabilities. That says nothing about determinism. Where we must assign true probabilities even with perfect knowledge, as in quantum mechanics, well that doesn’t give us free will, and is part of “naturalism” (a word I prefer to “determinism”).

      The problem that Harden poses is one of INEQUITY, which isn’t necessarily solvable by “good universal education and health”. People have genetically based differences that aren’t meliorated by these things. In a world in which everyone lived to 80, and the schools are good, do you think everyone would have a wonderful life and do well?

  10. “The point isn’t really how we define “free will”, for all rational people are naturalists, accepting that our wills cannot change the laws of physics that really control our lives.”

    Stating the obvious (sorry), there are intervening levels of causal regularities between us and the laws of physics, so we naturalists should rationally take those into account when explaining why people end up as they do. And of course each of us, as a more or less rational agent. is the most proximate controller of our lives, even if we didn’t choose our formative circumstances. So a multi-level pragmatic determinism that accepts whatever randomness exists in nature seems to me the most rational stance, one that keeps agency intact while acknowledging the critically important fact that people couldn’t have turned out otherwise given their actual circumstances. Too bad that Harden punts on determinism and great that you don’t, but put it front and center.

    1. Those “intervening levels of causal irregularities” must absolutely be consistent with the laws of physics, and I have no idea what you’re talking about. As for us being “the most proximate controller of our lives,” I presume you mean that “people” are the units who control things (that’s not even true; groups can control lives). Agency is an illusion, so it’s not kept intact, and most people think of “agency” as “the power to do other than what you did”.

      No need to reply to me, I don’t want to get into another argument about semantics.

    2. I have this notion that the stories we tell ourselves about our activities should be coherent the underlying psychology, biology, chemistry and physics.

      I do wonder at times about our psychology stories.

      1. All the stories have to be consistent with physics, but perhaps not *reducible* to physics. That is, I think it’s an open and interesting question as to whether knowledge of just the micro-physical conditions would allow prediction of human level behavior. If not, that wouldn’t upset determinism, only mean there are higher-level causal regularities in play. Either way, there wouldn’t be anything about the psychological level that would escape causal determinism.

        1. What you’re floating here is that there are unknown principles of physics, about which we know nothing, that act only above certain levels of organization. You might as well suggest that these are produced by a divine being. As far as we know, as Sean Carroll says, everyday life obeys the laws of physics and there is nothing else operating other than the laws of physics. If you want to say that there are “higher level causal regularities,” unless you can name one or given an example, it becomes a case of Hitchen’s razor, “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

          1. “…there is nothing else operating other than the laws of physics.”

            I don’t think that only the laws of physics are in operation in explaining human behavior, but lots of other causal regularities at the chemical, biological, psychological, behavioral, economic, and social levels, e.g., operant conditioning at the behavioral level. What I’m wondering about is whether these regularities are *reducible* to physics, such that in principle all we need to know would be the micro-physical level to predict behavior. I’m not sure this has been formally proven, but perhaps it has and I missed it. Obviously from a naturalistic standpoint all the higher level regularities have to be *consistent* with physics. Whatever the case, we agree that determinism holds when it comes to behavior, minus whatever intrinsic indeterminism might play a role.

            1. Every causal regularity you mention is consistent with the laws of physics. I still have not seen an example of a regularity that is free from the laws of physics or obeys laws of physics different from those operating on atoms, rocks, and planets. And you are conflating “reducibility” with “predictability”, because the latter involves so many factors that we can never in practice know them all.

              I recommend reading Sean Carroll’s The Big Picture, esp. his discussion that the laws of physics pertaining to ordinary life are completely known.

        2. I think we are saying more or less the same … I hope. “Prediction” has different connotations, one is in the sense of the next eclipse and another who will win tomorrow’s football game. There are varying degrees of uncertainty two both. So I would agree might not reduce to *physics* but it is understood that physics is there. I don’t buy into Laplace’s intelligent being … so to speak.

        3. I would change your suggestion to “perhaps not usefully reduced to physics”. Physical laws underlie everything but that doesn’t mean deriving behavior from physics is practical or useful. Human behavior is described at a level that is really only meaningful to humans. Some prefer to say that human behavior emerges from physics.

  11. If evolution was a person instead of a process, I wonder what she would have to say about the idea of attempting to align an entire species to the idea of equitable outcomes in all valued endeavors. Where would that lead that species?

  12. I’d like to enlarge on something Jerry wrote above, to wit, that environmental interventions can go a long way to ameliorating genetic “deficiencies.” I’d go further and say that environmental interventions can go a long way to actualizing genetic potentialities. I’m thinking specifically of the general increase in height of us humans over the last few generations. To use my family as an example, my dad was 5’8″, I’m 5’11”, my younger brothers are 6′ and 6’2″, and I predict that my sons will end up somewhere between 6’1″ and 6’3″. Another example: my Chinese male friend is 5’5″ and his son is 6′. And I have Dutch friends whose household is like the land of the giants of both sexes. This steady increase is of course primarily because of better nutrition, of the mother while carrying and of the child during the formative years. I think the same type of environmental actualization of genes can apply to intelligence, and I think the type of environment that can do this is a playful one that provides enough safety to remove excessive anxiety from kids and at the same time enough risk to excite them and train them in courage.

  13. Jeeze help me now… Imho I would forward the idea that rational people can see we will never be on a equal genetic level. That differences make us tick and create. The idea is not to be equal but to be the best that bag full of genes can be in an environment that has been laid out to achieve this. Keeping a close watch on the environment is paramount to bringing and keeping the two as close as possible together. Leaving luck to a minimum. That’s life Jim. Volcanoes are not your fault.
    It is not a case of one telling or determining what is best for another individual. It is keeping the road clear to being their best vocationally, academically, physically, psychologically, whateverlly.
    Somewhere in there all dinghies regardless of size, shape, colour, condition are lifted with the incoming tide.

    1. We will likely also never be much different. Humans have still only 1/5 of chimp allele variation. Maybe in the distant future, but right now chimps are the individuals and we are the clones.

  14. Didn’t The Bell Curve run into a lot criticism over the book’s proposal that some genetic heritages needed greater assistance to offset their genetic disadvantages?

    I always believed the claim that there were genetic disadvantages (i.e. no Blank Slate) upset a lot of people.

  15. The very idea that we could even half-assedly implement policies for greater equity of this sort is ludicrous. There is the cost of the genetic screens, and then how would we direct more resources to those who fall short in the genetic lottery? From where? Any hint of pulling resources from others to do so will immediately end the policy. No one will stand to have taxpayer supported school budgets decreased so funds could be handed over to different schools.
    Meanwhile there is the economic lottery, involving generational differences in income, housing, and schooling, and the economic lottery of course has enormous effects on achievement. After at least a century of trying to remedy that, I’d say we have come very far but still have a long way to go.

  16. What’s the moral thing to do with GWAS data? Give kids this information—at what age?— or deprive them of it? The first option seems problematic, but the second one is immoral, I think. “Why nobody told me I was wasting my life!”.

  17. If you need to use philosophy to figure out your moral, you have already lost, there is nothing that people can agree on there.

    It is near impossible to find important alleles in GWAS, and we know the traits that worry Harden is polygene and have statistical outcomes anyway. I wouldn’t worry about variation as such.

    It is far more urgent to figure out what to do when alleles go awry and you can point to them as cause of a problem. Should we fix it, what are the benefits and risks et cetera? That is what hospitals are currently concerned with, and so should we be.

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