Re: Twin Studies [was Re: HR25Show82099 - BS]

phil osborn (
Sat, 21 Aug 1999 23:42:27 PDT

>From: "Robert J. Bradbury" <>
>Subject: Twin Studies [was Re: HR25Show82099 - BS]
>Date: Sat, 21 Aug 1999 01:13:09 -0700 (PDT)
> > This is frankly total BS
> > and implies a profound ignorance of the whole subject of intelligence.
>Really!?! In my freely admitted "ignorance" of the subject, I would
>argue that there is a profound possibility of variance in human
>intelligence based on such things as variabilities in neurotransmitter
>release and uptake by receptors -- for which there are known to be
>genetic "variants". These variants would be diminished or eliminated
>in twins, and so one would expect there to be a correlation in the
>intelligence of such individuals. Are you attacking a specific
>set of twin studies or the entire concept that intelligence can
>have a basis in molecular biology and genetics?
Thank you for your response. I am so tired of the way that this particular discussion is trivialized into "nature" or "nurture," or flip responses like Natasha's on air last night. The various "extropians" were so eagerly backing her up with various attempts to emotionally intimidate any opposing argument that it took Warren James, the host of the program, four tries, as I recall, to get anyone to even recognize that he had demanded proof or facts to back up her position. Warren, fortunately, is not so easilly intimidated. I also note that everyone sort of slid around that demand.

First, it's nature AND nurture, obviously, else cats and mosquitos would both have human intelligence. What Burt did was to heavily tilt the balance of evidence to please the British aristocracy. As I recall, he concluded that about 80% was heredity, when in fact the data indicated more like 50/50.

Just as the same Pentium PC can run DOS3.3, Win98, BeOS or LINUX, to name a few options, so human intelligence is software running on hardware (to oversimplify only slightly) with data and I/O channels with specific noise parameters and bandwidth.

Before she had computers from which to draw analogies, Maria Montessori essentially figured this out, which is why the Montessori Environment for Discovery starts with training sensory/perceptual (these are two separate categories, BTW) capabilities, building the I/O and low level inputs, constructing the filtering routines and optimizing them.

I personally had a chance to be on the Board of Directors of the first Montessori school in one major city and also to teach briefly and observe. The kids we started with were definitely well-endowed genetically, but none of them gave any indication of genetic genius like Mozart, etc.

After three years, however, the six and seven year olds of our first group could pick up a newspaper and read it with good comprehension, they could find virtually any major named spot on a globe or map (any spot given the references), they could diagram any English sentence. They had excellent musical relative pitch recognition. They knew quite a bit of Euclidian geometry and were starting in algebra. These were not their only skills, by any means.

In fact, the MOntessori method is not aimed at duplicated grades 1 thru 6 before the age of seven, although that is roughly what it accomplished in terms of the guages used by academia. The much more important tasks are building epistemology and integrating focus. Nothing is taught by rote or authority in a true Montessori environment.

The entire environment is an enormous set of prepared scientific experiments. The child does the experiment and works out in his or her own mind what the cause and effect relationships are. The equipment is designed such that it is nearly impossible to get to the end result - which the director demonstrates at the start - without understanding the principles.

Montessori's goal was to create a revolution by creating powerful individuals who knew how to actually use more of their brains - and why (such as Milton Friedman, one of the early U.S. Montessori kids, before Dewey and Thorndike declared war on Montessori and wiped it out in the U.S. for almost four decades). People who would be utterly immune to propaganda and fully confident in their own ability to understand and deal with the world, who had been brought up to be totally self-motivated (no one tells a Montessori child "you VILL do this NOW!", as they do in the German Kindergartens. The Montessori kids choose their own activity or not.)

Unfortunately, it being the early '70's, we had no computers in our school, although we had already made plans for when they came available.
> > In fact, this is part and parcel of the whole Mensa nonsense propagated
> > Mensa founder Cyril Burt in his massively fraudulent Twin Study, very
> > the most costly scientific fraud in all history.
>Fraud or not fraud, you be the judge. Do you have an explanation or
>argument that variations in genetic traits that effect brain development
>such as (#'s of neurons, rate of neuronal death, reinforcement of
>synaptic strength/weightings, neurotransmitter release & uptake
>rates, propagation rates of neuronal impulses) are *totally*
>negated by environmental effects?
This angle of discussion is irrelevant. Burt's orginal data was found upon his death. He falsified the results. We know this. We also know that a 386 running LINUX can outperform a 90Mhz Pentium running Win98 in many important respects. The average child who goes through Montessori, when matched as closely as possible with other kids of the same background, etc., according to the U. of Chicago results, maintains a three year academic advantage.

Not that spectacular, certainly, compared to the J.S.Mills or the Susedik daughters, but then Montessori herself emphasized that the first two years are the most important for developing intelligence. (Susedik believed that pre-natal was even more important.) Unfortunately, she had her hands full trying to coordinate 4,000+ schools dealing with 2-7 yr. olds, dealing with Hitler and Mussolini, both of whom banned or burned her schools. Anne Frank was a Montessori child, BTW.

She also hoped that someone would carry on her work and extend the environment into the higher ages. I might point out, in passing, that we certainly do know what happens on the other end of the spectrum - early sensory deprivation. There have been enought cases of that historically to verify that it results in severe intellectual incapacity.
> > stack of documentation from U of Chicago that resulted in Head Start.
> > Or the nearly century-long record of Montessori education.
>Do you have *specific* references here?
No. Not for many years. If you are interested it shouldn't hard to find. I saw the old U. of Chicago documents at Santa Monica Montessori in the late '70's where the school's head director, Ruth Dresser (who took it over from Tom Laughlin (Billy Jack), had collected them.
>I would argue that if either Head Start or Montessori educations
>had made a demonstrable difference in the intelligence of children
>that you would see parents flocking to these approaches. If they
>only have marginal effects within a range of intelligences dictated
>primarily by genetic factors, then I would argue that you would have
>what you see today -- that people adhere to these approaches to the
>degree that they have been convinced that they have some benefit.
>Such benefit is "marginal" and that is why the subscription base
>is marginal as well.
There are several factors that unfortunately make this far from a free market in competing technologies. As I mentioned, in the U.S. the two most powerful figures in U.S. education, Dewey and Thorndike, the "fathers of Progressive Education," declared war on Montessori. It was a battle royale, with Alexander Graham Bell and many prominent intellectuals championing the Montessori side, and virtually all of academia and its coffers and its public schools on the other.

Then Burt's study came out. Then the market crashed and the world depression set in and private money dried up. Montessori's base was in Italy. Mussolini was happy to have her schools to point to as a source of Italian pride, but she refused the uniforms on the kids, so he shut her down. Ditto, Hitler and most of the rest of Europe shortly as a result.

Montessori died in 1952, and, as it was a top-down organization, her death ended most innovation in her schools. Nevertheless, there are more Montessori schools - at least in name - now than ever, by far, so parents have been chosing them. Because of extremely restrictive regulation of "day care," instigated by the teacher's unions, who have been conspiring to force the introduction of universal public day care by pricing private day care out of the general market, however, the Montessori schools are too expensive for most people.

The educational equipment for one Montessori pre-school classroom costs over $20,000, compared to a few hundred in a typical day care. Ironically though, if it were not for the state regs, Montessori schools would be CHEAPER! than other daycares, as the children do not need constant minute by minute adult authority to keep them under control, and labor is the biggest cost. The kids clean and maintain their own environment - which they consider to be theirs!, BTW, as in "casa de bambini" - the children's house.

Montessori schools worldwide often run at 30 to 1 ratios or more, and operate in places like Sri Lanka, but California, for example, sets the max at 12 to 1, and to get a day care director's license you have to have a college degree, in addition to the year or more of Montessori full-time training.

There are other major factors I could discuss at some length, such as the fact that women, the major factor in childcare in this country, take huge pride and virtually identify themselves with strongly genetic factors, like their personal appearance, for example. The majority don't WANT to believe that by making the intellectual effort they can make a major difference in their child. They want to preserve this magical feminine mystique that their particular child is somehow utterly precious just because it has their particular blend of chromosomes.

Recall the UCI egg scandal. You might have thought that the women had been raped and tortured by their reactions. Yet UCI made no attempt to lure particular genetically desireable women to steal their eggs, oddly enough. Just any old healthy egg would do. It was a crime of hubris and opportunity in which absolutely no one would have been harmed if it had not been found out.

Women - not all of them, obviously, but way too many - are anti-rational and consistently resist science and technology. Look at how they waited until computers became "fashinable" to finally adopt them. As an educational consultant in the '80's, I could talk for hours about this one. And Amerika distrusts people who are too smart, as in "Mad Scientists." So it's a hard sell culturally and then you have active, dedicated thoroughly evil opposition who happen to control the state-financed compulsory education and its propaganda apparatus - the schools themselves.

Bottom line. If any other area of human endeavor were pursued as incompetently as childcare, it would be notable for that fact alone. There are other political and cultural factors why, but this is too long already...

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