Inherited Adaptability

John C. Stevens By John C. Stevens, 27th May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Mind & Spirit>Work Issues & Stress

Our DNA may hold more information than we suspect.

Race as a Social Construct

I read an article that does a good job of explaining race as a social construct. It mentions attempts at testing the intelligence of people of different races to prove that one race is more intelligent than another. It also mentions that we do not have adequate definitions of intelligence. As someone who is responsible for hiring, I am interested in our ability to measure intelligence.

Just as “race” is too broad a term to describe genetic heritage, “intelligence” may be too broad a term to describe abilities. I learned in an Introduction to Anthropology class that sickle-cell anemia is an adaptation to malaria. Light skin and dark skin are adaptations to parts of the earth with low or high levels of sunlight. I wonder if mental characteristics may also be inherited adaptations to specific conditions. What we perceive as intelligence or lack of intelligence in our modern artificial world may be adaptations that we inherited from our ancestors.

It's a Different World

The world in which human beings evolved was very different than our world. The earliest humans had to put much more thought and effort than we do into acquiring food, building shelters and getting through a drought or a winter. Behaviors that we now consider stupid may have helped people to survive in a different time and place. We tend to think of the ability to solve a problem effectively as learned after birth, but I wonder how much of this ability is inherited adaptability.

When I was in Boy Scouts I won a prize for my troop at a jamboree by identifying different species of trees by the shapes of their leaves. In shop class at school later that year, I identified different types of lumber by their grains. I was surprised by how easy this was for me. Most of my ancestors lived in northern Europe, which was once heavily forested. Years later, this experience caused me to be curious about the idea of racial memory. DNA is a complex information system that we are just beginning to understand. Perhaps a person whose ancestors lived in arid regions would have an aptitude for finding and conserving water. Maybe people who are afraid of high places had ancestors who lived in mountainous areas. They learned to stay away from the edges of cliffs.

Show Me Some Numbers

My parents raised me to not make assumptions about people based on ethnicity or gender. My own experience has taught me that a job applicant’s educational level is often not useful for evaluating their ability to do a job. High school dropouts have surprised me with their insights. People with advanced degrees have surprised me with their cluelessness. It would be nice if a job applicant could present some numbers that measure their memory, awareness, resourcefulness, curiosity and manners, also known as emotional intelligence. Until then, I will trust my instincts and some tests that I devised myself. Perhaps research will reveal that our DNA holds information that can help us survive.


Ability, Dna, Intelligence, Mental Characteristics, Race, Race As A Social Construct, Racism

Meet the author

author avatar John C. Stevens
John C. Stevens lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and son. He supervises a phone room for a public opinion research firm. He had a previous career in business to business telemarketing.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
27th May 2013 (#)

Thought provoking, John, and interesting hypothesis. Some get good grades in school and later stop learning. I know also few who never stop learning. The thirst for knowledge is ever green. It all amounts to attitude in the end and how they work as a member of a team. The DNA analysis is interesting - siva

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