“Will the real Baby Einstein please stand up?” is the hedder on a university media release aimed at pop science central:
When it comes to what causes genius, nature may be ready to pull a stunning upset over nurture. University of Alberta researcher Martin Mrazik has put forward the argument that an increased presence of a naturally-occuring hormone could mean that genius is determined before birth.In a recent article in Roeper Review, Mrazik and a colleague posit that genius may be caused by prenatal exposure to an excessive level of testosterone. Mrazik notes that there is evidence that this high exposure facilitates increased brain connection. This hormonal “glitch” in-utero, Mraizk notes, would explain why children are born with an affinity for certain areas such as math, science or arts.
I was invited to e-mail or call for details.
Now, the nice thing about Roeper’s thesis is that it is undemonstrable.
Roeper is unlikely to suggest that we overdose a thousand male babies on testosterone and then give them IQ tests ten years later. (Although … here is evidence that someone might, if anyone took this stuff seriously.)
Notice the exquisite political correctness with which the PR department avoids the obvious issue: This, if plausible, would account for why so many more men than women are geniuses, a fact about which I have written here:
One way of looking at it: If you picture human achievement as a sort of bell curve, you will find that, absent serious social oppression of women, the women’s achievement curve is of equal height to that of men, but fits inside it. Thus there are more male supergeniuses out there, and there are also more men in prison for essentially stupid offenses.
In the middle of the curve, women hold down normal jobs just as well as men – deliver the mail, doctor your dog, fix your teeth, et cetera. But at the outer edges on BOTH sides, it’s mostly, though not entirely, a guy’s world.
Which is the central weakness of Rieper’s theory: It is hardly likely that low or negative achievement in men can be accounted for by low testosterone.
Accounting for a truly rare phenomenon is difficult by nature, and its origin can hardly be a simple one.
Note: As a matter of a policy, I, being a blogger, do not respond to invitations that don’t include a link, and I don’t have the time to hunt and peck for more information about a proposition in which I have no confidence anyway. Hence no link and no follow-up.
Further note: Obviously no marketing genius was involved in designing that PR approach. Imagine! In the world of the Internet!