Quest for ‘Genius Babies’?

Steve hsu mug

Colleen Flaherty in Inside Higher Ed:

Jason Richwine swiftly resigned from the Heritage Foundation this month following revelations of his 2009 Harvard University dissertation on IQ and race, but the blogosphere continues to buzz with the story. In the aftermath, as Richwine continues to defend his research, some human biodiversity, or “HBD,” experts charge that a new generation of eugenicists may be coming of age. A recurring name is that of Stephen Hsu, the Michigan State University physicist and vice president for research and graduate studies who is researching intelligence and genetics at the world’s biggest genomics sequencing lab in Shenzhen, China.

“Richwine would probably also find a friend in Stephen Hsu, a theoretical physicist by training who is currently searching for an intelligence gene,” wrote Yong Chan, research director for the racial justice website ChangeLab. “Even though mainstream science has pretty much scrapped the notion that race has any kind of biological basis long ago, that hasn’t stopped [Hsu] from trying to link intelligence with race and getting a billion and a half dollars for research based in China.”

Michael Scroggins, a Ph.D. student at Teachers College of Columbia University, echoed Chan on “Suffice to say, [Richwine and Hsu] offer nothing new to debates over IQ, or poverty or immigration. Their innovation lies in the naked, unreflective application of a naïve sociobiology to policy debates over access to democratic institutions – citizenship and public education.”

Much of the controversy surrounding Hsu stems from a recent Vice article alleging Hsu's cognitive genomics project is ultimately helping China engineer “genius babies.”

“At BGI Shenzhen, scientists have collected DNA samples from 2,000 of the world’s smartest people and are sequencing their entire genomes in an attempt to identify the alleles which determine human intelligence,” the piece reads. “Apparently they’re not far from finding them, and when they do, embryo screening will allow parents to pick their brightest zygote and potentially bump up every generation's intelligence by five to 15 IQ points.”