Intelligence : born smart, born equal, born different. 3/3.

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About this work


Radio documentary, presented by Adam Rutherford, looking at the genetics of intelligence. In this episode he looks at what recent genetic breakthroughs could mean for education. Professor Robert Plomin, King's College London, talks about how genetic information should be used to form education policy. Professor of Education, Michael Rice, is concerned about children, or parents, being told that they have genes for lower intelligence, and how this will effect them in life. A clip from the 1997 film, Gattaca, is played, which is then discussed by geneticist and historian, David Kirby. Geneticist, Professor Steve Jones, discusses whether we should fear genetic streaming at birth. Professor Robert Winston talks about the complexities of genetic screening for illness, and feels screening for intelligence should also be complex. Bioethicist, Dr. Sarah Chan, mentions how different genes can influence intelligence, as can environmental factors. Moral philosopher, Peter Singer, talks about intelligence with regard to life chances. Rutherford looks at the historical setting. Cultural historian, Matthew Sweet considers Francis Galton. Rutherford talks about intelligence tests, such as the 11+, introduced into the UK in 1944 by psychologist, Cyril Burt. His wish was to find naturally bright children who may be disadvantaged in other ways. Despite allegations, after his death, of faked data, he was still the first UK scientist to advise the government on education. Rutherford discusses the Butler Education Act of 1944 and the different types of school it introduced. Steve Jones talks about this with regard to his own family. Rutherford talks with Sarah Chan about general tests that exist for intelligence. Statistician, Charles Spearman, wanted to measure the notion of intelligence. Spearman's G factor for general intelligence is discussed. Robert Plomin talks about IQ tests. Professor of statistics, David Spiegelhalter, also considers these as a measurement but notes their limitations. Rutherford asks why it is we are willing to accept inborn health inequalities but fear inborn intelligence inequalities. Michael Rice discusses whether children should be tested at birth for intelligence as they are for health issues - the hope being that the earlier problems are recognised the more chance there is to improve the situation. Robert Plomin talks about the prediction of learning problems in a positive way. Rutherford thinks this is some years/decades away but still feels useful comparisons can be drawn between disease and intelligence. He also asks whether genetics will help teachers to teach. Robert Plomin discusses whether a child will be seen by their teacher as over or under achieving, according to their genetic propensity. Sarah Chan, does not share Plomin's optimism about the genetics of education, as she feels social and economic factors have more of a part to play. Rutherford sums up the series with the phrase, we are not born equal, we are simply born different.


UK : BBC Radio 4, 2014.

Physical description

1 CD (29 min.)

Copyright note

BBC Radio 4


Broadcast on 13 May, 2013.

Creator/production credits

Presented by Adam Rutherford ; produced by Anna Buckley for BBC Radio 4.



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