The debate on human potential—and whether or not it is innate and ‘in the genes’—is steeped in bias and ideology from both sides (despite the claims that HBD ‘has no ideological bias’). Hereditarians assume that human potential is ‘in the genes’, and some even believe that human potential is testable during embryonic development (like psychologist Stuart Ritchie). However, this assumes two things: 1) that genes are the masters of development, and not the slaves, and 2) that differences in potential are already encoded in the genes of the homunculus. I will show that these two assumptions are wrong.
Embryonic development is a part of a larger whole of a complex process. Cells, in the beginning of embryonic development, are totipotent—meaning they have the ability to become any type of cell (Condic, 2014) depending on what the intelligent system calls for. This is important to note: at the beginning, all cells are the same and, despite having the same genes, “they have the same potential to become any kind of differentiated cell for a particular organism” (Richardson, 2017: 156). It is also possible to grow stem cells in a lab that are pluripotent—which have the ability to become any cell in the body—called iPS cells.
Even embryos that are of low quality do end up developing into healthy babes (emphasis in second para mine):
Embryo quality as we see it under the microscope in the IVF lab gives us some reasonable ability to predict the chances for pregnancy after the embryo transfer procedure. However, because there are many other contributing factors involved that we can not see or measure, the generalizations about “quality” made from grading embryos are often inaccurate.
We see some cycles fail after transferring 3 perfect looking embryos, and we also see beautiful babies born after transferring only one “low grade” embryo. The true genetic potential of the embryo to continue normal development is very difficult to measure accurately unless we utilize preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) to select chromosomally normal embryos for transfer.
So it seems that not even just looking at the quality of the embryo will show you if it will grow into a healthy baby with no birth complications. Potential must come after the embryonic stage of development. Another thing about testing the ‘quality’ of the embryo: it tells nothing about “what is going on inside the embryo genetically“.
The thing is, most chromosomal and other defects in any embryos can be noted under a microscope within 3 days of the embryo forming. And if you paid attention to totipotent cells earlier, you’d know that those cells have the potential to become any cell in the body—which is driven by the body’s intelligent systems/cells.
So embryonic quality really has no bearing on whether or not the embryo will eventually reach birth. As I’ve argued before in Human Mating and Aggression—An Evolutionary Perspective, the age of the mother is one of the strongest predictors of whether or not there will be deleterious effects on the child—mostly after 35 years of age (O’Reilly-Green and Cohen, 1993; van Katwijk and Peeters, 1998; Stein and Susser, 2010; Lampinen, Vehviläinen-Julkunen, and Kankkunen, 2009, Jolly, 2010; Yaniv et al, 2010; Liu et al, 2011). However, there is evidence that a woman can be too young to become a mother (Geronimus, Korenman, and Hillemeier, 1994; Fall et al, 2015) and that children born to young mothers “might be better off if the parents waited a few years” (Myrskyla and Fenelon, 2012). The same holds true for fathers, with it recently being observed that older fathers and their offspring have lower evolutionary fitness even over across four centuries (Arslan et al, 2017). So it seems that the best predictor of embryonic quality is parental age (Scheffer et al, 2017)—not what an embryo really looks like or the totipotent cells already in the embryo.
So there is no test for the genetic potential of embryos and sperm—with the best tell being parental age. Embryonic development is a part of the intelligent developmental system and each stage of embryonic development is brand new, rather than being the cause of an already laid out blueprint. So even though the embryo has all of the same genes (in totipotent cells), they have the potential to become any cell in the body which is directed by the intelligent system (as noted above).
So if you understand embryonic development and how it’s a part of the intelligent system itself and not a part of an already laid out blueprint, then you’ll understand how potential—as we know it— is not in the embryo. They all have the same kinds of totipotent cells which have the chance to become any cell in the body which are then activated and used by the intelligent physiology. The age of both parents are the best predictors of embryonic quality—just by looking at the embryos after they’ve developed from blastocytes, you cannot infer that embryo’s potential.
Ken Richardson also responded to Stuart Ritchie’s article It’s now possible, in theory, to predict life success from a genetic test at birth to which Ken Richardson responded to. Potential is not in the embryo due to the number of totipotent cells in the embryo. Even ‘low-quality’ embryos can become healthy babes, so ’embryonic quality’ is not a good measure of whether or not it will be born with a defect, etc.