T Nation

Selective Breeding

As an afterthought from Goldberg’s post on Blacks and Athletics, I have a couple scenarios I’m curious to hear thoughts on.
#1: Can athletic “skills” be passed on through genetics? Classic example, Andre Agassi and Stefi Graff’s children. Will they naturally pick up the skills of tennis easier because of their parents?
#2: Do a person’s genes change with training/drugs? Example, if a person is born with “less than perfect” genes but through hard work or with hard work and drugs, was able to develop a good level of athleticism. Would that person’s offspring now be born genetically gifted because of the alteration from the training or drugs of the parent, or will the children still retain the same “less than perfect” genetics that the parent was born with?
My thoughts: #1: I don’t think genes will make a difference in skill attainment. #2: I think the offspring will be born with better genes.

In reply to number 1: No, I don’t think actual physical talents can be passed, even though the capability to attain such talent might be higher (with the tennis example, a brain that more easily picks up fast moving objects, etc), but the physical skills aren’t passed I don’t think.

Number 2: No, no matter how much hard work someone puts into any given endeavor, it’s not going to change their genetic make up. It might look that way if the child picks up on the parents habits and copies them, but genetics is hard wired from birth.

#1: Genes determine your predisposition to acquire a skill faster nad to a greater dgree than others. So yes, Agassi’s and Graffs children may have the basis to be just as good as their parents. ‘May’ because it depends on wether the gene is fully expressed, supressed or only expressed to some degree. Yes your capability to learn, your physical coordination, agility, intelligence, even predisposition to be a fervent religious person are ALL determined in part by your genes (and part by your environment).

#2:Your genes are your genes. Wanna change them? Try nuclear radiation and your offspring will have different traits lol. Strength training does not alter your genes- it merely allows the genes you already possess to fully express themselves to their full potential. Your muscle already has the POTENTIAL to be bigger, stronger, with more endurance. This potential is there because of your genes, and your kids will have different potential only because of your mate’s genes. Bottom line: YOUR genes DONT change. And thats a good thing. If genes changed from something as simple as weightlifting, wed be seeing plenty of bad morphing cases caused by stupid stimuli. ONLLY the EXPRESSIOn of your genes, can change. One thing is to have the potential for something. Another is to reach that potential.

Don’t want to talk down but the level of understanding about genetics is poor the world over, it’s ok for me to say this as i’ve studied them for so long and use DNA mutations everyday.

in answer to #1, an emphatic no, the best scenario woud be that of the ironmonger who for the sake of argument is the third generation and all right handed. In this case you would expect that the sons would have larger right arms in terms of muscular and nervous system. They have actually measured this and it just isn’t the case.

#2, you can’t change your genes per se without mutation, obviously the best example of a gene change is that of cancer, where there is evidence that the disease can be passed on to the next generation but never a certainty.

passing traits on isn’t as simple as expected and even if the worlds strongest man and woman had kids there would be no garuantee that their kids would show any level of strength above that of a normal person.

if you are realy interested i suggest you look into a good biochemistry book.

STU

Question 1: Depends on the timeframe and parents. Lets us suppose you have 2 parents gifted at the same level (pro).

SHORT TERM:

A) While there are no guarantees at start, the most probable scenario, will be a strong POTENTIAL for pro-level. Salt of the earth.
B) Randomness/alternatives. Of course, randomness could give you an even better athlete. However, as noted in the long-term trend, randomness will most probably present you a downsizing of the potential (because of regression to the mean).

Then there`s the ENVIRONMENTAL part. Will the child tap it? Will the environment activate/potentiate the motor units? Will the learning curve take place? That could catalyze the emergence of the said potential, either in A or B.

LONG TERM:
While it may sound bizarre, long-term in the multi-generational sense, population studies revealed that tall families regressed to the average and short families grew up to the mean. So, long-term, any population (unchecked) will regress to something call the mean (or more spefically the mean of means of groups).

Thats where selective breeding comes in.</b> Except Hitler and Rael, I do not recall anybody boldly claiming to practise Eugenism (or specialized derivatives) on a <i>systematic</i> basis in humans*. I am most confident that selective breeding, done on individual very closely matched (but not so far as inbreeding) would, if not in finding even better gene combinations, at least prevent regression to the mean. <i>It works with dogs, why should it now work with humans? Breed ectomorphs with ectomorphs, and youll most probably get ectomorphs and defy the averages on a constant basis.

(*No ethics shit, please! People somehow already do that selection on an instinctual basis. Tall people prefer to match up with tall people, for example. Then, theres instincts and drives based onbetteringwhat you already have. Brains wont usually mate with dumbasses, unless said dumbasses are better looking and thus a trade-off between brains and looks will make a more balanced individual. But then thats regression to the mean on both traits...<i>What a bitch, eh?</i> <b> In a nutshell:</b> No one unsconsciously wants to scrap his genepool and goes forbettering` or best tradeoff available. At best, it looks like a genetic version of the game theory: the best compromise between both parties, given all possible scenarios.)

(One could even futher the debate by asking if working/fighting off ones natural fat storing ability year-in year-out and/or getting implants is not false publicity, appealing to instinctual drives, to get the genes down in history through fake advertising??? This way, the result is that genes survive yet another generation - the means, from a DNA point of view, are unimportant - survival, throughdeception`, has won the life/death game yet another turn.)

Question 2: The training factor, unless proven otherwise, will not affect genes. Maybe the expression of specific traits, but not change the whole bundle of what is there at start.

The few things I know of that can change DNA through ones lifetime are oxygen (free-radical damage), environmental factors (radiation, sunlight, etc.) and Viruses that get integrated in ones DNA. And for viruses I am not sure it gets transmitted to the next generation.
There`s probably tons more mutation sources.

(Note that all of these factors (and cumulative damage and problems resulting of) get noticed far off after the average breeding age (so that`s never been a problem for the survival of the race). When was the last time you saw a 50 year-old couple have their first children?)

They will not inherit any special tennis gene but what they will inherit is two parents who will be able to give them the highest level of instruction at the earliest possible age. Much like Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey, jr., the Boone brothers, etc.

Goldberg’s right, also wouldn’t their children also be predisposed to learning athletic skill a little quicker than average.

DrStu - Fast twitch/Slow twitch muscle fibers …is that genetic??

Genes are just a code of 4 randomly occurring letters happening a couple of hundred to 1000’s of times. That’s it. The only way to change them is to mutate them, as DrSTU said. Some things are inherited, such as hereditary diseases, but a lot of the time, it’s nurture more than anything. I’m a freakin replica of my father in everything but looks. I got half his genes, and my looks come from my mom’s half. Yes, if my dad wasn’t there when I was growing up, I’m sure I still would have had some of his traits, but not all the ones I have. Make sense?

Genes are fun. When you mix two people together, you are never sure what you will get.

I do believe in genetically gifted people obviously, but a person who is genetically gifted at bodybuilding who never picked up any weights will never reach his potential, and may never look as big as a less then gifted person who worked his ass off.

I generally believe that genetics sets the limits, and it is up to you to decide where you put yourself in comparison to those limits.

That being said, the genetically gifted person who is willing to do the work, both mentally and physically, produces awe-inspiring results. I believe Michael Jordan is one of those people, or at least was at his peak.