Geeks, jocks, and doping.

Science, technology, and life.
April 10 2008 2:29 PM


Geeks, jocks, and doping.

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For the most part, I'm a skeptic of anti-doping policies. I'm wary of legislating where no harm is involved, which is where I think doping is headed, as techniques improve. The lines drawn tend to be pretty arbitrary, and after we've trampled the old rules, we often wonder why we ever enforced them.  But a shift in the conversation from jock doping to nerd doping might help me take the arguments for restriction more seriously.

When Nature asked whether "cognitive enhancing drugs should be restricted" in the context of "exam entry into university" or "standardized testing situations," most of its reader-respondents said yes. Maybe their experiences as test-takers and test-givers helped them appreciate the threat to equality. Nature also asked another good question: "If other children at school were taking cognitive enhancing drugs, would you feel pressure to give such drugs to your children?" Two-thirds of respondents said they wouldn't, but one-third said they would.

That's always been a problem with enhancements: The more common they become, the more they feel like necessities. When the kid in question is somebody else's high-school linebacker, it's easy to scold or look the other way. But when it's your honor-roll kid, the plight of the doper starts to feel a bit less academic.