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Old 06-02-2010, 12:29 PM
David Shenk David Shenk is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 3
Default Re: None of what you told us is new to me

Dieter,

Thanks for your comments. I apologize for the long delay in responding. I've just been overwhelmed with travel and media and such.

You write:

Quote:
Your straw man consists in your use of the personal pronouns "you" and "we", when you should more accurately use the first person singular "I".
The subtitle of your book "Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong" doesn't apply to me, since none of what you told us is new to me.
That is a totally fair point. I don't much like that subtitle, for two reasons. One is the reason you outline: it's so broad-brush that it's logically impossible. The second reason is that I thought it was needlessly provocative and overkill. The main title is provocative enough, and isn't meant to be taken literally either -- but is defensible, I believe. I would have preferred that the subtitle lower the temperature and put it more in terms of an argument.

That said, the main point of the subtitle is that the general public has a particular impression about what IQ is and how genes work and where talent comes from, and I think that impression is wrong. I know not every person on earth shares that impression. But most do. My experience in promoting the book over the last few months bears this out.

You write:

Quote:
You also claimed that "we" feel mediocre and are "doomed to mediocrity". Actually, surveys show that almost everybody is convinced that they are of above average intelligence.
We can agree to disagree on this, but I don't think surveys showing that most people think of themselves as "above average" in intelligence is inconsistent with my strong impression (borne out by the last few years of talking to a lot of people about this) that most people also do not think they have the potential (or ever had the potential) of great achievement in various areas of talent and intelligence.

You write:

Quote:
Most people are pretty much happy with their lives and don't care much about whether they are mediocre according to some metric of merit.
That's a separate point, and I don't dispute that. In fact, the book does not argue that everyone ought to be dissatisfied with their lives, or that they should be in an all-out quest for extraordinary achievement.

You write:

Quote:
The notion that the correlation of intelligence between generations doesn't mean that the intelligence of individuals can be seen as a "reservoir of intelligence of 60%+40% that can be added together" is statistics 101. The allegation that Hernstein and even Murray don't know about this is preposterous.
Obviously, if we all sat around a table and looked at the data and went through the strict definitions of what it tells us and what it doesn't tell us, Murray et al would not voice a basic misunderstanding of this. The question is, how do they articulate it? My contention is that there is an extreme level of sloppiness in how they articulate it. Murray often writes for the general public. He allows his non-scientist readers to be left with the impression that we each get about 60% of our intelligence from our genes and the other 40% from the environment. I'm not just pinning this on Murray. Many science writers have done this. And that's what I find preposterous.

You write:

Quote:
Everything you told us about genetics is besides the point. It doesn't matter whether an interesting trait in the phenotype is the result of a singular gene or a collection of many genes in the genotype. There is no single gene for height or skin color either. That doesn't tell us anything about the heritability of these treats within contemporary society.
I wonder if you are making the above allegation after reading my book or only after listening to the Bloggingheads discussion. Maybe I didn't articulate it fully in my discussion with Will, but it's not just a question of whether a trait comes from one gene or a collection of genes. The point is that virtually all traits come not just from gene/genes but from a complex gene-environment dynamic. As Michael Meaney writes: "There are no genetic factors that can be studied independently of the environment. And there are no environmental factors that function independently of the genome. Phenotype emerges only from the interaction of gene and environment."

I do not argue in the book that we can ever hope to fully control these interactions. I do argue that the better we understand them, and the more we articulate phenotype as a process rather than an innate thing, the better off we'll all be.

best,

David
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