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DNA does not make us who we are. “Forget everything you think you know about genes, talent, and intelligence,” he writes. “In recent years, a mountain of scientific evidence has emerged suggesting a completely new paradigm: not talent scarcity, but latent talent abundance.”
Integrating cutting-edge research from a wide swath of disciplines–cognitive science, genetics, biology, child development–Shenk offers a highly optimistic new view of human potential. The problem isn't our inadequate genetic assets, but our inability, so far, to tap into what we already have. IQ testing and widespread acceptance of “innate” abilities have created an unnecessarily pessimistic view of humanity–and fostered much misdirected public policy, especially in education.
The truth is much more exciting. Genes are not a “blueprint” that bless some with greatness and doom most of us to mediocrity or worse. Rather our individual destinies are a product of the complex interplay between genes and outside stimuli-a dynamic that we, as people and as parents, can influence.
This is a revolutionary and optimistic message. We are not prisoners of our DNA. We all have the potential for greatness.
"[Shenk] tells engaging stories, lucidly explains complex research and offers fresh insights in the nature of exceptional peformance. . . . such efforts have resulted in a deeply interesting and important book. David Shenk may not be a genius yet, but give him time." —New York Times Book Review
"Inspired . . . The Genius in All of Us has quietly blown my mind."— Salon
“[A] welcome new book. . . . [Y]ou’ll find [Shenk] a fluid, easy writer. . . . The Genius in All of Us is a quick, compelling read.” —The Boston Globe
"Intent on burying the concept of inborn genius, Shenk uses the 128 pages of "The Argument" to drive home how mistaken the notion of being genetically destined at birth to be a Mozart or a Michael Jordan is. For genes aren’t the inalterable essences that environmental effects merely help out; rather, genes and environment interact to realize a person’s potential in a constant and complicated process that Shenk attractively exemplifies through the athletic life of Ted Williams, who began hitting practice at age six and, equally important, never gave it up; also, considered to have magically sharp sight, he tested only high normal upon entering naval aviation–the thing was, he developed himself to, as Ty Cobb said, "see more of the ball than any man alive." En route to the startling revelation that Lamarckism (variation by inheritance, not Darwinian natural selection) has truth in it, after all, Shenk corrects common knowledge about what twin studies and IQ tests really show; clarifies the arguably most misunderstood genetics term, heritable; and scientifically revives faith in not just practice and determination but also parenting and lifestyle as crucial factors, along with genes, in the realization of talents. Since this flies in the face of a century of genetic determinism, Shenk employs the equally engrossing 141 pages of "The Evidence" to cite, quote, paraphrase, and comment upon the sources for virtually every assertion in "The Argument." —Booklist, starred review
"An inspiring and liberating book. It's a powerful antidote to the genetic determinism rampant in the Age of the Genome, and an instructive guide, grounded in science, to living a more enriching life." —Steven Johnson, author of The Invention of Air, Ghost Map, Everything Bad is Good for You, Mind Wide Open, Emergence, and Interface Culture
"This book, both rigorous and accessible, is a close study of the idea of genius, an investigation of popular misconceptions about genetics, and an examination of the American virtue of self-determination. It is written with assurance, insight, clarity, and wit." —Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon (National Book Award Winner, 2001)
"A great book. David Shenk handily dispels the myth that one must be born a genius. From consistently whacking the ball out of the park to composing ethereal piano sonatas, Shenk convincingly makes the case for the potential genius that lies in all of us."
—Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School; Director, Genetics and Aging Research Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital
"David Shenk sweeps aside decades of misconceptions about genetics – and shows that by overstating the importance of genes, we've understated the potential of ourselves. This is a persuasive and inspiring book that will make you think anew about your own life and our shared future." —Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
"In clear, forceful language, backed up by a boatload of science, David Shenk delivers a message that should be read by every parent, educator, and policy-maker who cares about the future of our children. The Genius in All of Us convincingly debunks the "genes are destiny" argument when it comes to human talent, and will force you to rethink everything from IQ tests and twins studies to child-rearing practices. Shenk's book turns Baby Mozart on his head, and will give pause--a hopeful, empowering pause--to parents who wish to nurture excellence in their children." —Stephen S. Hall, author of Wisdom: From Philosophy to Neuroscience
"David Shenk freshens and transforms a familiar subject to reveal all the interacting forces and factors that make us who we are. Development is a tricky business and Shenk understands this. By focusing his considerable writing talents on this terribly important topic, he has provided parents, policymakers, and educators with a book that will help them cut through the noise and make sense of every child's development."
—Mark. S. Blumberg, Ph.D., F. Wendell Miller Professor of Psychology, University of Iowa; editor-in-chief, Behavioral Neuroscience; and author, Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell Us about Development and Evolution
"The importance of David Shenk's book is that he has made accessible to a wide audience the advances in the understanding of how each person develops. I congratulate him."
—Sir Patrick Bateson, FRS, Emeritus Professor of Ethology, Cambridge University; former Biological Secretary of the Royal Society (UK); and co-author, Design For A Life: How Behaviour Develops