The book

The author

  • David Shenk is the national bestselling author of five previous books, including The Forgetting ("remarkable" - Los Angeles Times), Data Smog ("indispensable" - New York Times), and The Immortal Game ("superb" - Wall Street Journal). He is a correspondent for, and has contributed to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, Gourmet, Harper's, The New Yorker, NPR, and PBS.

    More info here.

    Contact David.

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    Speaking inquiries here.


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March 19, 2010



Indeed, if one looks closely at the research, it is clear that IQ has is predominately determine by genetic influences. The problem here is the author is not statistically literate. Of course it is possible to stifle IQ by deprivation, but when one looks at the variance attributable to natural occurring variance in environmental enrichment in the US, it is indeed a small influence on the variance in IQ. His interpretation of the twin studies is totally wrong. When we examine the relationship between identical twins raised apart, and hence pseudo-randomly assigned to homes with varying levels of enrichment, we find that correlation between identical twins is very close to one. In fact, there are much more sound methods of estimating heritability indexes than are commonly used and understood. He also confused about how to interpret statistics when he maintains group means are irrelevant. Overall, this is a popular science book that is misinformed about how to interpret statistical finding.

We should not expect science to be politically correct

Clarence D. Kreiter, Ph.D.
Office of Consultation and Research in Medical Education
Department of Family Medicine
University of Iowa
Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver
College of Medicine
Iowa City, IA 52242
(319) 335-8906
(319) 335-8904 (fax)

Francis Galton was right!

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I have always believe that what you can conceive you can achieve. Talent is good. A little bit of connection is better. However, you can do away with all these if you think you can accomplish what you're thinking.


Hi, I have been thinking about this for a long time, and one of my favorite books dismantling the gene blue print metaphor and the whole notion of anything being innate is Susan Oyama's: Cycles of Contingency: Developmental Systems and Evolution.

I have always thought this way and I have always read nothing along the lines of how I felt genes play a role in our outer appearance/characteristics, Susan Oyama has come the closest to my views. Even though I do not believe that genes are these innate, non changeable things that we are born with, that doesn't mean that we can change are "environmental" factors easier then genes. In fact there are parts of our development/ environment that are harder to change then playing with our genes in a lab.

I heard you on NPR talking about trying to find a new metaphor for genes as a blue print. Well this is my metaphor of how I look at it, everything are ingredients that make a Cake. Everything that goes into making a cake has to do with its taste and flavor, change any small thing or detail and it is a different cake. Having said that, there is not any one ingredient that is more important then another as far as the flavor or taste is concerned. And the ingredients are not all that goes into baking a cake, also the baking and the water used and everything and every little change, changes it. We have so many ingredients that go into us, genes being a very small part of us. Some things may be controlled, but some may be so hard to even now how to control. Who says that the water we drink doesn't have to do with what make us, or what happens developmentally for the whole 9 months inside the stomach, the chemicals in there, the environment in there, the Mother, what she eats, whether she exercises or not, what she lives, the air she breathes.

Anyway, I have not read your book, but I have always believed that what makes a person who there are is a complicated mesh of ingredients, not any one being more important then another. I think studying genes as well as developmental stuff as well as environment is all great and important, but I also think that we will never find a full proof recipe for genius or any other thing. I also have a bit if Thomas Kuhn in me, and no science is full proof, but I do think we have done so much with science that it something we as humans love and gets us far and so we should never give up on. Just because full proof theory is never attainable doesn't mean that our knowledge and science is meaningless, we have done so much with it and will continue to.

Steve Sailer

Here's my new review of the "The Genius in All of Us:"

You can comment upon this review in the comments section at:


Sucess and raw ability are not one and the same- the people who suceed in our society have the personality trait of perserverance and tenacity to drive them to sucess, on top of their raw talent . There are many more people in this world with the intellect or athleticism that may not use it to gain worldly success or develop it to its potential, and yet will have that ability all their life. So, I believe the raw gift of intellect or atheleticism is present at birth, but to manifest it into todays society's version of sucess takes that additional trait of perserverance, which probably is inherent also?

tom merle

Ironically, the message of this book, like Gladwell's, is really quite damaging. Those who already know about diligence and practice and proper attitude will achieve some degree of success. But those lacking the raw material will become ever more resentful of society for keeping them down and continue to turn to dysfunctional and patholocial behavior. On the supply side, it plays into the hands of the teachers unions and latte lefties who want to spend more public money (which we don't have) to "get it right" in the schools.

A sobering 27 cents of every dollar collected at the state or local level is consumed by the government-run K-12 education. According to Adam Schaeffer: "The most widely reported per-pupil spending figures give a grossly inaccurate impression of the resources that Americans devote to public education. Taking five representative metro regions and DC, real spending per pupil ranges from a low of nearly $12,000 in the Phoenix area schools to a high of nearly $27,000 in the New York metro area. The gap between real and reported per-pupil spending ranges from a low of 23 percent in the Chicago area to a high of 90 percent in the Los Angeles metro region. public schools are spending 93 percent more than the estimated median private school."


I feel sorry for you poor buggers who have no hope. I guess your Mother is to blame for your sorry state.

I believe in the potential of the Human Spirit and in the ability of humans to achieve remarkable things. It has been proven the opinion of a scientist or author is irrelevant.

But, I am looking forward to reading the book. I might learn something and the whole goal of learning is changing for the better. So, stick your head back in the sand and sing "poor me" some more.

Alex  K Alexander

I used to be a genius, but I tried too many things, and did too many interesting things. It was fun. Now, unfortunately, I'm getting old, I'm unknown, and I'm really not comfortably off. I hewed to the idiotic statement "If you want to get things done, let others take the credit." Yeah. I helped make others famous. Statesmen. Musicians. A couple of sociopaths. The world is a better place for my efforts, but so what? Also, I live in Canada. It's hell here in the winters. I'm hate freezing rain. I hate freezing, period. I should be able to spend winters on the Cote d'Azore. Or Montpelier. Or Montego Bay, near where I grew up.

So, forget this genius business. Become a plumber or a baker or a draughtsman or build small houses one at a time and sell them. and save your money. Which I did not do, although for a time I was a master draughtsman.

B. Roth

Another book promising that "everyone" can be a genius. Poppycock. While everyone can "improve" or "maximize their potential," there is definitely "something" that can loosely be defined as intelligence, and everyone knows that some people have more of "it" than others do. This is another book full of pseudo-science in this "self-improvement" crazed society, like a promise of "something for nothing" for intelligence. It's meant to sell books, pure and simple, and will be quickly forgotten—because if "everyone" could be a "genius," they already would be. And you can always get some (carefully selected) "academics" to agree with anything—there are academics with PhDs who teach that Cleopatra was black, for instance, even though she wasn't even (by ancestry) an Egyptian—she was Greek.

John Smith

"But this isn't some lazy effort aimed to tell people what they want to hear."

Politically/ideologically, what were you hoping to hear? And how close did your wishes align to your book's conclusions? As a science writer, did you go into the project seeking to disprove your pre-existing assumptions and desires?

I look forward to reading the book.

David Shenk

JL: Sounds like you've ben burned by other books in the past that weren't properly grounded in science. But this book is. I vetted this book by quite a few scientists as I wrote it. Patrick Bateson likes it. Harvard geneticist Rudy Tanzi likes it. Steve Hall, who may be the best science writer in the country, likes it. Mark Blumberg, editor in chief of Behaviorial Neuroscience, likes it. I've heard back from people at Nature who think it's spot on.

There will be some criticism from scientists to be sure -- because, as I include in the book, there's some disagreement on how some of the science is to be interpreted. But this isn't some lazy effort aimed to tell people what they want to hear. Why don't you dig into some of the free excerpts online and tell me what you actually disagree with.

best, David


It also sounds like _The Outliers_ by Malcolm Gladwell, with a biology spin. And mix in a bit of "The Secret," which says that if you think you can do it and spend all of your time trying and thinking about it, you can. It reminds me of the old saws that, if you try hard enough you'll succeed, "practice makes perfect," "Try, try again," and "repetition unto success."
But despite that, it'll be interesting to look at. I'm curious if the science argument in it is supportable.


Yawn. This sounds like another one of those books that will be praised by literary intellectuals, and panned by the academics who actually do research on these topics.

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