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The Genius in All of Us

Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong

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Hardcover published by Doubleday (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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About This Book
With irresistibly persuasive vigor, David Shenk debunks the long-standing notion of genetic “giftedness,” and presents dazzling new scientific research showing how greatness is in the reach of every individual.


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.
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With irresistibly persuasive vigor, David Shenk debunks the long-standing notion of genetic “giftedness,” and presents dazzling new scientific research showing how greatness is in the reach of every individual.


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.
Product Details
Hardcover (320 pages)
Published: March 9, 2010
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Doubleday
ISBN: 9780385523653
Other books byDavid Shenk
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    Data Smog
    Surviving the Information Glut
    Media scholar ( and Internet Enthusiast ) David Shenk examines the troubling effects of information proliferation on our bodies, our brains, our relationships, and our culture, then offers strikingly down-to-earth insights for coping with the deluge. With a skillful mixture of personal essay, firsthand reportage, and sharp analysis, Shenk illustrates the central paradox of our time: as our world gets more complex, our responses to it become increasingly simplistic. He draws convincing links between data smog and stress distraction, indecision, cultural fragmentation, social vulgarity, and more. But there's hope for a saner, more meaningful future, as Shenk offers a wealth of novel prescriptions—both personal and societal—for dispelling data smog.

    The Immortal Game

    The Immortal Game
    A History of Chess
    Chess is the most enduring and universal game in history. Here, bestselling author David Shenk chronicles its intriguing saga, from ancient Persia to medieval Europe to the dens of Benjamin Franklin and Norman Schwarzkopf. Along the way, he examines a single legendary game that took place in London in 1851 between two masters of the time, and relays his own attempts to become as skilled as his Polish ancestor Samuel Rosenthal, a nineteenth-century champion. With its blend of cultural history and Shenk’s personal interest, The Immortal Game is a compelling guide for novices and aficionados alike.

    The Forgetting

    The Forgetting
    Alzheimer's: Portrait of an Epidemic
    Afflicting nearly half of all persons over the age of 85, Alzheimer’s disease kills nearly 100,000 Americas a year as it insidiously robs them of their memory and wreaks havoc on the lives of their loved ones. It was once minimized and misunderstood as forgetfulness in the elderly, but Alzheimer’s is now at the forefront of many medical and scientific agendas, for as the world’s population ages, the disease will kill millions more and touch the lives of virtually everyone. The Forgetting is a scrupulously researched, multilayered analysis of Alzheimer’s and its social, medical, and spiritual implications. David Shenk presents us with much more than a detailed explanation of its causes and effects and the search for a cure. He movingly captures the disease’s impact on its victims and their families, and he looks back through history, explaining how Alzheimer’s most likely afflicted such figures as Jonathan Swift, Ralph Waldo Emerson,and William de Kooning. The result is a searing, powerfully engaging account of Alzheimer’s disease, offering a grim but sympathetic and ultimately encouraging portrait.

    Skeleton Key

    Skeleton Key
    Steve Silberman's tribute to Jerry Garcia, 1942-1995         Skeleton Key:  A Dictionary for Deadheads is 400 pages of lore, history, interviews, and thoughts on the Meaning of It All, from what guitarist Jerry Garcia calls "the Grateful Dead outback" - the diverse global community that is nourished by the music of the Grateful Dead and the shared experience of Dead shows.         Skeleton Key is a labor of love and "deadication" by Deadheads David Shenk and Steve Silberman, published by Doubleday/Main Street Books in 1994.  Skeleton Key celebrates the magic, humor, and significance of the Deadhead community, while it investigates the history of the Long Strange Trip - from the days of be-bop jazz and the Beat Generation writers whose literary adventures inspired many Deadheads' own on-the-road journeys, to now, when Deadheads swap tapes and tales around the virtual campfires of Deadhead cyberspace.         1995 marks the 30th year of the Dead's experiment in improvisational telepathy.  Skeleton Key is the first detailed road map of the culture and lifeways of Deadheads, featuring interviews with hundreds of fans and family, including Elvis Costello and Bill Walton, and thoughts on the music and community by people like Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, mythographer Joseph Campbell, and Grateful Dead Hour host David Gans.         Skeleton Key features a foreword by John Perry Barlow, Dead lyricist and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  The psychedelic lettering on the cover is by Alton Kelley, one of the original San Francisco poster artists, who also designed the covers for the Dead albums American Beauty and Europe '72.  The icon on the cover of Skeleton Key is a 200-year-old Tibetan thangka used for meditation, of skeletons dancing in a cloud of fire, an image of enlightened consciousness awakening even in the midst of death.         We hope that whether you are a committed Deadhead, or just a curious Websurfer, you'll poke around this site and get a taste of the beauty, joy, humor, and mystery of Deadhead life.  Feel free to pop on a tape and make yourself comfortable as the first notes sing your blues away, and you enter the Skeleton Zone... A Word from the Authors Since the publication of Skeleton Key last fall, Steve and I have been overwhelmed and overjoyed by the nice reviews from fellow Deadheads and from the press. To me, the best compliments have been along the lines of, "I can't wait to show this to my Pop - now maybe he'll understand!"  I wanted to help articulate why we all love this music so much, and report to the world about the generous spirit of the community which has formed around it.  If you haven't yet, I hope you'll get a chance to check out the entire book sometime soon.  We'd love to hear what you think.  Drop us a line at Skeleton1@aol.com.         Howdy folks!  After spending 20 years of my life dancing happily in the Phil Zone at Dead shows, I'm deeply thankful I was given the chance to offer something back to the community which has given me more joy and meaning than any other:  a deep picture of our extended family.  I hope you enjoy it, and you may learn a few things along the way, whether you're an old-time tourhead or a newbie who just got on the bus.  Be well. See you in the Zone!                                         - Steve

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