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TitleThe Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong
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Table of Contents
                            Title Page
Introduction to the Electronic Edition
The Argument
Introduction: The Kid
Part One - The Myth of Gifts
	Chapter One - Genes 2.0—How Genes Really Work
	Chapter Two - Intelligence Is a Process, Not a Thing
	Chapter Three - The End of “Giftedness” (and the True Source of Talent)
	Chapter Four - The Similarities and Dissimilarities of Twins
	Chapter Five - Prodigies and Late Bloomers
	Chapter Six - Can White Men Jump? Ethnicity, Genes, Culture, and Success
Part Two - Cultivating Greatness
	Chapter Seven - How to Be a Genius (or Merely Great)
	Chapter Eight - How to Ruin (or Inspire) a Kid
	Chapter Nine - How to Foster a Culture of Excellence
	Chapter Ten - Genes 2.1—How to Improve Your Genes
Epilogue: Ted Williams Field
The Evidence
Sources and Notes, Clarifications and Amplifications
Permissions Acknowledgments
Document Text Contents
Page 189

unknown. October 2004 findings from the International Human Genome
Sequencing Consortium, led in the United States by the National Human
Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and the Department of Energy
(DOE), reduce the estimated number of human protein-coding genes
from 35,000 to only 20,000–25,000, a surprisingly low number for our
species. Consortium researchers have confirmed the existence of 19,599
protein-coding genes in the human genome and identified another 2,188
DNA segments that are predicted to be protein-coding genes. In 2003,
estimates from gene-prediction programs suggested there might be
24,500 or fewer protein-coding genes. The Ensembl genome-annotation
system estimates them at 23,299. (Human Genome Project, “How Many
Genes Are in the Human Genome?”)

Also: New data “threaten to throw the very concept of ‘the gene’—
either as a unit of structure or as a unit of function—into blatant
disarray.” (Keller, The Century of the Gene, p. 67.)

Many of those knobs and switches can be turned
up/down/on/off at any time—by another gene or by any minuscule
environmental input. This flipping and turning takes place constantly.

Experiential factors are now known to influence gene expression through
several mechanisms, including (but not limited to) those involving the
actions of steroid hormones … For example, testosterone levels change
as a function of sexual experience, and hormones like testosterone are
known to be able to diffuse across both cellular and nuclear membranes
where—once they have been bound by specific receptors—they can bind
with DNA to regulate gene expression. (Moore, “Espousing interactions
and fielding reactions,” p. 340.)

this process of gene-environment interaction drives a unique
developmental path for every unique individual.
“The process of GxE acting over a lifetime may be the key to
understanding much of human complex trait variability.” (Brutsaert and
Parra, “What makes a champion?” p. 110.)

Page 190

This may sound crazy at first, because of how thoroughly we’ve
been indoctrinated with Mendelian genetics. The reality turns out to
be much more complicated—even for pea plants.
Mendel’s pea-plant example has a built-in logical flaw: by assuring

a consistent environment, it eliminates any visible environmental impact
on heredity. When the environment is perfectly consistent from plant to
plant, it does indeed appear that genes single-handedly determine
heredity. This is akin to throwing dice, but instead of rolling two dice at
once, keeping one of them permanently on 6. The second die is always
going to determine the total.

Many scientists have understood this much more complicated
truth for years but have had trouble explaining it to the general
public. It is indeed a lot harder to explain than simple genetic
In a 2009 essay for the New York Times Magazine, Steven Pinker

writes: “For most … traits, any influence of the genes will be
probabilistic. Having a version of a gene may change the odds, making
you more or less likely to have a trait, all things being equal, but as we
shall see, the actual outcome depends on a tangle of other circumstances
as well.” (Italics mine.)
While this is important acknowledgment that most genes do not
determine traits directly, the use of the word “probabilistic” is crude and
troublesome in two ways: First, it gives a new wrong impression about
how genes work—making them sound like dice. Second, it misses a
critical opportunity to help the general public understand genetic
expression and gene-environment interaction.
The term “probabilistic” is meant to convey the understanding that
most specific gene variants (alleles) do not guarantee certain outcomes.
That much is true.
But the term goes much further. It also conveys the strong sense that a
certain gene creates a specific probability that a person will develop a
certain trait. That is very misleading—as Pinker himself demonstrates.
To explore the current state of genetics, Pinker had his own DNA

Page 378

Historical Roots of Greek Culture” by Alexander Makedon
(Chicago State University Web site,
∼amakedon/articles/GreekCulture.html, 1995). Reprinted
by permission of Alexander Makedon.

: Excerpts from “No Finish Line” by
Alexander Wolff ( , November 5, 2007),
copyright © 2007 by Time, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of .

Darold A. Treffert, MD: Excerpts from “Savant Syndrome:
Frequently Asked Questions” by Darold A. Treffert, MD
Reprinted by permission of Darold A. Treffert, MD.

Giselle E. Whitwell. Excerpt from “The Importance of
Prenatal Sound and Music” by Giselle E. Whitwell
Reprinted by permission of Giselle E. Whitwell.∼amakedon/articles/GreekCulture.html

Page 379


Copyright © 2010 by David Shenk

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Doubleday, a
division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random
House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

DOUBLEDAY and the DD colophon are registered trademarks of Random
House, Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Shenk, David, 1966–
The genius in all of us : why everything you’ve been told about
genetics, talent, and IQ is wrong / by David Shenk.—1st ed.
p. cm.
1. Genes. 2. Ability—Genetic aspects. 3. Intellect—Genetic aspects. 4.
Intelligence of animals. I. Title.
QH447.S53 2009
155.2′34—dc22 2009018376

eISBN: 978-0-38553265-5

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