Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Q & A with Ben Barre

The New York Times has a Q & A with Ben Barre, the author of the commentary in Nature on the Larry Summers controversy I discussed last week. Money quote:

Q. Why do some people attribute differences in professional achievement to innate ability?

A. One of the reasons is the belief by highly successful people that they are successful because of their own innate abilities. I think as a professor at Stanford I am lucky to be here. But I think Larry Summers thinks he is successful because of his innate inner stuff.

I was going to transpose this with a great quote from an interview they played during the WNBA All-Star game last week. I think it might have been Sheryl Swoops who said it, something along the lines of, "We've won the last five All-Star games due to our hard work and perserverance, but the East may get lucky and win this year." It was intended in jest and discussed a bit more at half-time, but I can't find it online at all.


At 19 July, 2006 01:32, Anonymous Anonymous said...


It's safe to say that Ben Barres (the commentary, the interview, etc.) has added almost nothing to the conversation. All the quote points out is just how ignorant Ben must be on the literature. You can't deny that innate ability doesn't play a substantial role this far into the debate. I mean seriously look at any twin study on IQ. Look at prodigies. Look at anything Steven Pinker has said.

At 07 November, 2007 20:48, Blogger Kimberly said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 07 November, 2007 20:55, Blogger Kimberly said...

I am aware that the last comment post was in 2006 (or at least from what I can see)... and therefore making it highly unlikely that anyone will ever read the comment I am about to post, but I believe it is necessary.

I read the Q and A with Ben Barre and I have to say that I disagree with the last comment posted. If you are discussing "current" research being done, you should also note the fact that many researchers are finding that societal pressures are equally, if not more so involved in shaping the individual, and thereby their aptitudes.

Speaking as a female who holds science near and dear to her heart, I must say that I agree that the expectations and norms of the dominant ideologies in society push me into a state of embarassment over my interest in science. This is of course completely unfortunate seeing as how I have stopped pursuing science in the form of higher education, but have resorted to buying textbooks and teaching myself in the privacy of my own home. Of course I never thought that my "closeted" love of science had anything to do with gender oppression until I looked further into inequalities between the sexes.

If you are unaware of the inequalities and oppressions in our society (I am assuming that you are in some english speaking and thus colonized/westernized country) then you seriously need to take another look around. Concluding that ability is based on biology and thus natural and innate only works to uphold stereotypes, and perpetuate inequalities... It's like when scientists came to the conclusion that whites had larger brains and were therefore more intelligent. Of course when asked if elephants, due to the fact that their brain is much larger than any human's, were thereby more intelligent than humans... Needless to say they weren't so keen on answering that.

Since I am almost positive no one will ever read this I have not bothered to site or thoroughly justify my opinions with research. If you would like me to I will. Again, I acknowledge that this will probably never be read...

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