Some 50 years after the infamous Milgram experiments, Australian psychologist Gina Perry writes, “The standard account ... suggests that ordinary people can be manipulated into behaving in ways that contradict their morals and values—that you or I could be talked into torturing a man. But could we?”
Tracing talent to its origins probably isn’t ever going to be a precise science, but there’s a particular and pervasive brand of genetic determinism that butts its way into discussions, in scientific circles and in the media, about everything from health to intelligence to the roots of genius. According to author David Shenk, this line of argument leads us to make the wrong conclusions about human potential.
My late friend Ron Silver, the actor and political activist, once asked me a question that I have continued to think about ever since. On the afternoon of his last New Year’s Eve, when he surprised me by coming to California, he wanted to know if I had found any great “big history” books.