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I agree with you Michael, and I suspect most people do. One of the reasons kids often give up at school is because they realise they feel they have no particular useful or socially exploitable natural talent. So,in our age of instant expectations, they see no way forward. It's a shame.

Perhaps in the future schools will do their best to find out what each individual is passionate about, and then provide the means to give them 10,000 hours practice. I hope so. Current schooling in the west is pretty poor.

I read your post "Of Tulips and Mediums" and I've been thinking, do you think the modern evidence for psi/survival phenomena like NDEs, reincarnation research, and alternative medicine can be considered mania as well? I don't see ordinary people talk about them at all, and the only place I read about it is on forums where these things are relevant, but then I don't really keep up with the news so I can't exactly say.

I should have clarified that the alternative medicine that I was talking about is just psychic healing, and no other forms of alternative medicine.

"...I suspect we're largely fated to play the hand we're dealt at birth." - M.P.

Now, now Michael. No need to feed into all that teleological nonsense. Don't you know that every Real Smart Person knows it's all in the genes?
:D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-M-vnmejwXo

Mr Prescott,
I have been reading your blog for some years now and, as they say, I am a long time reader first time commenter. I just wanted to share a poem I wrote with you and your readers (not sure if you guys are a poem-reading lot but I hope you like it anyway!). It's about the fading of academic atheism. Have a look and be kind, I'm not the greatest poet!

http://voices.yahoo.com/at-last-honest-scholar-12095790.html?cat=2

Michael,

I agree with your post. This seems to be a dumb meme floating around these days. Here is another post I was shown recently that buys into it:

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2010/11/07/the-secret-of-great-men-deliberate-practice/

Dumb quote:

"Studies have demonstrated that young prodigies excel not because of some kind of mystical innate talent but on the merits of pure hustle. Mozart wrote his first masterpiece at 21. That’s pretty young. But people often forget to mention that he had spent the previous 18 years of his life studying music under the tutelage of his father. Mozart had been paying his dues since he was three years old, and it paid off big for him.

In short, great men aren’t born; great men are made, and they’re made through the process of deliberate practice."

The confusion seems to lie in not understanding the difference between a necessary and a sufficient condition. Mozart's genius was not a sufficient condition for success, but it sure as hell was a necessary one.

I think the 10,000 hours number is pretty ass-pulled. I think it is two low for some things and two high for others. That is 125 8-hour work days--exactly half of the typical 250 hour work year.

One of my more inarguable skills is Japanese, and I can guarantee you no one can achieve the level of fluency needed to be a translator in just 125 8-hour days. I think it will take several work-years at least, and that is assuming natural talent (which the meme does *not*). There are plenty of people who live in Japan for decades and never become fluent.

On the other hand, I don't think it would take 10,000 hours to become good at certain sports (again, assuming some level of natural talent). For example, darts. It is essentially learning one motion. In fact, talent in this case will probably be the deciding factor.

Mozart was also fortunate enough to have one of Europe's foremost pedagogues, for his father. I agree talent, in music, allow's for work effort to shine all the brighter.

Hi Matt, I think you meant 1,250 8 hour (1,250 X 8 = 10,000) work days. This would be more like 4 normal work years (assuming with weekends, vacations and holidays a work year has 300 - 320 days on the job).

So the idea is that anyone could quit their job, but adhere to the same schedule practicing some skill, say shooting hoops or playing violin, and, in +/- 4 years contract to play for the Pistons or the big city philharmonic. Your point still stands. It is a dubious proposition at best.

Actually, now that I think about it, this notion of, "it's all just a matter of practice" is par for the course in the current climate of social Marxism ideology that has our culture by the short hairs.

We are all equal, but some of us have had more privilege (e.g. chance to practice) than others. Why, with some government programming and enforced redistribution of resources anyone can be anything they want to be. If it's not working we need to double down and get more government intervention. Because equality!

I agree with both Michael and Matt, I think it's obvious that some people are just born with an innate talent at something. A lot of practice just helps bring it out.

One quibble though, I think the idea that we're "born equal" has been misinterpreted, especially in the U.S. According to classical liberalism and the thinking of most of the United States' founding fathers, we're not born equal, but we are all, or should be, equal under the law - meaning the law should be applied in the same manner to rich and poor, black and white, etc. Looking around, today especially, our practice of equality under the law seems to have completely failed. But it's still something to strive for.

An example of great writing without practice is the case of Pearl Curran and Patience Worth. Pearl's talent for writing and knowledge of history has still not been explained. - AOD

A quibble with your quibble, Kathleen:

"One quibble though, I think the idea that we're "born equal" has been misinterpreted, especially in the U.S. According to classical liberalism and the thinking of most of the United States' founding fathers, we're not born equal"

The notion of genuine equality may not have been accepted by all the founding fathers, but it's not exactly foreign to our history either:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal . . ."

That's the first sentence in the second paragraph of our most important national document--the earth-shaking declaration that led to there being a United States. Its meaning seems pretty clear, and there must have been considerable agreement on it. (Though the hypocrisy of slave-owners signing off on it doesn't escape me.)

After all, the founding fathers could have said: all men should be treated equally. That in itself would have been a welcome change, but the principle that ended up being affirmed is even more radical and profound.

By the way, Kathleen, I appreciated your recently sticking up for the idea that, despite current trends toward the "chemical imbalance" theory, mental illness certainly has its roots, at least much of the time, in early trauma.

no one,

Apparently my f-ups on this blog now go beyond grammar and spelling to math :).

Well, the round figure for work-year is typically given at 250 days (that's with weekends and vacation taken out), so that is actually 5 work years.

That is a good chunk of time for language acquisition, but I still think there is a talent barrier that will keep 95% of people from truly succeeding who try (of course, most people would not have the discipline either to work that hard on something).

As to whether this belief supports a Marxist narrative? I think it can go either way. "Put in your work and *you too* can be a tremendous success!" It could be seen as simply supporting the status quo and giving a reason why those who have a lot deserve a lot--they've obviously done the work!

Who knows how someone gets the spark of whatever that produces a knack for doing something which can turn into talent and then genius? Mozart did, as mentioned above, have excellent and systematic training and encouragement from his infancy. I think that in many ways Schubert's prodigy was more impressive, though he also had excellent training in music. True genius autodidacts in music are extremely rare, though they have existed.

"True genius autodidacts in music are extremely rare, though they have existed."

OK--you've got my curiosity up, Anthony. Who do you have in mind?

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal ..."

My reading of that famous statement, Bruce, is that it's a rejection of the Old World idea that the natural order of things is for some people to be born into the aristocracy, while others are born as commoners. The Founders' idea, I think, was that all people are equal before the law and before God. That's a kind of egalitarianism, but not the "modern" type, which typically insists on equal outcomes.

As far as language acquisition is concerned, there seem to be a few people who can become fluent almost overnight, others who can become reasonably proficient with a lot of practice, and some who can never master a foreign language no matter how hard they try. I would assume that these differences are largely innate. In nearly any field, you find a few prodigies, a great many people of average potential, and some who simply have no ability.

For instance, I seem to have had an innate ability to communicate in words, inasmuch as I started speaking in full sentences at an early age. On the other hand, I've never had any musical ability, and I doubt that any amount of training would make me even marginally competent in any area of music.

I've long thought that we define intelligence too narrowly - largely on the basis of what can be measured by a standardized multiple-choice test. Such tests cannot measure the ability to: reproduce a dance move after viewing it just once ... add just the right spices to a recipe ... choose the highest quality fabric from a selection of swatches ... work out the differences between two sides in a negotiation ... etc., etc. All of these are forms of intelligence, and some are at least as valuable as the ability to parse a sentence or perform long division, but in our excessively left-brain-dominated culture, somehow they don't count.

"The Founders' idea, I think, was that all people are equal before the law and before God. That's a kind of egalitarianism, but not the "modern" type, which typically insists on equal outcomes."

Michael, I'm not getting the distinction. Can you clarify?

This reminds me that I just watched, for the second time, the HBO miniseries "John Adams". The first episode, which covers the events leading up to the Declaration of Independence is really good. It reminds me what a weighty and thrilling moment in history that was. And that all the signers were putting their lives on the line. As I understand it, they expected to be hung as traitors by the British if they lost the war.

And apropos of our usual subject matter, the last episode reminded me that the deaths of Adams and Jefferson coincided in a way that strongly suggests some sort of spiritual influence:

• Following a long rift in their long friendship, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams become bosom buddies in the last seven years of their lives.
• Jefferson, dying, is determined to hang on until the 4th of July—the 50th anniversary of Independence Day.
• Jefferson dies at about 1:00 in the afternoon on the 4th.
• Adams wakes up healthy in the morning. Becomes ill as the morning progresses. Around 1:00, a few minutes after Jefferson’s death, Adams says “Thomas Jefferson” and then another word that was difficult to make out, and then dies. One witness says the final word may have been “survives,” the other says it was inaudible.

If he said "survives", maybe he was saying that Jefferson survives on the other side. Or maybe he said "Jefferson arrives," meaning that his friend was coming to help him cross over.

At any rate, the fact that they both died on the same day, at almost the same time, on July 4th, exactly 50 years after the first Independence Day, and that Adams last words were of Jefferson--it all seems too much for coincidence.

"All of these are forms of intelligence, and some are at least as valuable as the ability to parse a sentence or perform long division, but in our excessively left-brain-dominated culture, somehow they don't count."

The beneficiaries of the estate of Michael Jackson might beg to differ ;-)

Bruce, interesting John Adams story. I hadn't heard of that before.

Regarding "all men are created equal", Ben Franklin's take on it, here, helps clarify "All men are by nature equally free and independent. Such equality is necessary in order to create a free government.All men must be equal to each other in natural law".

"Put in your work and *you too* can be a tremendous success!"

Matt, good point. The concept could support the good old Protestant work ethic as much as it could support Marxism.

"Regarding "all men are created equal", Ben Franklin's take on it, here, helps clarify "All men are by nature equally free and independent. Such equality is necessary in order to create a free government.All men must be equal to each other in natural law"."

I'm not sure I'm getting your point, no one. The last sentence can be interpreted to suggest a genuine spiritual equality, can't it? Which is what one might expect of Franklin, since he believed in reincarnation.

Natural law is the classical liberal or libertarian idea that certain rights are inherent in the nature of existence, as opposed to the idea that rights are dispensations or privileges granted by the authorities. The Founders' idea of equality was equality under the law - everyone should have the same legal and political rights. (In practice, only property-owning white males enjoyed full rights in the beginning, of course.) I think modern egalitarianism generally is more concerned with minimizing distinctions based on class or wealth or perceived privilege, as by income redistribution, progressive taxation, affirmative action, etc.

The details of the Adams and Jefferson story are fascinating. I knew they died on the same day, but not the rest of the story.

"The Founders' idea of equality was equality under the law - everyone should have the same legal and political rights."

You may be absolutely right. But the phrase "all men are created equal" does suggest to me that the door was being left open to a deeper truth, even if all the original signers weren't ready to go there. Even if *none* of them was yet fully ready.

I remember a scene in "John Adams" in which Adams reads the Declaration fresh from Jefferson's pen, and says that the whole Congress will have to go over it and make necessary adjustments. And Jefferson then says something that resonates with me as a fellow writer, something to the effect of: John, I need you to know how long I labored over each and very word.

Assuming that the scene is based in truth--and I'll bet it is--it makes me feel that "all men are created equal" as opposed to "all men must be treated equally under the law" was meaningful and purposeful.

And yes--I know that Jefferson was a slaveholder.

Here's a parallel that exists in our own day. There are people who consider themselves to be deeply compassionate and caring, but who don't give second a thought to the extreme cruelty built into our treatment of the animals we eat.

With others of us, we make a certain compromise because we can't find an alternative that seems to work for us. That's true for me.

I think that describes Jefferson too.

Last sentence should read:

I think that describes Jefferson (and likely other founding fathers) too.

Great story, Bruce!

Michael,

||I've long thought that we define intelligence too narrowly - largely on the basis of what can be measured by a standardized multiple-choice test. Such tests cannot measure the ability to: reproduce a dance move after viewing it just once ... add just the right spices to a recipe ... choose the highest quality fabric from a selection of swatches ... work out the differences between two sides in a negotiation ... etc., etc. All of these are forms of intelligence, and some are at least as valuable as the ability to parse a sentence or perform long division, but in our excessively left-brain-dominated culture, somehow they don't count.||

Bravo, well said!

Bruce,

||You may be absolutely right. But the phrase "all men are created equal" does suggest to me that the door was being left open to a deeper truth, even if all the original signers weren't ready to go there. Even if *none* of them was yet fully ready.||

I am curious what you think this deeper truth to be. I am interested in your perspective on this.

"Great story, Bruce!"

Yeah--it's surprising it's not more widely known, isn't it? Like Michael, I've always known that the two men died on the same 4th of July, but historians don't focus on the other specifics because most academics aren't versed in death-related psi phenomena.

Who's that famous historian who's an exception? One of the most widely-respected historians of the mid-20th century. He wrote pretty extensively about his own psi experiences. Anybody know who I mean?

Toynbee! Arnold Toynbee. And wouldn't you know that Wikipedia adopts its usual open-minded attitude towards anyone with such interests:

"Yet Toynbee's work lost favor among both the general public and scholars by the1960s, due to the religious and spiritual outlook that permeates the largest part of his work. His work is considered today controversial and is seldom read or cited."

Well, I'm citing it right here, Wikipedia. With admiration. So there.

Bruce,

Indeed. The skeptics rule Wikipedia. It's sad.

"The skeptics rule Wikipedia."

It's not so surprising really, when you consider the same is true of mainstream media in general. Even politically liberal sites like the NYT and MSNBC won't take a positive stand on the paranormal.

One might have hoped that a "people's outlet" like Wikipedia would have turned out differently, since the general populace is friendly to psi. But the fact that it hasn't shows how difficult it can be to stop a small, determined, righteous, militant, well-organized group from grabbing power.

It's the Taliban, American-style.


."Jefferson then says something that resonates with me as a fellow writer, something to the effect of: John, I need you to know how long I labored over each and very word.

Assuming that the scene is based in truth--and I'll bet it is--it makes me feel that "all men are created equal" as opposed to "all men must be treated equally under the law" was meaningful and purposeful."

hmmmm......but the second amendment does mean anything like it reads. They probably wrote that and decided to include it a fit of incoherent drunken madness.

Ughh, my own incoherence aside, it's interesting how people can pick and choose what is infallible pure truth and what is mistaken in various "sacred" documents.

Liberals love them some "all men are created equal" language. but are sure the same men that wrote those unambiguous words meant something else regarding the "right to bear arms shall not be infringed".

Both sides -lefties and right wingers - are pretty sure that none of the framers of Constitution could have possibly ever understood the complexity of the modern world and thus that most of the 1st - 5th (and probably 6th - 10th) Amendments are outdated and need to be revised, if not totally discarded.

no one, you want to trash the 1-5 amendments, and others as well? Why? Without them we have a virtual police state.

Speaking as a "liberal" on the Second Amendment, yes, the language is ambiguous. But there are many liberals like myself who don't think guns should be banned. I can empathize especially with people who live in rural areas, where it might take cops an hour to get to their house in the event of an emergency. On the other hand, the right to have guns has gotten out of control when a deranged kid up in Connecticut can slaughter a bunch of schools kids with his paranoid mommy's arsenal of guns. There is a limit to every right - even the First Amendment has a limit (you can't shout "fire" in a crowded theater for instance). So there should be a limit to the Second Amendment - you don't get to acquire military-style assault weapons for instance.

Equal rights under the law protects you just as much as it does everyone else. And do you really want things like cops being able to search your house and car whenever they feel like it?

If anyone labored over every word of the 2nd Amendment, it was to make it impossible to interpret with any confidence.

I wish they had labored a little longer over the part of the Constitution that requires the president to be a natural born citizen. People (and courts) have been debating exactly what that means ever since, and nobody seems to know.

Yes, the Constitution isn't perfect. That's why we've had amendments. Treating at a sacred text isn't helpful IMHO.

Kathleen, I don't want to trash any of the Constitution/Amendments. I think it should be interpreted as liberally as possible (not liberally as in left wing political positions, but liberally as in it means what is says and what is says should be read very broadly). I'm a big 2A supporter, but I know that some people (like Bruce) here are not. So I was just indulging some friendly ribbing.

Speaking of Bruce......I stumbled across this: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Bruce_Siegel the other day. Congrats, Bruce. You made it!

RationalWiki is one of the oddest websites I've come across. I can't imagine who would use it as a source of information. In some ways it appears to be a satirical site (look at the entries on Barack Obama and Mitt Romney). I almost wonder if the parapsychology entries are actually a clever parody of uninformed knee-jerk skepticism. Probably not, but you never know ...

"Congrats, Bruce. You made it!"

Thanks, no one. I noticed that a few weeks ago. They're calling me a liar and a fool. Finally, I'm getting the recognition I deserve. :o)

Whew, good.

BTW, I'm reading Afterlife Encounters by Diane Arcangel. I highly recommend it. There's a really interesting study of people who've experienced afterlife encounters. Strangely, the data says that the more educated one is, the more likely they are to have an encounter.

There's also a great chapter on Diane's reading with medium George Andersen. I've read George's books, and was very impressed. Diane comes across as a very credible person, and George's reading for her is incredibly accurate.

michael,what do you think about doing a experiment like the chess match in windbridge institute toeliminate super psi hypothesis?
sorry from my english, i read you from spain

Lol, Bruce on RationalWiki.

"There is no evidence that Siegel was ever a skeptic."

No, cuz there's never any evidence for anything except what skeptics believe. :|

Maybe someday I will deserve my own article. :)

Matt, some people swear to defend the constitution; with their lives if necessary. So it does kind of reach the level of "sacred" in a way, IMO.

Bruce, yeah, I was looking for your blog when I came across the rational wiki page. I'm sorry to learn you've suspended posting.

Michael, yes, rational wiki is very weird. Hilarious at times. Yet weird. It does read like parody. As you say, who knows.....

What is beyond control is that some of the same writers on Rational Wiki also write on Wikipedia and doggedly destroy articles there. - AOD

no one,

||Matt, some people swear to defend the constitution; with their lives if necessary. So it does kind of reach the level of "sacred" in a way, IMO.||

That's not an inherent property of the document, however.

no one,

To continue, some wingnuts treat the Constitution as a divinely inspired document, as this popular painting attests:

http://jonmcnaughton.com/content/ZoomDetailPages/OneNationUnderGod.html

Scary.

I kinda like that painting. At least it conveys a definite idea, unlike much of contemporary art. And the figures are well drawn, with an interesting variety of poses and expressions.

I wouldn't hang it in my home, but it's better than a lot of art I've seen.

OTOH, here's a message-driven painting that always makes me laugh:

http://www.cordair.com/bokor/beginnings.php

It depicts Ayn Rand as the climax of human evolution, or something. And it sold for $14,000.

"Lol, Bruce on RationalWiki."

What?! You don't think I'm worth being called a liar and a fool?
Try answering THAT question in ten words or less.

"Maybe someday I will deserve my own article. :)"
I'll put in a good word for you, Matt. They listen to what I have to say.

"Bruce, yeah, I was looking for your blog when I came across the rational wiki page. I'm sorry to learn you've suspended posting."

Thanks, no one. I'm working on an ebook about precognitive dreams. Very slowly, but with enthusiasm.

LOL. The Ayn Rand painting is just too much. Maybe the artist should have put in a few more hours of practice - both at painting and developing an understanding of philosophy - couldn't hurt.

OK, Matt, I get your point.

Haha, that's a good one, Michael!

"It depicts Ayn Rand as the climax of human evolution"

The message of that painting really is remarkable: life on Earth has evolved for millions of years, gradually moving higher and higher on the ladder towards the pinnacle of perfect . . . what? Selfishness?

Each of those ancients is shown striving to master lesser insights and discoveries--trifles like fire, writing, and art.

But only the genius of Ayn Rand could gift us mortals with the most glorious truth of them all: "Don't expect me to help you, buddy."

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