Stupid question maybe - just wondering.....



  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭
    I should have said twins or brothers and sisters. I said twins not because it was being twins that made them good but because in race results they stood out. Some twins are good runners some are not. Its about the genetics inherited from the parents. However in the case of good middle/long distance runners the ability to process the oxygen is all down to mum. Sorry guys but if junior is a great runner then you might have influenced their body shape but mum provided the engine and transmission. As for Matt Syed views on nurture then I must be a classic case. I've been a distance runner for more than two decades whereas my siblings are both borderline obese and consider a walk to the shops as a good work out. In fact, neither of them has ever shown the slightest athletic ability.
  • The funny thing with this nature/nurture debate is how often those who emphasise one particular side like to claim those who emphasise the other are one dimensional and completely neglect that both might be relevant....the reality is that its very rare anybody believes its entirely nature or entirely nurture.

    Moraghan wrote (see)

    It has suddenly becomes fashionable to believe anyone can achieve X if they do Y in sport.  It's a comfortable notion which appeals to some weak-minded notion of fairness and to the fantasy that we're all created equal. Life's not like that and nearly everyone has limits that prevents them from achieving what they might like to matter how much dedication or how smart the training.

    Then, after the current wave of people trying to sell books is cast ashore, we'll return to the compromise that everyone has always known and understood. 

    Aside from the above sounding like a mein kampf chapter on sport, i've never witnessed anybody making these above "weak minded" points in such simple terms. Clearly a fundamental component of achieving a high level at anything is a belief it can be achieved, when most human societies throughout history have had quite rigid hierarchies and the ideology that greatness is born has been dominant.....having a train of thought that challenges this and emphasises the possibilities of hard work will naturally encourage achievement much more than this dismissive notion that if you dont first excel at something you're probably not one of the gifted ones. To whatever extent talent varies, giving people the belief to push hard and the opportunity to test themselves at something they enjoy can only result in the overall level of a sport being raised and less talent being wasted for environmental constraints. Maybe not every kid can be an olympic sprinter, but the process of investing and persevering with something you enjoy is a massive life lesson in itself. The first link which criticises Gladwell's book neglects to mention Gladwell does talk about variations in how some individuals respond to specific hours...Gladwell doesnt argue natural talent doesnt have any impact, rather he is challenging the misconception that success is primarily down to inherent greatness and he offers many examples which illustrate how precise environmental factors or coincidences lead to great achievement in many areas.

  • How people respond to success is always instructive, there will always be those who treat their success as proof of inherent superior talent and a reflection of their greater capacity for hard work, such people tend to view those that dont match up to their self constructed image as intrinsically inferior and weak minded. Then there are those who are happy to recognise the environmental and cultural contexts to their success, who appreciate that the meaning they've found in working hard isnt necessarily accessible to those that didnt have their own influences. Ultimately this is a political debate as much as its a scientific debate...gladwell and syed's books arent infallible in their methodology or references, but neither are any studies ive seen emphasising genetics. Although we can all probably agree its a combination, i think the reasons people choose to believe one side over the other is quite interesting. With respect to running in this country, so few people get close to the training that would enable them to even get close to realising their potential that clearly training structure/investment is going to be the dominant factor at our amateur level. For what its worth i agree most senior males are capable of sub 2.45 at marathon, probably alot quicker in fact.

  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭
    I'm touching on this subject on SG's thread.
    I had associations once with some incredibly talented runners, who essentially succeeded in spite of their methods rather than because. But here's the problem that appeared. Their speed and success made them almost totally resistant to any advice that might make them better than they already were. They and their supporters had developed the idea that the results attained were down to being better informed and intelligent than everyone else they beat in a race, when the truth was that what they did was standard basic stuff combined with being endowed with fantastic genetics. So any doubt concerning their training was met with their 'get out of jail free card' 'well I'm faster than you, so what do you know?
  • popsiderpopsider ✭✭✭
    edit - x -post meant as a reply to Chingo

    Hmmm, I think you are attacking a bit of a straw man there, I don't see that Moraghan's position on this is any different to the one you side with - that it's a mixture of the two sides.

    You imply that there is value in believing anyone can achieve greatness (in this case in athletics) through their own efforts. I agree it's better that people believe in the possible rather than feel they are constrained by inferior talent from the outset. The stuff in Syed, or at least the way it's been portrayed in this thread and others, might have benefits in encouraging people to believe in themselves and that's great. Believing in an afterlife might have benefits in cheering people up too, kids get a kick out of believing a man with a beard comes down the chimney and gives them presents every December, however it doesn't make it any more true.

  • popsiderpopsider ✭✭✭
    Anyway I'm just off to buy some old nag from a local horse sales, gonna train it up to win the Derby, should save myself a few million.
  • MoraghanMoraghan ✭✭✭

    Ching - you do deserve some credit for the level of obfuscation in those two posts, although not too much as it was so clearly obvious.

    You fundamentally agree with the premise it takes both talent and dedication and then proceed to make a number of "counterpoints" to arguments that were never made in the first place.  Believe it or not it is possible to believe in the power of belief, the value of sport, the inspiration of mass participation and achievement, the need not to judge or limit yourself based on rate of initial improvement or starting point, the value and inherent lessons of dedicating yourself to something - and still believe to make it amongst the best requires more than an average dose of genetic talent.

    As to my other point.  I think it is weak-minded to believe that we were all created equal and everyone has a fair crack of being the best at what they do if they put in the right level of effort.  Weak-minded as in:

    a)  Having or exhibiting a lack of judgement.

    b)  Easily swayed by propaganda or emotional manipulation tactics

    That is very different from saying that if you don't feel you don't have the "ultimate genetic" potential you should act accordingly and do something else.

  • MoraghanMoraghan ✭✭✭
    x-post with popsider.
  • As referenced in my original posts i acknowledge we all consider it a combination of the two, my 'counterpoints' were aimed at nuances...such as the discrediting of books like gladwell's which illuminate environmental influences, as merely 1 dimensional fads which interrupt an otherwise common sense approach that recognises both nature and nurture. These books dont dismiss the impact of genetics, they simply argue with clear examples how environmental factors impacted on a level of achievement. Of course its possible to believe in the strong influence of genetic factors and recognise environmental influences, again my original post was aimed to recognise those who choose to emphasise either side are invariably able to recognise the other has an impact.

    Likewise, 'weak minded' as a term implicitly attempts to label those who emphasise nurture as naive and unrealistically idealistic. I agree we arent all born with equal talent, but frequently the benefits of precise environmental influences are mistaken as evidence of inate talent and how success is encouraged and reinforced is often built on this misconception. This debate always gets people involved in all fields because it has a big impact on how we see ourselves and others, and also how society is structured.

    Popsider - i'm not religious and a debate about its virtues and flaws is a massive subject,  but proof of divine influence is a matter of faith which can easily by dismissed by atheists on rational terms as comfortable superstition. On the other hand, belief in your own capability to succeed is a tangible that can be recognised in the majority of successful sporting narratives.

  • I'm dipping out of this thread now as it's all getting a bit heavy image

    I was only wondering...... image
  • So Spoons when you going for that sub-3 marathon then? You've got the all-clear from M

    Cheers, Ant
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