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The Nature Excuse: If Genes Really Mattered Like You Think They Do

You live in an artificial house, drive an artificial car, use an artificial cellphone…

And yet, when it comes to learning languages, suddenly you’re a prisoner of Nature? Where were your genes when you were flying in an airplane, above the clouds, near the speed of sound? Where were your genes when you listened to the voices of people you’ve never seen or met? Where were your genes when you learned that new English slang word?

If genetics mattered like you think it does, then surely hereditary absolute monarchies would be the best countries in the world — the richest, the cleanest, the best-governed. And yet the fact remains that Britain became a world power only after it stripped its monarchs of everything but their clothes and houses. And Rome began to decline and fall only after blood began to matter more than competence.

If genes mattered like you think they do, then Genghis Khan’s nth-great-granddaughter would be ruling the world right now.
You’d be flying in Wright — not Boeing — planes.
All comedians would be descendants of Richard Pryor.
Physics would be renamed Einsteinics, and instead of having universities, we would just have labs make Isaac Newton clones and place them strategically in local orchards 1. I mean, Einstein did marry his cousin. Surely the physics midi-chlorians of those children are over 9000.

If genetics matters like you think it does, if you believe in hereditary talent, if you think Anders Ericsson is just a drunken Swede talking inspiritational bunkum, then why not start acting like it?

Wanna make money? Don’t read books. Go drink Warren Buffett’s urine.
Wanna play better basketball? Don’t take shots. Go make out with Michael Jordan and hope that you scrape off some cheek cells…then take shots.
Wanna play better hockey? Go lick Wayne Gretzky’s sweat off the ice.

Or you could just cut the crap. Stop trotting out the Nature Excuse every time you feel like excusing wussiness. Richard Dawkins would not be happy. Richard Dawkins would be sad and angry.

I love how the things that are supposedly “in your blood” also tend to be “in your house”. Isn’t it funny how alcoholics tend to have the cheapest, fastest, easiest access to alcohol? Should it not follow that people who are good at Japanese have the cheapest, fastest, easiest access to Japanese sounds and text and ohwaitaminute — they do!

Homo sapiens as a species may have spent 95% of its history in whatever semi-fictional ancestral environment that’s currently fashionable among evolutionary psychologists (coz we all know that the Earth actually is 6000 years old, right guys? Right? :P), but you’ve spent 100% of your life in the 20th/21st centuries.

Don’t submit to Nature. Co-create with it. Her. Whatever.


  1. we won’t even get into the apocryphal nature of the apple story…

  8 comments for “The Nature Excuse: If Genes Really Mattered Like You Think They Do

  1. September 8, 2012 at 06:43

    Damn son, I would have to actually do things in that case. What the fuck?

  2. BLAZEさん
    September 8, 2012 at 08:28


  3. agentxjp
    September 8, 2012 at 23:47

    We need more leet Japanese tactics, and study tips, and SRSing tips, and all of that good stuff we used to get.

  4. Jack
    September 9, 2012 at 21:36

    Agh man! I was hoping to sneak into your house and lick all of your spoons! There goes THAT idea. *sigh* back to watching Chobits…

    • Jack Cotton-Brown
      September 11, 2012 at 13:33

      There’s a reason you call it Silverspoon right?… RIGHT?!

    • Matt
      September 12, 2012 at 11:06

      Try Benny’s new program FLUENT IN THREE WEEKS AND THREE FLUES!!!1! where he sneezes on all your silverware and pees in your food for a few thousand dollars.

  5. September 11, 2012 at 19:27

    I’m inclined to agree with you on this one. There’s little that can’t be accomplished with enough motivation. Even in linguistics the idea of genetically programmed language aptitude, Universal Grammar and the like is getting pretty dated. That said, I’m always amazed at how both my (fairly small children) have many of the same mannerisms and habits that my wife and I did as children, so there has to be something in the old genetic coding somewhere.

  6. Scott
    September 13, 2012 at 00:26

    Well, genetics do matter of course…. (??) 🙂

    But good point – stop making excuses and let’s see what some persistent, consistent and clever work can do for us. The unworked genetics of MJ alone would not have taken him to the NBA. Just as hardworking lesser genetics would not have taken him to superstardom. 😉

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