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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's nature, not nurture, 30 Dec. 2013
This review is from: The Sports Gene: What Makes the Perfect Athlete (Hardcover)
David Epstein's useful corrective to the so-called 10,000 hour rule illustrates how little nurture has to do with sports success compared to nature. It's what's in the genes that counts most, and amazingly, this runs contrary to the still popular idea that we are a 'blank slate' As Pinker and other science writers have shown us, this is utter bunk. Yet it is taboo to say it too loud out of fear of racism or sexism. The more we learn, the more stupid it appears to be.

While Epstein walks on eggshells throughout, anxious not to offend, it is pretty clear that there are huge differences between men and women, and clear genetic reasons why African athletes have been so successful at running. If you stand back and think about it, it's all pretty obvious - 'Doh!' as Homer would say. Here are a few of the conclusions he reaches.

Men are always going to be stronger and faster than women. It's just biology, not 'sexism'.

A natural, tall black high jumper with no training beats the best trained white jumper in history with almost no training. 10,000 hours can beat many, but not all. Too much training can make things worse.

Jamaican sprinters have genetic advantages (more fast twitch muscles)that help them run faster, which evolved over many thousands of years.

Kenyan distance runners have a genetic advantage (more slow twitch muscles) which evolved over many thousands of years, partly in sync with environment.

There is lots more where this came from. Nature, with the right nurture, wins.

Epstein is a good researcher (a science degree from Columbia) and is clearly sports mad (a former college runner). He writes for Sports Illustrated, and makes everything clear and readable. Best of all, Epstein's agenda seems to be to drag the truth into the light, sometimes against the zeitgeist which creates an unrealistic expectation based upon nurture.

This is not a 5 star book, mostly because it is pretty obvious - but it deserves all 4 stars for taking on the debate and putting it's case so clearly.
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