THE ORIGINS OF HUMAN POTENTIAL
Few scientific debates have been more intense and protracted than the‘nature or nurture’ debate about the origins of human potential.
TheOrigins of Human Potential
revisits the ‘nature-nurture’ of cognitive abilitydebate in the light of new evidence from evolutionary biology. In the lastfew years new claims have been made about the biological structure of ourknowledge, of ways in which we think, and of individual differences inthem. When such debates persist around scientific topics of serious socialconcern it is often the case that they are based, not on ‘pure’ facts, but ondeep-seated assumptions that may be false. This book identifies andexamines the host of assumptions that enter into naturenurture argumentsin psychology, and shows how they have retarded understanding andperpetuated sterility of argument.Among the key assumptions examined are those about the nature of genesand their involvement in development; the nature of evolution as it hasimpinged on cognitive ability; and the nature of cognitive ability itself,especially its reduction to a simple ‘quantitative’ characteristic like heightor weight alleged to be measured by IQ tests. Assumptions underlying IQtesting are examined, as are those underlying the famous twin and adoptionstudies said to show that the ladder of cognitive ability ‘revealed’ by IQtests is caused by genetic differences. What emerges is the development of a child’s
-cognitive abilities, with a much greater role for self-organised, creative individuals than hitherto recognised.Raising complex issues in a clear way,
The Origins of Human Potential
also provides new insights into the contentious area of educational policy.It will be of great relevance to students of psychology and education, andshould be read by all those with an interest in our children’s future.
is Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Human Developmentand Learning at the Open University. His previous publications include