Howe Comms 13-15 Detterman Ericsson Freeman

From: Dunn Christopher (
Date: Thu Mar 05 1998 - 13:54:32 GMT

Christopher Dunn: Detterman et al. Absurd environmentalism

Detterman claims that the authors of the target article ignore that
general I.Q is a strong factor in musical ability and that their
methodology is flawed. They criticise the authors for selecting
talented individuals to study, as they have pre selected their sample,
just as to select a basketball team to study height and baskets
scored. Basket ball players have already been pre-selected because
they are tall, thus all the musical subjects selected had good genes
and lots of practice.

> Retrospective accounts of musical talent. Much of the literature on
> musical accomplishment is retrospective as acknowledged by Howe,
> Davidson, and Sloboda. Groups of musically skilled subjects are
> identified and then studied. This approach is useless for identifying
> musical talent. The problem is that the groups are self-selected on the
> very variable of interest.. Suppose we correlate the height of National
> Basketball Association (NBA) players with the number of points they
> score. This correlation is close to zero. Should one conclude that
> height is unimportant in professional basketball? That would be
> foolish. But that is what Howe, Davidson, and Sloboda do.

They claim that individuals with low I.Q will never be good at music,
but what about autistic savants? Surely they have very low I.Q but a
talent for music. Also if talent is domain specific surely Some one can
have an exceptional talent in one area have a poor I.Q. This also
assumes I.Q tests are the valid, they are not without th r problems.
The fact that people do not get uniform musical training or have equal
interest in music means that genetic factors are camouflaged. Until
someone discovers the music talent gene some radically unethical
longitudinal experiment to settle it, the argument will just go on and
on without end. Although Detterman claims it could be settled a
hypothetical experiment such as

> If Howe, Sloboda, and Davidson still believe in absurd environmentalism
> they can easily convert us to their point of view. Simply randomly
> select 100 persons with mental retardation and 100 persons of high IQ
> and give them 10 years of deliberate practice. If , at the end of the
> 10 years, both groups are equally outstanding musicians, we will be
> instantly converted to their position. Further, they will have done an
> exceptional social service by supplying mentally retarded persons with
> a profession. Unfortunately, we know from existing literature it will
> become clear that they are wrong well before the 10 years are up.
> Deliberate practice, important though it is to exceptional
> accomplishment, will not equalise outcome despite the best of
> intentions.

They also claim there are societal reasons why the practice theory is
more acceptable, to our capitalist culture, if you work hard you will
do well if you don't you will fail, and its your own fault. However
supporting this line gets people to work hard but does not help us
solve the argument. Also if people started blaming the genes for
every screw up they made, it would make problems in society even more
complicated and difficult to solve.

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