LONDON – The editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, has written a book about how he decided to practice the piano 20 minutes a day. Eighteen months later, he played Chopin’s fearsomely difficult Ballade No. 1 in G Minor to an admiring audience of friends. Could anyone have done this? Or did it require special talent?
The nature-versus-nurture debate has been around a long time. It is unresolved because the scientific question has always been entangled with politics. Broadly speaking, those stressing inborn capacity have been political conservatives; those emphasizing nurture have been political radicals.
The nineteenth-century philosopher John Stuart Mill was of the “anyone can do it” school. He was convinced that his achievements were in no way due to superior heredity: anyone of “normal intelligence and health,” subjected to his father’s educational system – which included learning Greek at the age of three – could have become John Stuart Mill.