The New Spartacus On The Expressway With Us

Folks have been debating the old Nature-Nurture thing for generations. Seems lately the debate may be virtually over as geneticists sit on most medical boards and have access to the most media. They even upped the ante a few years ago when evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins wrote ‘The God Gene’ explaining why some of us are genetically pre-disposed to believe in divinity.

Now comes a controversial new book ‘The Sport Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance’ by David Epstein. In it he deconstructs Malcolm Gladwell’s recent best seller ‘Outliers’ in which the author persuasively argued his ‘10,000 hour benchmark.’ In essence he said all that separates any of us from mastery of virtually any skill is 10,000 hours of practice.

But now Epstein takes various great athletes like Albert Pujols, tracks their records, and concludes: “It’s not practice that explains why major league players typically have exceptional eyesight or why fully 17% of the young men in America who are over 7 feet tall play in the NBA. Genetics is at work here….”

As he examines their genetic histories his work renews a staggering thought: Breeding humans for athletic achievement. Spartacus and his fellow slave were also ‘bred,’ but this was before we understood genetics. Now that we do, the question is: Do we understand how to use this knowledge? Humanity is more famous for using what it has learned how to do, rather than weighing whether or not it should be doing it. The same back story can be found in the narratives of Eden, the Caesars, Frankenstein, and King Kong; as well as in everything from crossing new frontiers to building better weapons.

I have no credentials in genetics, but I do have some experience in the last guy who talked about breeding a super race….

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