The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, August 10, 2007

Genetic determination of all giftedness

Genes are the foundation of all our attributes. This may seem like an obvious statement for many - but for some, it is controversial. This is the core of the nature-nurture debate: are we born or made?

From everything I have read, seen and understood in life, I am firmly on the side of nature. I have seen so many instances of people with abilities and attributes that show familial inheritance, that it could not be otherwise. The gene is all: at least, it is most of the story.

I have posted elsewhere about the remarkably strong relationship between the IQ of the parents and the IQ of the children, once they become adults (a correlation of 0.8). Intelligence is not the only strongly inherited characteristic - our height, our health, our immune systems...everything is there, in the genome. Though many may dislike it, we are very much a product of our genes (though these genes interact with their environment).

I am moved to write about this, today, because of my recent encounter with a supercentenarian. Many react to such a person by asking: "What is their secret?" They believe that there is some environmental quirk which led to such a long life. Well, I have to disappoint you. Teresa Hsu, is presently reputed to be 110 years old. That is interesting and amazing in itself - but what do you think about its cause when I tell you that her mother lived to 104? It begins to look rather like another case of genetic inheritance, doesn't it? Well, how about this: her mother's grandmother lived to 103. Thus Teresa Hsu, far from being possessed of some behavioural secret, is the product of a long-line of female centenarians, in her family. It is an attribute of her family, as much as blue eyes are the attribute of other families. It is a genetic inheritance.

All human giftedness, in my opinion, backed by both observation, and reading of much scientific literature, is founded in the genome. This applies to all ways in which one person may be special compared to another. If you look at them closely enough, you will almost always be able to pinpoint a familial cause: they are the product of their inherited genes.

We should not be concerned that so much of what we are is genetically based. That actually is a cause for celebration - for everyone of us is unique (barring twins etc) - and possess a set of attributes and dispositions, given to us by our genes, that no other person in history has ever possessed or will ever possess. We are all, by genetic definition, completely unique. I find that refreshing.

(If you would like to read of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and eight months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and one month, and Tiarnan, eighteen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, genetics, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:52 PM 


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