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Genes, Brains, and Human Potential: The Science and Ideology of Intelligence

by Ken Richardson Columbia University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 408 pages
AU$79.00 NZ$83.48
Product Status: Not Our Publication - we no longer distribute
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& Academics:
For countless generations people have been told that their potential as humans is limited and fundamentally unequal. The social order, they have been assured, is arranged by powers beyond their control. More recently the appeal has been to biology, specifically the genes, brain sciences, the concept of intelligence, and powerful new technologies. Reinforced through the authority of science and a growing belief in bio-determinism, the ordering of the many for the benefit of a few has become more entrenched.


Yet scientists are now waking up to the influence of ideology on research and its interpretation. In Genes, Brains, and Human Potential, Ken Richardson illustrates how the ideology of human intelligence has infiltrated genetics, brain sciences, and psychology, flourishing in the vagueness of basic concepts, a shallow nature-versus-nurture debate, and the overhyped claims of reductionists. He shows how ideology, more than pure science, has come to dominate our institutions, especially education, encouraging fatalism about the development of human intelligence among individuals and societies.


Genes, Brains, and Human Potential goes much further: building on work being done in molecular biology, epigenetics, dynamical systems, evolution theory, and complexity theory, it maps a fresh understanding of intelligence and the development of human potential. Concluding with an upbeat message for human possibilities, this synthesis of diverse perspectives will engender new conversations among students, researchers, and other interested readers.


1. Pinning Down Potential
2. Pretend Genes
3. Pretend Intelligence
4. Real Genes, Real Intelligence
5. Intelligent Development
6. How the Brain Makes Potential
7. A Creative Cognition
8. Potential Between Brains: Social Intelligence
9. Human Intelligence
10. Promoting Potential
11. The Problems of Education Are Not Genetic
12. Summary and Conclusions

This prodigious, thorough, provocative, and important book raises critical issues that any intelligence researcher or scientist dealing in the realm of human capacity should consider.
Ken Richardson was formerly senior lecturer in human development at the Open University. He is author of six books, including The Making of Intelligence (1999) and Models of Cognitive Development (1998).