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Born with talent, or created?

  1. Jun 17, 2013 #1
    Hello everyone, i'm sure this conversation will go no where, but I dont' see anything wrong with a bit of philosophy. For me personally, I love physics, I think science and mathematics are really really fascinating and definitely a beauty to behold. That being said...I'm horrid at math. Calculus I took every fiber of my being to complete with a C+. Anyway this got me thinking, do you all think that people are born with the innate ability for mathematics, or art? That whole left vs right brain thing? Or is it something that is taught from very young? Myself I really believe that innate ability is born not created. While I know if I study every day and really push myself I could grasp the concepts I don't think I'll ever be as good as someone who is born with such talent. I think math people and art people see the world in two different views, and you have to be born with talent with either.... Thoughts?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 17, 2013 #2
    Nice name, even though it compete's with my friend wbn. But we'll overlook that. If you've read any of my posts, you'll know I'm a big left brain right brain guy. But you're confusing nature and nurture. Evolution is an epigenetic process. Mammals have windows in their ontogenetic development where certain skills need to be expressed, such as language. So yes, I believe that some people are genetically geared for a more creative right brain mentality and some for a more analytical left brain mentality, but the environmental contribution plays such an equally compelling role it's hard to pigeonhole it.
  4. Jun 17, 2013 #3
    I think people who are good at things are seen as talented, and people who are bad at things are seen as not talented.
    That's really not useful.
    To assume someone is talented, to me, sort of takes away from the hard work they put into it.
    Same thing applies to good professional athletes. People say all the time they have amazing genetics. Really? Have they analyzed their genome? No. They just see someone who's good at something and assume they didn't have to work as hard as everyone else to get to that point. It's almost an insult.

    Personally, when I work hard at something, I can do well. When I do something half-assed, I do horrible. When I worked hard at math and did the right things, I could ace the course. When I didn't work hard and do the right things, I could get surprisingly low scores.
    Last semester I took differential equations. I was failing early in the course because I wasn't studying enough, and not studying PROPERLY. Then I started studying properly and began acing every quiz and did very well on the test. Then on the final, I didn't study like I should have and got like a 50. Barely made it out of the class with a C.

    It just seems like people want an excuse beyond their control for doing poorly. Most people don't want to just take responsibility for failing.
  5. Jun 17, 2013 #4


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    This is universally true.

    If you really want something to tag as genetic: eagerness to surrender.

    I feel like everything I've ever put serious effort into I've done well. Everything that I've done halfheartedly has gone poorly. The line is clear for me. All it would take for me to fail at something is to not seek to do it well. I don't think this stops at things tagged as "talent" skills, either. Job hunting, home repairs, financial responsibility, crafts, music, etc...

    To play devil's advocate, there are individuals that legitimately lack the ability to comprehend complex ideas or to integrate new ideas into their thought processes yet may still posses a non-trivial talent.
  6. Jun 17, 2013 #5


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    I think that, while we might not want to admit it, both innate talent and hard work play a role. I could work my a** off for my whole life, and I will never be able to hit a baseball as well as Derek Jeter, or "bend it like Beckham". On the math and physics side, you see this as well. Some people have an innate talent, and others don't. Of course, by working hard, you can extend your abilities and learn new things, but we all have our limits. From what I've seen the people that really excel are the ones with innate talent and the motivation to work hard.
  7. Jun 17, 2013 #6


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    I agree. Some people seem to not want to admit it but some people are simply better at picking up math and physics than others. The same goes for other walks of life: I could try my entire life to be as good a drummer as Bonham but I'll never get there-he just had the innate ability man.
  8. Jun 17, 2013 #7
    But how do you know?
    Again, how do you know?

    This is another problem I have. People not only making excuses for why they didn't succeed, but also making predictions about what they couldn't do even if they tried.
    If the two of you can provide a good explanation for how you know that in an alternate life you couldn't have became one of the best at something, then you may be more talented than you think.
  9. Jun 17, 2013 #8


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    Because I've tried drumming for years and years and it just hasn't clicked for me like guitar has. Similarly, I have tried to teach basic physics and math to friends who have asked for help and no matter how much they tried they just couldn't get it. Claiming that anyone and everyone can be good at something if they put their mind to it is a nice slogan for the next Pixar movie but everyone has their mental and physical limitations.
  10. Jun 17, 2013 #9
    You don't think there's more variables to it than simply "I just suck at it"?
    Maybe they don't practice afterwards like they should. Maybe they're only doing it because they have to and not because they enjoy it (which easily leads to not doing well). Maybe you're just not that good at teaching.
    There's lots of reasons someone may not understand something. I don't see how we can ignore all these variables and go straight to "they just suck at it".
    How do we know what those limitations are? I tried doing a kickflip on a skateboard for a month and never really got it. Do I suck at doing skateboard tricks? Are skateboard tricks beyond my limitation? Lazy answer: yes.
  11. Jun 17, 2013 #10
    I will propose a very difficult concept to understand idea: Different people are different.

    Now, if we're willing to assume that that statement is true, then why is it such a shock that some people are naturally better at something than others? Hard work certainly plays a role, but I wasn't doing my father's taxes when I was three (Gauss), nor did I revolutionize mathematics and physics as a teenager (Newton). This is due to inherent limitations in my mental faculty, limitations that neither of these men possessed. It's absurd to think that everyone is capable of everything, because it simply isn't true. Maybe I could reach the level of knowledge of someone whose intelligence is deemed greater than mine, but my path to that point would be more arduous and painstaking than what would be required of him to reach that same level.

    The kickflip is considered a beginner move, which many accomplished in far less time than you, and who then moved on to more advanced tricks which I wouldn't doubt are out of your grasp. Correct answer: yes.
  12. Jun 17, 2013 #11


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    leroyjenkins - What are you trying to argue - that innate ability plays no role? Do you really think that it if you trained hard enough you could run 100 meters in 9.6 seconds like Usain Bolt? Or that height makes no difference when playing basketball and that someone who is 5' 6" tall can be just as good as someone who is 7' tall if they practice hard enough? It seems obvious that in physical contests, accidents of genetics and development play a significant role. Why not the same in mental pursuits?
  13. Jun 17, 2013 #12


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    My $0.02 -

    Sure ability plays a role, but so what? If you are passionate about something, or maybe you just want it really really bad, then you should go for it. If you are happy learning something, who cares if someone else learns it faster? If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

    That last sentence, btw, is from a prose-poem called Desiderata.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2013
  14. Jun 17, 2013 #13


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    It's fairly difficult to separate "is passionate about something and works hard to succeed" from "is naturally talented at something" because if you're really good at something, you tend to enjoy doing it and will spend more time working at it.
  15. Jun 17, 2013 #14


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    Those two questions are mutually exclusive. By definition, a "talent" is innate, which means you are born with it and can't learn it.

    But don't confuse that with "skill".
  16. Jun 18, 2013 #15
    We are all born with different ways of thinking, bodies and so on. From this it obviously follows that some must be innately better and others worse at stuff like running, lifting, math etc. However, there are two sides to being good. Hard work and opportunity (free & widely available education etc.) is needed for somebody to capitalize on his innate strengths.
  17. Jun 18, 2013 #16
    I am not as good at manipulating numbers without a physical explanation as I am a conceptual learner by forte, however I am one of the top students in my year in physics whilst being one of the poorest in maths as I never pay much attention to the subject for a range of attributing factors. One of these factors is relevance (I don't see it, as I find it boring as I can't relate it do a physical being). However, I pick up maths very quickly in physics. I believe it is 50% nature and 50% nurture.
    I was never nurtured in maths, but was in conceptual based subjects.
  18. Jun 18, 2013 #17
    Born with talent. And I refuse to see any arguments to that! It's one of the things I have always felt strongly about, ever since I saw a couple of geniuses back in high school doing stuff I managed to comprehend after a LOT of hard work - and they didn't need to spend hours doing it.
  19. Jun 18, 2013 #18
    I tend to consider the human brain before and shortly after birth simply as an widely untrained neural network, not significantly predisposed to anything.

    Incoming neural stimuli train the brain one way or the other; and that's, up to my private, totally unsupported, laymanly theory, the process during which intelligence and talents are "created".

    Or not, if the stimuli are too few or inconsistent.
  20. Jun 18, 2013 #19
    :smile: didn't Michael Jordan try his hand at baseball? I believe he is a huge stickler for practicing/improving.
  21. Jun 18, 2013 #20
    Hmmm, I can say yes. But to reveal your true abilities, u will have to work for it. No one is born with high genius brain. Not even Einstein was. His way of success was working very hard. Imagine that he spent 10 years for his relativity some part. (I exactly don't remember the one)
    But he had the courage, wanted to follow his curiosity.
    Umm....I'm now in grade 13. The last exam for me to achieve the entrance to the university will be held on Next year August. :eek:
    So I wrote my last two term exams well. Without being a book reader. Like girls do. And the results is fine. I'm happy with it. But in my former years I had to do many things, to work hard. So I guess, everything from what I did in past. So don't forget who u are. Nothing is impossible. U only have to try.

    Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
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