The Orchid Hypothesis

Monday, November 23, 2009

A new theory of genetics asserts that mankind's most troublesome genes may be vital to our adaptability, if given the right kind of nurturing. David Dobbs, contributor to The Atlantic, writes about the orchid hypothesis in this month's issue and discusses his findings.


David Dobbs

Comments [9]

David Dobbs from London

Maggie asked "based on what? One or two 'studies.'?"

Several dozen, actually, involving tens of thousands of people.

Sep. 28 2010 05:26 AM
BAK from

As a mother of identical twin boys, age 11, I have resisted a lot of pressure to medicate one of my sons. He is very bright, but struggles with control of his temper and is very over-emotional. I was interested in the first half of the quote that ended "overemotional is just undisciplined passion", as I thought it perfectly summed up the idea that so much of behavior with children is about degree. One persons' wild genius, is another persons' behavior problem requiring medication.

Nov. 23 2009 11:49 AM
csh from NJ

This describes me and a significant number of my close friends and family!

Too bad most of us are pushing 50. We could have used this info a long time ago.

Still...the majority of us, though not spectacularly successful, have led creatively joyful lives despite our overly-anxious, ambivalent, procrastinating tendencies!

Thanks for this research! I'll be following it with interest.

Nov. 23 2009 11:33 AM
RCT from NYC

We refused to medicate our son, who learns better in small groups, on a one-to-one basis, than in a standard classroom. For years, we fought with principals, teachers, guidance counselors, and on psychopharmacologist, who told us that, even if our son's issues were created by cultural norms rather than his own "pathology," he should be medicated so that he could better conform to those norms.

I said that, according to that theory, if I were a Saudi woman who wanted to drive and bec financially independent, I should be sedated.

My son is now twenty and thanks us regularly having refused to medicate him. He's had to struggle in school, but he's learned to cope with a culture whose "norms" don't fit his inherent style. His medicated friends are dope addicts today (seriously).

We aren't sorry.

Nov. 23 2009 11:27 AM

Where is the assistance for those adults with adhd that are in trouble with the debt/IRS/finances? Any ideas? No jokes pls.

Nov. 23 2009 11:26 AM
mk from rockaway

I was diagnosed with ADHD in my mid twenties. I have always done well academically, but have also always had significant "discipline" and behavioural problems that are discernible in my school records going right back to kindergarden.

Someone gave me a book on ADHD and it read like a textbook description of my both my "biography" and my inner mental life. I was very grateful for this because it helped me to see that, despite my conventional successes (a 4.0 GPA, etc), I did have some sort of "handicap" (for lack of a better word), had suppressed and ignored the consequences, and that this was reaching a crisis point.

It is a common contention in ADHD that literature that ADHD affected people can also "hyper-focus" when interested -- but it may be difficult to get interested.

I agree 100%. I won't say I missed the crisis completely, but that old adage "KNOW THYSELF" paid off. Thanks scientists!

Nov. 23 2009 11:21 AM
Bill from New York

Well, #2, he's called it a hypothesis, which means it calls for more study. There wouldn't even be a surface to scratch without this kind of work.

Nov. 23 2009 11:17 AM
Maggie from New York

More labels, more pigeon holes to shove people into. We've barely scratched the surface of genetics but this doesn't stop these guys making wild, wide sweeping statements based on what? One or two "studies". I'm sure he makes a good living.

Nov. 23 2009 11:11 AM
hjs from 11211

how would this effect the kids in the first segment?

Nov. 23 2009 11:10 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.