Another Nine-Inch Nail for Behavioral Genetics!

Human Development (Impact Factor: 1.38). 01/2006; 49(6):336-342. DOI: 10.1159/000096532

ABSTRACT About the time that I was completing my doctoral training (in 1971), reactions to Jensen's [1969] paper in the Harvard Educational Review about the heritability of intelligence were beginning to be published [e.g., Hebb, 1970; Hirsch, 1970] and were explaining to social and behavioral scientists the egregious flaws in theory and meth-od associated with behavior genetics. As a neophyte in developmental science, I na-ively believed that the matter of genetic reductionism would have been settled by this exchange, and by the classic paper of Anastasi [1958] and the earlier one by Schneirla [1956]. I was certain that no one would again take seriously the idea that genes (na-ture), split off from the environment, from the multiple levels of the context (or ecol-ogy) of human development (nurture), could provide an independent, noninteractive source of intelligence or of any other functional (or structural) feature of human de-velopment, no matter what dazzling statistical [but ill-founded; e.g., Feldman & Le-wontin, 1975; Layzer, 1974; Wahlsten, 1990] methods were used to estimate the addi-tive and isolated influence of genes on behavior. I was wrong. Across the ensuing third of a century the erroneous claims and mis-interpreted data of behavioral genetics, and of associated biologically reductionist ac-counts of human development (such as sociobiology or evolutionary psychology), have continued to 'rise from the grave' [e.g. Rushton, 2000], despite the biological, psychological and statistical scholarship that should have kept these ideas 'dead and buried' [e.g.

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    • "Such an understanding represents a major undertaking because of the inherent complexity of the systems involved (Burmeister, McInnis, & Zöllner, 2008; Richardson & Norgate, 2006; Rutter et al., 2001). Although twin studies have shown that almost all human characteristics are heritable, finding a single, or even a limited number of polymorphisms or genes that account for individual differences is usually impossible since in the determination of complex outcomes, including most diseases, multiple genes interact in complex ways (Burmeister et al., 2008; Lerner, 2006). Defining and delineating the environment in which organisms live is also a challenge. "
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