Center of Science, Policy and Society Programs: AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion
AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion
News & Events: Public LectureThree Laws of Behavior Genetics and What They Mean
10 April 2003
Behavior genetics has demonstrated that genetic variance is an important component of variation for all behavioral outcomes, but variation among families is not. These results have led some critics of behavior genetics to conclude that heritability is so ubiquitous as to have few consequences for scientific understanding of development, while some behavior genetic partisans have concluded that family environment is not an important cause of developmental outcomes. Both views are incorrect. Genotype is in fact a more systematic source of variation than environment, but for reasons that are methodological rather than substantive. Development is fundamentally nonlinear, interactive, and difficult to control experimentally. Twin studies offer a useful methodological shortcut, but do not show that genes are more fundamental than environments.
- Eric Turkheimer, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia at Charlottesville
Read the summary by Catherine Baker.