This post bounces off a current in philosophy of biology that wants to make claims about specific causal contributions of different factors, especially with respect to genes and heritability.
This podcast examines several kinds of conceptual problems that have not been addressed by scientists and other commentators who claim, as happens every few years, that science now shows race has a biological basis (mp3 22 mins)
Cambridge Science Festival 2015
50 Whys to Look for Genes: Pros and Complications
7-8.30pm, Thursday April 23, Bldg 1-134 at MIT
Participation is possible by google hangout, at http://bit.ly/CCTEvent . RSVP at email@example.com will help us plan for this. Continue reading
A Collaborative Exploration (CE) in which participants consider what it would mean for the public to be treated as capable of thinking about the complexities that surround the application of genetic knowledge. Continue reading
“They are in you and in me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence… Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines.” Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (1976)
In other words, the genes we have are those that gave our ancestors advantage over competitors in survival and reproduction. Any gene that does not give an advantage will die out—will not survive.
As the previous post noted, “parameters, such as the ‘fitness’ of [i.e., the advantage conferred by] genes or genotypes… are difficult or impossible to estimate,” even in well-controlled laboratory populations. Continue reading
A colleague asked me what does my new book, “Nature-Nurture? No” (http://bit.ly/NNN2014), have to do with feminist nature-nurture issues? What can we do with my analysis? This 68-minute video is my first rough take on puzzling over that question: http://youtu.be/1gE9_9W8-zI Comments welcome.
In any quantitative analysis that associates a trait with some measurable genetic or environmental factors, the genetic factors are factors for difference. That is, a difference in the factor is associated, when viewed across a population of individuals, with a difference in the trait. These differences that a factor-for-difference makes ( as we ambiguously say in English) in the trait depend on the context (i.e., they are “local”) and that context has dynamics, which may or may not be restructured if the factor is taken beyond the boundaries of the local context.
Given that quantitative analysis of variation for a trait concerns genes or other factors for difference, what can be reasonably promised regarding genes and the development of a trait in an individual? Continue reading
“Some people suggest that race is coded in genes and genes determine IQ test scores. A slightly less simple but similar supposition is that differences among races are associated with differences in genes that people have, which, in turn, are associated with differences in IQ test scores. Yet everyone has a sense that such claims are controversial. What should you think about them?”
Let me attempt a quick counter to the common error that a heritability of, say, 80% for height in humans means that the trait is strongly determined by genes that research is now uncovering and that the remaining 20% explains how average height can increase from one generation to the next [see quote below].