Espousing interactions and Fielding reactions: Addressing laypeople's beliefs about genetic determinism

Philosophical Psychology 21 (3):331 – 348 (2008)
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Abstract

Although biologists and philosophers of science generally agree that genes cannot determine the forms of biological and psychological traits, students, journalists, politicians, and other members of the general public nonetheless continue to embrace genetic determinism. This article identifies some of the concerns typically raised by individuals when they first encounter the systems perspective that biologists and philosophers of science now favor over genetic determinism, and uses arguments informed by that perspective to address those concerns. No definitive statements can yet be made about why genetic determinism has proven so resilient in the face of empirical evidence pointing up its deficiencies, but conveying the essential interdependence of 'nature' and 'nurture' to the general public will likely require deployment of the arguments that systems theorists ordinarily use to reject genetic determinism. In addition, the elaboration of new metaphors that focus attention on the dynamic nature of trait construction will likely prove valuable, because re-conceptualizing notions like 'genes' and 'nature' will probably be one of the most effective ways to help students and the general public abandon the genetic determinism that biologists now recognize as indefensible.

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