Heritability and Biological Explanation

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Abstract

Modern neuroscientific and genetic technologies have provoked intense disagreement between scientists who envision a future in which biogenetic theories will enrich or even replace psychological theories, and others who consider biogenetic theories exaggerated, dehumanizing, and dangerous. Both sides of the debate about the role of genes and brains in the genesis of human behavior have missed an important point: All human behavior that varies among individuals is partially heritable and correlated with measurable aspects of brains, but the very ubiquity of these findings makes them a poor basis for reformulating scientists' conceptions of human behavior. Materialism requires psychological processes to be physically instantiated, but more crucial for psychology is the occasional empirical discovery of behavioral phenomena that are specific manifestations of low-level biological variables. Heritability and psychobiological association cannot be the basis for establishing whether behavior is genetic or biological, because to do so leads only to the banal tautology that all behavior is ultimately based in the genotype and brain.

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