GENES, ENVIRONMENT AND THE HUMAN CONDITION
IMPLICATIONS: GENES, ENVIRONMENT AND
THE HUMAN CONDITION
human behaviour arises from the interaction between an
individuals genetic makeup and its environment and acceptance of this has
profound philosophical implications.
This book is concerned with the implications for views on such
things as morality, law, social issues and our future as a species of accepting
that human behavior is, as are physical characteristics, determined by the
interplay between genetic and environmental factors.
Whilst the nature versus nurture debate has been widely
written about the implications of the nature and nurture view have received far
less attention. The subject matter is relevant to the interest of anyone
interested in philosophy, social issues and the human condition generally. An
appreciation of the subject also has the potential to lead to a better
understanding of what can be expected of oneself and others.
In Store Price: $23.00
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Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages:
Genre: Non fiction
Publisher: Poseidon Books
Date Published: 2004
holds qualifications in applied science (chemistry), the arts (history), adult
education and as a fitness instructor.
has been a bus driver, plymill hand and gardener, worked in research, public
service, the fitness industry and much more.
Apart from teaching E.F.L. and swimming, he has conducted courses for the
long-term unemployed and lectured archaeology undergraduates on early European
interests are correspondingly wide.
has long been accepted, to the extent that it can be classed as common
knowledge, that an individuals physical characteristics are inherited. Whilst
environmental factors can intervene to modify, or override, such things as a
persons natural longevity, height or propensity to baldness, a pre programmed
genetic plan exist. In short, the environment does not work on a blank slate
identical to every other individuals
blank slate, to produce a vast range of variation wholly attributable to its own
effects. Acceptance of the role of inheritance as the basis of human behavior
however is still far from universal. In fact, it is only within the last decade
that some signs have occurred of an end to the vehement debate within the
scientific community, between those who believe that some behavior is
instinctive and those who maintain that all behavior is learned.
If we are still a long
way from universal acceptance, a long way
from it being common knowledge, that the interplay between environment and gene
recognized as producing physical characteristics, is equally responsible for
behavioral characteristics, the
implications of this seem hardly to have been considered. Certainly, our
treatment of criminals, our educational system and our concepts of morality, are
but a few endeavors which seem to pay the implications little account.
implications of accepting an, environment working on genetic inheritance model
of human behavior deserve consideration. Obviously if the model is valid, then
subjecting individuals even from birth, or for that matter test tube, to a
uniform environment will not produce uniform results. Equal opportunities will
not produce equal individuals, a statement no less true taking into account that
in an absolute sense, uniform environments are logically impossibly.
also follows that unless genetic manipulation occurs on a monstrous scale,
patterns of behavior like physical characteristics, are and always will be will
be widely variant between individuals. There can be no ideal society for an
ideal human to fit into and no universally accepted morality. Quite to the
contrary, it can be argued that morality is no more than a manifestation of the
variety of human behavior and inclinations. But there is perhaps
philosophically, a more important issue.
such a model if logically and scientifically validated be spiritually
acceptable?. What concerns does the model raise for anyone who is not a hard
line determinist or whose cosmological view encompasses more than just
scientific knowledge or explanation?
views and concerns are what this book is about, the first two chapters
dealing with the model and basic philosophical challenges it raises, the
rest with some more specific considerations that acceptance of the model would
appear to require. As background, a
short preface briefly deals with the nature versus nurture debate.
1 `The basis of Human Behavior delves into such things as genetics,
consciousness, conscious and subconscious activity, rationality, intuition and
environmental effects, the physical
factors that affect the workings of our brains and patterns of activity
associated with them.
model of behavior that can be put together from the components mentioned
in chapter 1, how these components relate to each other and the possible results
are the subject of chapter 2. The
implications of the model for such concepts as free will and the possible
factors mitigating against acceptance of the model are also addressed in this
All the remaining chapters concern issues
the model raises in the fields they refer to with special emphasis being given
in chapter 3 to morality and associated issues. The remaining two chapters are
relatively brief and really only focus arguments already made onto
particular areas. The Conclusion apart from a summing up argues for acceptance
of the model.
of this book consist of argument but really the basic argument is very simple,
it can be expressed in one sentences., human
behavior arises from the interaction between an individuals genetic makeup and
its environment and acceptance of this has profound philosophical implications.
argument can be very boring if one is already familiar with its essential
elements and very confusing if one lacks sufficient knowledge of them. Excessive
detail can also make it difficult to hold an underlying concept especially when
the concept is itself complex. Apart from this, few have the time or inclination
to suffer reiteration of what they already know. So, with these things in mind
notes have been used to elaborate on some points to shorten the text,
unconventionally long as this may make some
Nature versus Nurture: status of the debate.
far back as 1946, in their book `Heredity, Race and Society, Dunn and
Dobzhansky felt able to state that `Both
heredity and environment must of course be involved in the origin of every human
characteristic.1 and commenting on the views of cultural
anthropologist ascribing national characters as purely resulting from culture,`
: mans personality, as well as his physical traits, results from a
process of development in which both heredity and environment play important
is difficult to escape the view that personality is the word we use to describe
the impression gained from an individuals collective behavior. Nor can it be
easily denied that behavior can be described as a characteristic and that the
term `every human characteristic must include behavior. Consequently, it
would seem that as far back as 1946 the view that behavior, like physical
characteristics, arose from both genetic and environmental factors was current.
in 2002 Steven Pinker had ample reason to point out the persistent reluctance to
accept any cause of human nature that implied determinism, as giving a basic
role to genetics appeared to do. 3 The debate continues, despite what
might have long appeared as obvious to some throughout history that both nature
and nurture play their part, with the tendency still being to look at it as
being, if not a matter of nature or nurture, a matter of nature and nurture
acting to varying degrees largely as largely independent entities.
a 2002 publication, Laland, Kevin and Brown 4 describe the five main
schools of thought concerning enquiry into these aspects of behavior; human
sociobiology, behavioral ecology, evolutionary psychology, memetics and gene
culture coevolution. None of these appears to adequately encompass the role of
both gene and environment and the relationship between these factors. Culture co
evolution does come close, apart from recognizing that variation cannot be
described in purely genetic terms, it accounts how wide variation can occur with
regard to how environment (cultural behavior) and genes (biological evolution)
interact. Evolutionary psychology was found to be the most favored by most
researchers with genetic determinism considered generally no longer tenable.
the implications of accepting one view or another does not enter into the debate
of whether the scientific evidence does or does not support a particular view,
it would be a very objective researcher who was able to completely ignore them.
Part of the slow growth of general acceptance of what was stated in 1946 and
lack of consideration of its implications must I feel reflect a reluctance that
has little to do with current scientific knowledge or logical argument.
Irrespective of their merits, the position of linguist such as Chomsky 5
and Pinker are perhaps denied by
authors such as Geoffrey Sampson 6 for the similar basic reason that
Aristotle did not share the view of Plato. The reason being a belief that an
opinions acceptability must rest on its ethical implications not solely the
validity of the observations leading to its formation.
Whatever, like much in
the past, the sheer weight of data will I believe at some point in the probably
quite near future, make its general acceptance inevitable. But generally, there
is little reason to believe that the barrier to considering and accepting its
implication will be easily overcome. Which is one of the reasons this book is
about the implications of Dunn and Dobzhanskys statements, not the argument
for or against their acceptance.