Behavioral genetics in isolation: useful but incomplete,
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Living with Our Genes: The Groundbreaking Book About the Science of Personality, Behavior, and Genetic Destiny (Taschenbuch)
This book contains a good introduction to the concepts underlying behavioral genetics research, and its contribution to culture, but I can't recommend it as a source of scientific understanding about human nature.
It does touch on research from other fields, but not in a consistent or thorough way, except to support its rhetorical purpose of popularizing the research explaining behavior in terms of genes.
One of the great success stories of the science of our age has been the growing conceptual integration that has let us edge slowly past the philosophical anachronism of "nature or nurture ?"
We no longer think that schizophrenics are people who had bad mothers, nor that there is a gene for nose-picking. We are learning to better define the categories we assign to people, and understand the context for our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, rather than applying simplistic labels like "creative," "moody," and even "intelligent."
We are coming up with better combinations of methods for studying the contributions of the genome and the contribution of particular kinds of events in developmental and life history in determining the way we respond to particular kinds of situations. The young but energetic science of evolutionary psychology for example attempts to find patterns in human thinking that may have been adapted from uses in our evolutionary past, and therefore link our genome to influences on behavior.
All of this is fascinating good science, even if it has a long way to go. On the other hand, the authors of this book appear to have no patience for things like the significance of context on behavior nor even the complexities of how different gene patterns combine to create multiple linked patterns in human behavior.
They continue to search for specific genes for complex behaviors, in spite of the history of behavioral genetics being so far a series of claims to have found the magic gene for this or that, and then failing to replicate the finding.
They continue to feed our hunger for simplistic explanations like a gene for women loving other women, or a gene for cigarette smoking, or for divorce or for overeating.
The failure of this book to do justice to the vast science doesn't make it useless. Admittedly it would be a daunting task to truly cover all of the research and thinking that pertains.
Certainly many people will find it satisfying to hear "at last" that their bad habits, obesity, social isolation, and unhappiness can be blamed on their genes. We all suspect this, in some way, and we are certainly at least partly right. But it is a hollow victory in the end. Gene patterns themselves are surely important, but not quite that important that we can abdicate responsibility for living up to committments, living a healthy lifestyle, and generally treating each other with humanity and morality.
For those who don't realize the legitimate advances made in recent decades through twin studies and other behavioral genetics techniques, this provides a readable introduction to that field. But the reader has to understand that behavioral genetics research, left in a vacuum, leads to very misleading conclusions when it meets our human need for simplified explanations about why some people rape or steal or murder under certain conditions, why we marry and divorce, and why we act in particular ways with people in various situations.
Good science dealing with complex human behaviors has to pull from a multitude of methods before solid conclusions can be drawn from it. When we pull from social sciences, behavioral sciences, evolutionary biology, anthropology, and genetics, among other fields, we get an emerging picture very different from the one presented in this book.
We find human beings responding to their environment according to rough "ranges" and extremely complicated rules that link patterns of culture and biology over evolutionary time and cannot exist solely within either our genes or our culture.
In spite of what we've learned, we still find ourselves entertained and engaged by popular literature that makes extreme claims about complex behaviors being in our genes, or in our free will, or in our "environment." We live largely within the stories of our own making. That's our genetic and evolutionary heritage, to be storytellers. We build the mythology of our time from engaging popular science writing like this, so we had better be careful to make that mythology one that empowers us rather than limits us unneccessarily.
Rezensentin / Rezensent