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The Mirage of a Space Between Nature and Nurture (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 10. September 2010


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Pressestimmen

"Evelyn Fox Keller's diagnosis of prevalent confusions in our thinking about nature and nurture is so lucid, informed, and sensitive that it is tempting to insist that scientists, journalists, philosophers, and policy-makers who intend to talk about 'nature and nurture' should be required to demonstrate their mastery of her arguments before their thoughts are let loose on society."--Philip Kitcher, author of "Living with Darwin"

"This short, clearly written and right-minded book provides a compelling critique of a widely held conception of the so-called nature/nurture question."--John Dupre" Metascience"

"Within this slim, elegant volume, noted science philosopher and author Keller restates and examines the historical discussions and assumptions regarding the influence of nature versus nurture on the phenotypic expression of traits. . . . The impactful thoughts expressed in this brief book provoke deep thinking and demand grounding in the biological and cultural background in the nature versus nurture theme."--R. A. Hoots, "Choice"

"In the finest fashion of philosophical essays, this deeply thought, passionate, generous, and transdisciplinary monograph offers a clear-headed and constructive guide to the nature-nurture wars."--Sarah S. Richardson "" Signs" "

"Keller's book is valuable because it provides a crisp and articulate statement of the many confusions that pervade our talk of genetics,
particularly human genetics. It could be used in both undergraduate and graduate classes that touch on these issues. Moreover, because Keller's focus is on the problems of the language of genetics itself rather than on their instantiation in a particular controversy it brings clearly into focus the underlying problem that cuts across a number of controversies. The book should be taken as a summary of the issues and an agenda for how we proceed from here."--John P. Jackson Jr. ""Journal of the History of Biology" "

"Perhaps a hundred years from now people will look back on the debate as being as distant and unimportant as we today consider debates about the importance of empire or the plausibility of spiritualism. If so, Evelyn Fox Keller's excellent little book will deserve credit for its role in making this mind-change."--Michael Ruse ""British Journal for the History of Science" "

"For its careful analysis of the causes of the confusion that continues to keep the nature/nurture debate alive long after it has become clear that the questions motivating the debate have been ill-formed, Fox Keller's book can be highly recommended for classroom teachers or teacher educators. Although the book itself would be difficult for many students, Fox Keller's message is an extremely important one, one that educators really should understand before discussing the nature/nurture debate with their classes."--David S. Moore "" Science and Education" "

"Keller is one of the most sophisticated and intelligent analysts of the social and psychological forces that operate in intellectual life and, in particular, of the relation of gender in our society both to the creation and acceptance of scientific ideas."--Richard C. Lewontin "" New York Review of Books" "

"Keller's little essay is an excellent teaching resource--and an excellent resource for reminding ourselves about the pitfalls of the current way of thinking. Anyone with an interest in the nature-nurture problem--which is to say, almost everyone--should read this book."--Daniel W. McShea ""American Scientist" "

Evelyn Fox Keller s diagnosis of prevalent confusions in our thinking about nature and nurture is so lucid, informed, and sensitive that it is tempting to insist that scientists, journalists, philosophers, and policy-makers who intend to talk about nature and nurture should be required to demonstrate their mastery of her arguments before their thoughts are let loose on society. Philip Kitcher, author of "Living with Darwin""

I know of no other publication that offers so concise and cogent an account of what nature versus nurture refers to. Evelyn Fox Keller is at her best dissecting the assumptions and histories that have come to shape a particular version of biology, genes, and life. Sarah Franklin, author of "Dolly Mixtures: The Remaking of Genealogy""

In the finest fashion of philosophical essays, this deeply thought, passionate, generous, and transdisciplinary monograph offers a clear-headed and constructive guide to the nature-nurture wars. --Sarah S. Richardson "" Signs" ""

Keller's book is valuable because it provides a crisp and articulatestatement of the many confusions that pervade our talk of genetics,
particularly human genetics. It could be used in both undergraduate andgraduate classes that touch on these issues. Moreover, because Keller'sfocus is on the problems of the language of genetics itself rather than ontheir instantiation in a particular controversy it brings clearly into focusthe underlying problem that cuts across a number of controversies. Thebook should be taken as a summary of the issues and an agenda for howwe proceed from here. --John P. Jackson Jr. ""Journal of the History of Biology" ""

Perhaps a hundred years from now people will look back on the debateas being as distant and unimportant as we today consider debates about the importance of empire or the plausibility of spiritualism. If so, Evelyn Fox Keller s excellent little book will deserve credit for its role in making this mind-change. --Michael Ruse ""British Journal for the History of Science" ""

For its careful analysis of the causes of the confusion that continues to keep the nature/nurture debate alive long after it has become clear that the questions motivating the debate have been ill-formed, Fox Keller s book can be highly recommended for classroom teachers or teacher educators. Although the book itself would be difficult for many students, Fox Keller s message is an extremely important one, one that educators really should understand before discussing the nature/nurture debate with their classes. --David S. Moore "" Science and Education" ""

Keller is one of the most sophisticated and intelligent analysts of the social and psychological forces that operate in intellectual life and, in particular, of the relation of gender in our society both to the creation and acceptance of scientific ideas. --Richard C. Lewontin "" New York Review of Books" ""

Keller s little essay is an excellent teaching resource and an excellent resource for reminding ourselves about the pitfalls of the current way of thinking. Anyone with an interest in the nature-nurture problem which is to say, almost everyone should read this book. --Daniel W. McShea ""American Scientist" ""

"Not long ago, I read a beautiful book by Evelyn Fox Keller called "The Mirage of a Space Between Nature and Nurture." She s a philosopher of science at MIT. She s one of the most brilliant philosophers of science there is. She writes short but brilliant books, and she s great.
--Siri Hustvedt, novelist ""Miami Herald" ""

Buchrückseite

"I know of no other publication that offers so concise and cogent an account of what 'nature versus nurture' refers to. Evelyn Fox Keller is at her best dissecting the assumptions and histories that have come to shape a particular version of biology, genes, and life."--Sarah Franklin, author of "Dolly Mixtures: The Remaking of Genealogy"

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9 von 9 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen How Language Deceives Us When Talking Biology and Why It Matters! 14. Januar 2012
Von Kevin Currie-Knight - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Everyone seems to know that the nature/nurture debate is over. But still, we all persist in talking about it still. Why? That is what Evelyn Fox Keller is trying to answer in this very short but insightful book. Why do we persist in speaking as if nature and nurture are separable and distinct variables when we all (seem to) know that they aren't? If we all know that questions about how much (what percentage) height is due to nature and nurture is unanswerable, then why do we keep wanting to ask it? And why do studies that only show how much of a population's variance in a trait can be ascribed to genetics seem always to be interpreted as studies showing how much of that trait is actually genetic? (After all, to know that x population varies in height and that 50% of the variance seems to correlate with genetic inheritance is a FAR different question from how much of Suzy's height is attributable to genetics.)

Keller's broad answer is mistakes like this are based on subtle ambiguities in the terms we use like "heritability," "gene," and even "nature" and "nurture." Keller's book is less about convincing us THAT nature and nurture can't be meaningfully separated and that questions about how much any trait can be attributed to nature or nurture (many others have made that point). Rather, she is trying to trace out why, even when we know this, we keep making the mistakes.

The first chapter traces the history of attempts to conceive of "nature" and "nurture" as distinct variables that can be separated. And - surprise, surprise - the chief culprit looks to be Francis Galton. In Galton's zeal to measure the heritability of things like genius, Galton began writing, and designing experiments, as if these two variables can be teased apart. (Of course, something like intelligence involves such an intertwining of genetic and environmental factors that literally there is no 'space' where nature ends and nurture begins.) This also involves a subtle change in the meaning of 'heritability' which went from meaning anything that was passed from generation to generation (regardless of the mechanism) to meaning ONLY those inherited traits that could be accounted for purely by biology.

The second chapter discusses the key difference between traits and differences in traits, suggesting that it is not so much traits, but differences in a trait's expression, that biologists usually study, even as the literature often sounds as if it is discovering things about the former rather than the latter. (To simplify it, genetic studies don't really aim themselves toward answering what causes height or intelligence, but what is responsible for the variation in a population between heights and intelligence. Very subtle, but important, difference.) The next chapter discusses why studies dealing with variance in x trait within a population SHOULD NOT be read as studies concerning how much x's expression in INDIVIDUALS owes to nature or nurture. (Keller often uses the analogy of drummers. If a study shows that 40% of the variation in drummers' sound correlates to the differences in drum used, this DOES NOT mean that a drummer's sound is 40% attributable to the drum.)

And lastly, there is a chapter discussing what to do about all of this. If the question we really want to answer is "How much of each person's intelligence is fixed by nature or malleable by nurture," how can we ask a question like that in a way that is answerable? Keller suggests we can change the question slightly to read more like "[H]ow malleable is a trait, at a specified developmental age?" Rare is the trait that is simply fixed, iron-clad, through the lifespan, and rare is the completely malleable trait. Maybe longitudinal studies should focus less on where nature ends and nurture begins, and stick to the more general question of how fixed certain traits appear to be over time (without reference to whether "nature" or "nurture" is responsible for the fixity or malleability).

If anything, I'd loved this book to have been longer. Keller is a good writer, but not being a statistician myself, it was often hard to grasp some of the very subtle statistical points she was making. Several times in the book, she appeared more concerned with demonstrating (repeatedly) that a mistake is persistent in the literature than with really pointing out WHY it is a mistake. (And the very persistence of these mistakes should indicate indeed how subtle the difference between the correct and incorrect views are! All the more reason to really explain and drive home the difference.)

This book is by no means an easy read, but it is definitely an important one. Keller does what a philosopher/historian of science should do: examine (usually hidden) assumptions that may be problematical, and argue as to why they are problematical and, possibly, why they persist. This set of very interesting essays/chapters do exactly that.
7 von 8 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen A wrap-up of philsophical arguments against genetic determinism 15. Mai 2014
Von Robert A. Maclachlan - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
The book is to the point and reasonably well written. The low rating is because I don't happen to believe the arguments are valid. There are two broad categories of arguments that discount behavioral genetics results (such as heritability measures from twin studies): specific methodological criticism, including questioning of modelling assumptions, and also philosophical or semantic criticisms. This book avoids getting bogged down in the small details of how behavioral genetics research is done, and concentrates on the philosophy. She does also deploy a lot of general purpose skeptical arguments, philosophical nukes that can be used to indefinitely prolong any debate.

The book mainly follows the model of philosophical argument, relying on thought experiments (intuition pumps) to create the desired understanding in the reader. Some of these, such as the height, width and area of a rectangle, will be well-known to people who follow the nature/nurture debate, but others were new to me.

For example, we are told of two drummers that we hear drumming in the distance. The author argues that it is meaningless to ask whether anything about what we hear might be caused by the drum or the drummer in isolation, as opposed to the drum-and-drummer system. Read the book for how she sets up this intuition, but let me suggest an alternate intuition pump:
You are a drummer, and you are standing next to another drummer (not off in the distance). You are both drumming away and having a great time, but you start to notice that the other drum-and-drummer system happens to sound a lot better. You start to wonder if that is because you are beating on a plastic garbage can with a rolled-up newspaper, whereas he has precision-turned maple drumsticks and this really slick carbon fiber drum with a mylar head. You think: "What would happen if we switched drums?"

Such questions are the stuff of science, and also the stuff of ordinary everyday trying-to-get-by-a-little-better. Philosophy has shown us that there is no convincing argument from obvious principles that we could ever reliably find out the truth about anything, or that if we did capture the corner of a truth, there is no reason to suppose that this will remain true tomorrow or in another country.

And yet... Even before the rise of science, people have indeed discovered useful generalizations about the world, and many useful causal relationships. This in spite of the fact that causality, as an abstract philosophical concept, has proved quite resistant to a definitive definition. A powerful way to discover causal relationships is to decompose a system into sub-parts that have relatively low coupling between them, and then to try to manipulate the connections between those sub-parts.

So, the drum *can* be decoupled from the drummer. We switch drums, and what do we find? I don't know--you'd have to do the experiment. Surely you'd find an immediate change in your sound, but you'd have to learn a whole new technique in order to accommodate. In the end, you might decide you were a just a plastic garbage can kind of guy.

The one criticism that she does make of methods is that behavioral genetics relies on statistics, and in particular, on population averages and variation about those averages. On first reading, I thought this was rather audacious and arbitrary, taking on the whole field of statistics in order to win a point. Nowadays almost all of science (especially social science) is strongly dependent on statistical methods, and this dependence extends well beyond, into economics, business planning and manufacturing. I won't try to explain here why statistics has been effective across such a wide range of human activity. Let me just assert that for many purposes, where we deal with things as an aggregate, statistics does discover useful trends and causes of variation.

But *is* challenging the application of statistics to genetics so arbitrary? Something I did not know when I read the book is that statistics was *invented* to do genetics. All of the major figures in the development of descriptive frequentist statistic (including the methods of factor analysis, linear regression, ANOVA and p-value testing) during the critical period of about 1850 to 1930 were either geneticists or were working with geneticists and strongly interested in genetic applications. See wikipedia: History_of_statistics#Development_of_modern_statistics and click through to the bios of Galton, Karl Pearson, Egon Pearson and Jerzy Neyman.

Does this connection prove anything? It does prove that the application of statistics to genetics is not a coincidence, not merely yet another ill-conceived abuse of statistics. Of course it could be that (of all the places it is currently used), genetics just happens to be the least suitable use. End of historical digression.

After making the usual point that genetics causing variation is not a "real cause" (a cause for existence or sufficient cause), she makes the reasonably obvious claim that statistical means and trends don't apply to any particular individual in any straightforward way. Then she says, that since statistics don't tell us anything about individuals, they can only tell us about groups. She doesn't directly make the accusation, but leaves the argument dangling in a way that makes quite clear her implication that anyone who has any interest in such statistics must be motivated by racism, sexism, or some other forbidden group comparison.

In my view, these philosophical arguments are a smoke-screen that makes things seem more complicated than they actually are. The fact remains that in pretty much all populations studied, for almost all measurable behavioral traits studied, identical twins are much more similar than fraternal twins (or ordinary siblings). If genetics did not matter, then there would be no difference between these two groups.

I understand that the author is not attempting to argue that genetics do not matter, but rather that genetic causes are so intertwined with other causes that it is unreasonable to suppose that it might be possible to make a separation between the two. There are some subtleties related to the idea of gene/gene interactions and gene/environment interactions, which can in principle make the idea of gene/environment separation meaningless, but behavioral geneticists do know this, and argue that the effects they measure are largely additive, so can be separated. Why it should be true that genetic effects should on average behave additively is a scientific puzzle, since we also have evidence that at the micro-scale, within an organism, strong cross-coupling can exist.

The political heart of the nature/nurture dispute, which the author gets to at the end, is to what degree the sorts of differences between people that our culture considers important are shaped by conceivably controllable processes, such as how parents behave, what resources they have, what teachers try to teach, and so on, and to what degree those differences may be innate, arising either from their genetic heritage, or from random fluctuation in developmental processes. For example, fingerprint patterns are clearly innate, but identical twins do not have the same fingerprints. While the number of fingerprint ridges is highly heritable, the patterns themselves are not.

More philosophically, nature/nurture discussion cannot avoid considering that individual differences may arise from those individuals' free choices and the social consequences of those choices. We may hope that suitable education, re-education, consciousness raising and encouragement of self-criticism can lead people to behave in constructive and pro-social ways, but people are persistently individual, and have their own ideas.

I do not believe that current behavioral genetics bears in any convincing way on the usual policy debates about to what degree we should redistribute wealth or encourage people to spend time in school. But it isn't true that twin studies tell us *nothing* about the effect of environmental interventions. The component called "shared family environment" tells us about the typical effect of the typical variation in everything that a family shares, including family income, culture, schools and community. If, across the study population, there are rich families, poor families, good schools, bad schools, and so on, and these differences matter, then the shared environment should show a strong effect. In heritability studies it is rare for the shared environment to show more than 10% effect, in comparison to genetic effect that tends to range from 30% up to 70% or more. You can indeed challenge the assumptions of shared family effect measurement, but it does claim to tell us about the typical effect of common environment variations.

What the shared environment estimate cannot tell us is what the effect might be of interventions that currently do not exist or are rare.

Rob MacLachlan, @robamacl humancond.org
10 von 15 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen What we talk about when we talk about genetics 11. August 2010
Von Fibonacci - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
In this brief book, Evelyn Fox Keller points out, in convincing detail, the subtle "chronic ambiguity, uncertainty and slippage in the very language we use to talk about" the tangle of questions called the nature/nurture debate, and how our linguistic confusion makes them so hard to untangle. This book is not an easy read -- easy reads are part of the problem -- but I could not put it down. I only wish it were longer and broader in scope: genetics is not the only field needing Keller's sharp logic.
3.0 von 5 Sternen Detailed depiction of philosophical issues in long standing biological debate. 16. Juli 2015
Von Andres - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
The analysis that keller presents touches upon fundamental and widespread misunderstandings on biology. However, very little light she gives on how yo effectively overcome them.
4.0 von 5 Sternen nice, short critique of the alleged gap between nature ... 3. November 2015
Von Robert Skipper - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
A really, nice, short critique of the alleged gap between nature and nurture.
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