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IMPLICATIONS: GENES, ENVIRONMENT AND THE HUMAN CONDITION


IMPLICATIONS: GENES, ENVIRONMENT AND

THE HUMAN CONDITION

`…human behaviour arises from the interaction between an individual’s 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 
Online Price:   $22.00

ISBN:1-9210-0508-4
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages: 170
Genre: Non fiction
 


Author: ALVAR MOULD 
Imprint: Poseidon
Publisher: Poseidon Books
Date Published:  2004
Language: English

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The Author   

Alvar holds qualifications in applied science (chemistry), the arts (history), adult education and as a fitness instructor. 

He 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 history. 

His interests are correspondingly wide.

INTRODUCTION.

 

It 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.

 

The 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.

 

It 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.

 

Can 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?

 

Such 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.

 

Chapter 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.  

 

The  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 chapter.

 

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.

 

Most 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.

 

Detailed 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 of them.  

 

 

 

PREFACE.

 

Nature versus Nurture: status of the debate.

As 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,` … : man’s personality, as well as his physical traits, results from a process of development in which both heredity and environment play important parts.’2

 

It 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.

 

Nevertheless 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.

 

In 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.

 

Whilst 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 Dobzhansky’s statements, not the argument for or against their acceptance.  

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