Genetic determinism

Genetic determinism

Genetic determinism is the belief that genes determine physical and behavioral phenotypes. The term may be applied to the mapping of a single gene to a single phenotype or to the belief that most or all phenotypes are determined mostly or exclusively by genes. While it is well-established that most phenotypic variability is strongly influenced by genes, non-genetic mechanisms of inheritance are also known to exist. [There is a wide class of phenomena, collectively termed as epigenetic inheritance, where changes in phenotype are not caused by changes in the genotype.]

General information

Evidence for the genetic influence on phenotypes comes from hereditary diseases, for instance, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia, which are caused by mutations in single genes, and Down syndrome and Klinefelter's syndrome by the abnormal duplication of a chromosome. Genetic determinism of behavioral traits is related to the field of neuropsychology. It is the belief of many neuropsychologists that mental illnesses are also predetermined by genes and are therefore unavoidable.

Definitions of genetic determinism vary. It is usually thought of as the belief that all physical and behavioral phenotypes are determined mostly or exclusively by the genes. This belief is sometimes attributed to biologists by the media or some in the social sciences, or attributed to proponents of evolutionary psychology, though in this sense many biologists would consider it a straw man. [Dawkins, R., 2003. "The Myth of Genetic Determinism" in "A Devil's Chaplain". London, Phoenix ISBN 0-7538-1750-0.] Although many behavioral traits in humans and other animals appear to be influenced by genes to different degrees, there is no evidence that genes act independent of environmental influences, and few modern-day geneticists would consciously take a strong determinist stance, although many biomedical researchers nonetheless assume a sort of quasi-genetic determinism, in focusing heavily on "genes for" particular disease in the search for disease treatments.

Some proponents of belief in free will charge that genetic determinism removes culpability. With diseases such as Down Syndrome and Huntington's there is a clear "one chromosome aberration one disease" or "one gene one disease" diagnosis. Although both Downs and Huntington's cause predictable constellations of behavioral traits, most people's behavior varies more subtly, with a strong influence from environment, beginning with influences in the womb and continuing throughout life.

Political implications of genetic determinism

Many genetic determinists support or believe in the effectiveness of social darwinism, eugenics, and capital punishment. These social philosophies have become very controversial in the post-WWII era.Citation needed

In Fiction

* "Children of the revolution", a comedy about Stalin's son's inescapable path into rebellion and eventually a revolution of any sort
* "Andromeda", a television series in which the nietzschean species was genetically programmed to be ambitious, treacherous, and brutal
* "Gattaca", a 1997 film starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Jude Law

ee also

* Council for Responsible Genetics
* Nature versus nurture
* Tabula rasa
* "Conscious Robots"


External links


* [ Council for Responsible Genetics]
* [ Greenspan, P.S. 1998. Free will and genetic determinism: locating the problem(s)]
* [ Strohman, R.C. 2003. Genetic determinism as a failing paradigm in biology and medicine: Implications for Health and Wellness. "Journal of Social Work Education"]
* [ A Christian response to genetic determinism]
* [ CounterBalance Foundation: Determinism]

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