Quote notes (#82)

Scharlach has an innocent question for Jerry Coyne:

What is the current understanding of animal behavior? Is animal behavior generally understood as a collection of phenotypes that emerge at least partially from their genes? All the work on animal domestication, in particular, seems to point toward that conclusion. But I could be wrong. What’s your sense of it? 

If behavior of animals — and I don’t just mean mammals, of course — is believed to have not much to do with genes, then clearly, I see no reason to connect the two in humans.

However, if there is an emerging consensus that animal behavior is at least partially genetic, then I see no reason to be so skeptical about Wade’s thesis. Otherwise, you’re doing the creationist thing and putting “humankind” in this special bubble that is untouched by the processes we see working elsewhere.

You yourself say that Wade’s discussion of races as “clusters” of gene assemblages more or less reflects the current understanding. Some of these clusters are packed closely into recognizable clades while others, existing at far ends of these clades, are quite far apart, as I understand, which is what Cavalli-Sforza argues in his landmark book.

So it seems at least possible that if certain physical phenotypes differ across these clusters then certain behavior phenotypes will also differ across these clusters. I mean, isn’t this just basic Darwinian theory?

That Wade hasn’t presented any evidence that this is in fact the case may be true — the book is on the way, I haven’t read it yet. But I imagine that the evidence he does present (from psychometrics or economics) is just too orthoganal to the thesis for you to accept. But I still don’t see why the thesis is being treated as pseudo-science.

Again, if physical phenotypes differ across the gene-assemblage clusters, why not behavioral phenotypes?

Strangely, an answer does not yet seem to be forthcoming.

May 15, 2014admin 18 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Discriminations


18 Responses to this entry

  • Dan Says:

    “Is animal behavior generally understood as a collection of phenotypes that emerge at least partially from their genes?”

    Er, yes. It is called instinct and I learned about it in second or third grade, I forget which.


    admin Reply:

    On his blog, Scharlach says (in hard brackets) following that sentence:
    “[I asked this knowing full well that behavior genetics is an active field of study in the animal sciences.] ”

    I left it out because it wasn’t part of the question posted at delivered to Coyne’s place.


    Posted on May 15th, 2014 at 2:15 am Reply | Quote
  • northanger Says:

    Encyclopædia Britannica: Behavioral genetics
    The evidence is now compelling that genes influence behaviour in all animals, including humans. Indeed, an increasing share of biomedical research is devoted to the hunt for genes involved in human behavioral maladies such as alcoholism, obesity, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer disease. Often these studies are pursued using animal models with subjects that include mice, rats, and dogs with behavioral symptoms resembling those of humans. It is, therefore, unfortunate that the idea that genes affect behaviour is the subject of much heated and confused discussion. The principal point of confusion arises from equating genetic influence on behaviour with genetic determination of behaviour. To do so is to mistakenly believe that identifying genes “for” a behaviour implies that the gene controls, fully and inevitably, this behaviour.


    admin Reply:

    Are there any genetic determinists? I’ve yet to come across one.


    northanger Reply:

    Phenotypic plasticity?

    The role of phenotypic plasticity in driving genetic evolution.


    Dan Reply:

    Jayman is apparently a pure genetic determinist. He has said that genes determine everything. This is not helpful I think because it is obviously not at all true that environment doesn’t matter, and being wrong about one thing undermines credibility about other things.

    The alternative right needs to aim to be as correct as possible, and to be more trustworthy than the lying Cathedral.


    Hurlock Reply:

    How does that even make sense, don’t human genes themselves evolve accordingly in response to the environment they are in?

    The way I look at it is that “technically” yes, it does all depend on environment, but most of it depends on the environmental circumstances before your birth.
    The wikipedia entry on genetic determinism starts with this:

    “Genetic determinism is the belief that genes, along with environmental conditions, determine morphological and behavioral phenotypes. The term is sometimes mistakenly applied to the unscientific belief that genes determine, to the exclusion of environmental influence, how an organism turns out.”

    Sooo, if he is a genetic determinist in this sense, I don’t see anything wrong with it.
    Genetics mutate according to the environment it makes absolutely zero sense to say that environment cannot change anything. It is the distinction between present/future and past environmental circumstances that is important.

    E.Antony Gray (RiverC) Reply:

    The question is whether he believes the genes determine behavior rather than influence it. Einstein was a hard determinist and did not believe he made choices but that all he did was a result of his ‘glands’ (his terminology.) I would assume he took into account his interaction with the environment, but that how he responded to the environment was totally determined by his ‘glands’.

    Peter A. Taylor Reply:

    The way H. L. Mencken put it was something like, we are the way we are either because of how we were born or because of our environment, “which is to say, either by the grace of God, or by the grace of God.”

    Scharlach Reply:

    Notice my use of “partially” and other modifiers.

    I think it was Handle who said that even agreeing to a 50/50 split between gene/environment influence would (or should) lead to a serious curtailing of certain social policies that assume a 0/100 split.


    Posted on May 15th, 2014 at 3:57 am Reply | Quote
  • neovictorian23 Says:

    Coyne’s commenters seem a pretty desperate group; congratulating each other on their acumen while thanking Coyne for saving them from reading Wade’s book…another case of don’t look too closely, because, The Horror.


    Posted on May 15th, 2014 at 4:20 am Reply | Quote
  • Quote notes (#82) | Reaction Times Says:

    […] By admin […]

    Posted on May 15th, 2014 at 6:10 am Reply | Quote
  • E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Says:

    I don’t see how creationists can get around hbd though, the scriptures themselves affirm that evolution has been copious and regional by claiming we’re all Noah’s descendents.


    Lou Reply:

    If you’re waiting for creationists to scientifically analyze their own beliefs, keep waiting.


    Posted on May 15th, 2014 at 3:35 pm Reply | Quote
  • This Week in Reaction | The Reactivity Place Says:

    […] Scharlach posts his first one in a while: Discrimination is Natural. Yep. So hey Proggies, pick a story and don’t be too alarmed where it leads. Also, Coyne Won’t Answer Me. (Jerry Coyne… not Aidan.) Perhaps silence is the most honest answer he’s prepared to give. (Land takes notes.) […]

    Posted on May 16th, 2014 at 4:02 pm Reply | Quote
  • Fr. VG Says:


    I should just like to point out the elephant in the room here.
    Genetics are really nothing more than chemistry.
    Chemistry is a subset of physics.
    If we take into account that all things in physics are determined by physical laws.
    That is causally determined with one possible out came from and present state, and every present state
    is the ONE possible out come from the previous state.

    Then the environment is 100% causally determined, and the chemical elements that happen to bump into
    each other and form compounds are 100% determined.
    Life is merely chemical compounds of a complex nature, but still determined.
    So What exactly is the distinction between the physical forces that shape the genetics and biological factors
    of one’s birth. And The physical forces that one comes in contact with as an organism after birth?

    this is to say what is the difference Nature and Nurture.
    These is only one Universe with one causal chain of events, there isn’t even a duality between the constitution of the organism and the forces of the external world. (IT IS ALL ENVIRONMENT, and nothing besides)


    Posted on May 17th, 2014 at 1:15 pm Reply | Quote
  • neovictorian23 Says:

    @Fr. VGSir, it brings me great pleasure to see my Deterministic Universe making headway against that disgusting stochastic probabilistic quantum chatter that has been so much about for the last 90 years or so.


    Posted on May 19th, 2014 at 7:58 pm Reply | Quote

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