Biosociology: An Emerging Paradigm

By Anthony Walsh | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Chapter 2
Genetics and Human Behavior

Some people are disturbed by the idea that genes can influence behavior. They don't understand the workings of genes and probably picture them as master puppeteers within us, pulling our strings.

--R. Plomin, J. DeFries, & G. McClearn

To assess the degree of literacy among physicists and geologists in scientific areas other than their own, Hazen and Trefil ( 1991) asked a number of them if they could explain the difference between DNA and RNA, a very basic piece of biological information. Only 12.5 percent could do so. Because DNA and RNA have no bearing on the phenomena studied by most physical scientists, they can be excused for their ignorance. Such ignorance among those who study human behavior is less easily excused. Even those who deny genetic influence on complex behaviors should know what it is they are denying; but from the tone of many social science critics of behavioral genetic research, it is plain that they do not ( Cohen, 1987). A reviewer of one of my works on crime and genetics ( Walsh, 1992) rejected my manuscript with the following words: "It is just not possible for genes to be implicated in socially defined behavior such as crime. This is blaming the victim and genetic fasism [sic]." This is often the kind of response one gets to "politically incorrect" works (see Scarr, 1981; Rushton, 1990b, on the politics of publishing such works).

It is a common assumption among behavioral geneticists that their understanding of genetic influences on behavior cannot be fruitful "without considering the complementary influence of the environment" ( Goldsmith, 1994:326). Unfortunately, the opposite assumption is not common among sociologists. Ever since the historic schism between sociology and biology,


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Biosociology: An Emerging Paradigm


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 276

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?