Nature and Nurture: The Complex Interplay of Genetic and Environmental Influences on Human Behavior and Development

Nature and Nurture: The Complex Interplay of Genetic and Environmental Influences on Human Behavior and Development

Nature and Nurture: The Complex Interplay of Genetic and Environmental Influences on Human Behavior and Development

Nature and Nurture: The Complex Interplay of Genetic and Environmental Influences on Human Behavior and Development

Synopsis

What does it mean to find a gene or set of genes that are associated with ADHD, schizophrenia, or autism? Could we eradicate such diseases from our species through gene therapy? Is it possible to eradicate from our genome the genetic material that predisposes us to be too aggressive, too shy, less intelligent, or not active enough? Who has the political power and/or moral authority to make these decisions? The premise of Nature and Nurture is that the complexity of the transactions between nature and nurture-between genes and the environment from the cellular to the cultural level-make these questions incredibly complex and in need of careful attention by educators, scientists, the public, and policymakers. A product of the conference held at Brown University in 2001, this book suggests that genes and environments work together interactively in a complex and closely intertwined fashion. The contributors to this book-biologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and economists-present knowledge that enables research and application to transcend the traditional question of whatever variance or significance is attributed to genetics versus environment in the development of a particular behavioral trait. This book presents a variety of views on the current status of knowledge about the ways in which dynamic, developmental, mutually interactive systems in the genetic and environmental domains operate. The chapters represent contributions from different perspectives.

Excerpt

In June 2000, a breakthrough announcement was made about the completion of the mapping of the human genome (International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, 2001; Venter et al., 2001). Heralded as a major scientific accomplishment on its own, the implications of such knowledge for the creation of genetically based interventions for the amelioration and eradication of disease were immediately postulated.

Although it is quite possible that this scientific breakthrough can have a major influence on treatment of diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and other physical ailments that run in families, the effect of identifying particular genes or set of genes implicated in human behavior and development is less clear (Rutter, 2002). What does it mean to find a gene or set of genes that are associated with ADHD, schizophrenia, or autism? Does everybody who has that gene mani-

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