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

By Cynthia Garcia Coll; Elaine L. Bearer et al. | Go to book overview

10
Behavior as Influence
and Result of the Genetic
Program: Non-kin Rejection,
Ethnic Conflict, and Issues
in Global Health Care
Elaine L. Bearer
Brown University Medical School

Interplay between the genetic program and the experiential and physical environment is extremely complex. The genetic program is enacted biologically through a system of complex interacting biochemical reactions. The environment of the organism, both social and physical, influences the expression of genes which in turn can affect the biological and social environment. A rigorous understanding of this interacting network is required if we are to define the relative contribution of any of its parts.

The premise of this chapter is that behavior drives genetic change over generations. This idea was prompted by a parallel hypothesis presented by Newman and Muller (Muller & Newman, 1999; Newman & Muller, 2000) that proposes that morphology of an animal drives genetic programming. As an example of a human behavioral ability that has the potential to influence the genetic program, I have selected discrimination. I define discrimination as the ability—the propensity—to distinguish between those people who are similar, “us, ” and those who are different, “them. ” This ability underlies kin selection and can thereby influence genes over evolutionary time (Wilson, 2000). The ability to identify kin in humans may be accomplished by phenotypic matching (Pfennig & Sherman,

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