DNA and Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior

By R. Grant Steen | Go to book overview

5
New Tools for an Old Problem

Human behavior is the most complex and difficult problem ever attacked by geneticists, and it is likely to resist their best efforts for a full explanation for many years to come. In fact, it is quite likely that classical genetics would never be able to solve the most puzzling problems in behavioral genetics. This difficulty in understanding human behavior arises for several reasons. The first major problem for the behavioral geneticist is that human behavior is far more complicated than the simple physical traits that Mendel was able to study in his pea plants. When Mendel did his breeding experiments he could look at a pea seed and easily determine whether that seed was smooth or wrinkly, but human behavioral options cannot be so easily dichotomized. The second major problem is that, unlike most of the research for which classical genetics is best suited, human behavior does not involve one or a few genes. Instead, human behavior is determined by a large number of genes, each of which probably has a small effect, and there may even be many different combinations of genes that result in the same behavior. The last major problem for the behavioral geneticist is that the environment can have a profound effect on behavior, so that a genetic effect can be either accentuated or blunted by the environment.22

Given all of these major problems, it is a good thing that modern behavioral geneticists have at their disposal a range of new tools that could scarcely have been imagined even a decade ago. These new tools of molecular genetics will be described here, from the standpoint of both their strengths and their

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DNA and Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • 1 - Genes and Human Behavior 1
  • 2 - The Old Nature Versus Nurture Debate 21
  • 3 - The Dark History of Eugenics 33
  • 4 - The Nature of Nurture Defining Environmental Influences 49
  • 5 - New Tools for an Old Problem 63
  • 6 - New Improvements in the Old Tools 79
  • 7 - The Inheritance of Disease a Paradigm for the Inheritance of Behavior? 93
  • 8 - Intelligence 113
  • 9 - Mental Disorders 137
  • 10 - Personality Traits 161
  • 11 - Sexual Orientation 185
  • 12 - Alcoholism and Addictive Behavior 203
  • 13 - Crime and Violence 217
  • 14 - Sex, Genes, and Testosterone 239
  • 15 - Biology and Social Responsibility 261
  • Epilogue 279
  • References 283
  • Index 293
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