Friday, August 20, 2010

The Variable Effect of Genes

The post is about Marc Hauser, Harvard Professor of Psychology, who is under investigation for scientific misconduct, but I really liked this paragraph about the effects of genes on physiology and behavior.

"Genes operate on behavior and physiology quite differently. On physiology, genes are indeed potent, determining how many limbs an organism will have, what kind they'll be, how big it will get, with relatively slight and slow-acting influence from the environment. Behavior is different. True, it's underpinned by genes, but genes don't determine it, except perhaps in the very simplest of organisms. Rather they make potentially available a wide range of behaviors (the more complex the species, the wider the range) from which the environment will select the most adaptive. It follows from this that while physiology is cumulative, behavior isn't."

When so many people are trying to blame genes and such for their behavior, it's nice to see someone point out that because we are complex organisms, we have lots of choice in how we behave.

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