By R. Grant Steen
A perceptive exam of the on-going debate over the effect of genetics in our lives.
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Additional resources for DNA and Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior
According to a recently published analysis, it is easier to identify a linkage between a gene and a trait than it is to confirm that linkage in a subsequent study. To show this, scientists made an assumption that a particular trait is 50% heritable, meaning that 50% of the variation in the trait is explained by heredity. If that trait affects 10% of people and is associated with six different genes, then mathematical analysis shows that a scientist would need to enroll 2000 people in a study to detect the effect of one of those six genes.
The mathematical model used to calculate heritability may thus fail specifically in comparing identical to fratemal twins, which would be fatal to calculations of heritability. Additional Problems Are Common to Most Behavioral Genetics Studies In addition to the problems discussed above, which are really unique to split twin studies, there are a number of other more general problems that can wind up sinking any behavioral genetics study. For example, the mathematical model used to calculate heritability of a trait can fail because some very general assumptions are violated, and these assumptions may be common to molecular genetics studies as weIl.
Intelligent women are more likely to bear the children of a man who is also intelligent, while women who are not intelligent may be unable to attract an intelligent man. If a woman is very tall, this may mean that all possible mates are subconsciously screened for similar height. Yet, for the model to work weIl, there can be no screening for height or for any other trait; mating must be entirely random. Because assumptions inherent in the model are violated, the model itself will fail; this means that, even with perfect data (and data are never perfect), the heritability of a trait will be incorrectly calculated.
DNA and Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior by R. Grant Steen