Behaviour and the concept of “heritability” axioms of an ethological refutation

Acta Biotheoretica 40 (1) (1992)
Abstract
This paper discusses the widespread use of heritability calculations in recent behaviour research including behaviour genetics. In the sequel, a radical criticism concerning the basic axioms of the underlying, more general concept itself is presented. The starting point for testing the proclaimed universal validity of this concept stems from a fictitious yet realistic example taken from learning research. The theoretical result, based on the application of the conventional reasoning in this field, states that developmental processes — and learning is only one specific case out of an immense number of similar behavioural mechanisms — can neither be adequately described nor causally explained with sufficient reliability within the context of the heredity paradigm. On the contrary, an inherent inconsistency of the concept itself when applied to behaviour processes is demonstrated. Finally, a conceptual alternative involving a systems-theoretical approach to the problem is presented: In such a perspective it is the concept of cognition which represents the adequate explanatory theorem - a theorem in which quantitative processing of information from the environment is clearly revealed to belong to a subordinate level of living organization.
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