Nothing reliable about genes or environment: new perspectives on analysis of similarity among relatives in light of the possibility of underlying heterogeneity

Despite the long history of scientific, philosophical, and political debate around heritability studies, certain fundamental conceptual issues have not been recognized or well appreciated. The starting point is that heritability does not measure the degree of influence that genes have on a trait or provide a reliable basis for choosing which traits to investigate further with molecular genetic research. The short argument on this point revolves around two issues: the disconnect between analyzing measurements of a trait and exposing the measurable genetic and environmental factors underlying the trait’s development; and the possibility of heterogeneity in these underlying factors, that is, different factors may lead to the same trait value. The idea of underlying heterogeneity is elaborated through schematic diagrams and distinguished from other senses of heterogeneity. Five conceptually distinct approaches for addressing underlying heterogeneity are identified, corresponding to distinct ways of managing the reciprocal relationship between the degree of knowledge of the dynamics through which the trait develops and the actions that can be reliably be based on what is known . This framework, which extends the interventionist notion of causality, allows the scope and limitations of heritability studies to be clarified in greater detail. It can also inform critical appreciation of newer methods of analysis of genetic and environmental factors. The issues discussed in this article do not centre on empirical data or technical detail and should be accessible to non-specialists as well as challenging active researchers
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2009.06.002
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,667
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Omri Tal (2009). From Heritability to Probability. Biology and Philosophy 24 (1):81-105.

View all 7 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Robert N. Brandon (1978). Evolution. Philosophy of Science 45 (1):96-109.
Holmes Rolston (2006). What is a Gene? From Molecules to Metaphysics. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 27 (6):471-497.
Igor Douven (2011). Similarity After Goodman. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 2 (1):61-75.
Lieven Decock & Igor Douven (2011). Similarity After Goodman. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 2 (1):61-75.

Monthly downloads

Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

Added to index


Total downloads

1 ( #647,778 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #369,877 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.