Untangling the morass
Daniel W. McShea reviews the book 'The mirage of a space between nature and nurture,' by Evelyn Fox Keller. Keller argues that much of the trouble has to do with linguistic practice, with slippages in usage and concepts. In her apt words, the nature- nurture debate is a 'morass of linguistic and conceptual vegetation grown together in ways that seem to defy untangling.' The address on an envelope makes a huge difference in where the letter goes but has little to do with generating the process that actually gets it there. A mutant allele associated with a speech and language disorder still gets labeled a speech and language gene. Most behavioral geneticists would agree that a mistake has been made when explicit claims about the genetic basis of individual traits are inferred from measures of technical heritability.
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