What Creates Our Behavioral Phenome?

| June 2, 2020 | Leave a Comment

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Date of Publication: February 2003

Author(s): Paul Ehrlich, Marcus Feldman

Journal: Current Anthropology

A central theme of the flood of literature in recent years in “evolutionary psychology” and “behavioral genetics” is that much or even most human behavior has been programmed into the human genome by natural selection. We show that this conclusion is without basis. Evolutionary psychology is a series of “just-so” stories rooted in part in the erroneous notion that human beings
during the Pleistocene all lived in the same environment of evolutionary adaptation. Behavioral genetics is based on a confusion of the information contained in a technical statistic called “heritability” with the colloquial meaning of the term, exacerbated by oversimplification of statistical models for the behavioral similarity of twins. In fact, information from twin studies, cross-fostering, sexual behavior, and the Human Genome Project makes it abundantly clear that most interesting aspects of the human behavioral phenome are programmed into the brain by the environment. The general confusion created by the genetic determinists has had and will continue to have unfortunate effects on public policy.

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