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Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci. 2006 Mar;37(1):122-35. Epub 2006 Jan 24.

How Darwinian reductionism refutes genetic determinism.

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Department of Pediatrics (Hematology-Oncology), Duke University Medical Center and Graduate Program in Philosophy, Duke University, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Genetic determinism labels the morally problematical claim that some socially significant traits, traits we care about, such as sexual orientation, gender roles, violence, alcoholism, mental illness, intelligence, are largely the results of the operation of genes and not much alterable by environment, learning or other human intervention. Genetic determinism does not require that genes literally fix these socially significant traits, but rather that they constrain them within narrow channels beyond human intervention. In this essay we analyze genetic determinism in light of what is now known about the inborn error of metabolism phenylketonuria (PKU), which has for so long been the poster child 'simple' argument in favor of some form of genetic determinism. We demonstrate that this case proves the exact opposite of what it has been proposed to support and provides a strong refutation of genetic determinism in all its guises.

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