CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume 44, Number 1, February 2003
© 2003 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights
CA FORUM ON ANTHROPOLOGY IN PUBLIC
Genes and Cultures
What Creates Our Behavioral Phenome?
by Paul Ehrlich and Marcus Feldman1
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.
1 Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.
94305-5020, U.S.A. ([log in to unmask]).