An upcoming public meeting, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and The Hastings Center, will take stock of experts' latest thinking on the relationship between our genes and our behavior.
Leading scientists, ethicists, legal scholars, patient advocates, and journalists will take the stage in "Can We Talk? A Public Conversation About Behavioral Genetics and Society," May 2-3, 2003, at AAAS, in Washington D.C. More details are at www.aaas.org/spp/bgenes/cwt.
After decades of debate over "nature vs. nurture," scientists now generally believe that genes do play at least some role in determining our behavior. Dissonance still exists, however, between this view of behavioral genetics and those found outside the scientific arena.
"Substantial misunderstandings continue to lurk behind ongoing controversies over behavioral genetics," says Steven Hyman, Harvard University Provost and Keynote Speaker at the meeting. "In fact, the nature vs. nurture debate has no relevance to current science. Instead, we recognize that patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior result from a very complex interplay of multiple gene, environmental factors, and chance."
Behavioral genetics has often gotten a bad rap, and not without reason. Around the turn of the last century, researchers in the United States and Great Britain sought inherited causes for all sorts of human characteristics, from a supposed propensity toward becoming naval officers (supposedly a genetic trait called thalassophilia, for "love of the sea."), to qualities like "pauperism" and "feeblemindedness."