A group of University of Iowa researchers says it’s time to stop believing certain behavior can be attributed solely to a specific gene.
Mark Blumberg, a University of Iowa psychologist, says it is "simplistic and misleading" to suggest, for example, that there’s a gene that causes depression.
"We need to start thinking about a third way, about how development happens and how complex things arise and stop attributing everything to simple genetic causes," Blumberg says.
The group of researchers argues that a person’s genetic makeup is affected by a wide range of environmental factors, from the food that’s eaten to the economic status of a family. Blumberg, as a result, says being gay cannot be attributed solely to a gene.
"Just speaking for myself, I would never argue that it is a choice, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a gene for it, either," Blumberg says. "That is, it can be a biological reality without having a single genetic cause or even a multiple genetic cause, in a sense that these things develop, they’re part of your biology — they’re not a choice — but the notion that we can ascribe complicated behaviors and entire systems to genes is an outmoded way of thinking."
Many have come to accept that a person may be predisposed to a certain type of cancer because of genetics, but other factors help determine whether the cancer develops.
"Even if you have this gene, it is not guaranteed that you are going to end up with cancer," Blumberg says. "And that sort of supports our perspective in that these are complicated systems (and) you need to understand the entire system if you are finally going to get to the point where you have more control over your health, your behavior or any other aspect of your life."
The U-of-I researchers are trying to debunk the old "Nature versus Nurture" argument by suggesting the "smarter" thing is to say neither nature alone, nor nature alone determine a person’s traits.
"This is the challenge that, you know, many of us — my colleagues and I — are trying to set for ourselves," Blumberg says. "We’re fighting uphill against a very entrenched perspective."
Blumberg, along with five other University of Iowa faculty members co-authored a paper which was published in the "Child Development Perspectives" Journal.