The Doctrine of DNA

And some more from Lewontin’s The Doctrine of DNA

The transfer of causal power from social relations into inanimate agents that then seem to have a power and life of their own is one of the major mystifications of science and its ideologies

Which is an as readable, and enjoyable, argument against genetic reductionism as you could hope to find. I’m guessing that many people would say their reductionism is a methodological tactic rather than a ideological commitment, but Lewontin’s characterisation of popular discourse is accurate enough, i fear, to convince that however tactical genetic reductionism may be when adopted by scientists it becomes far less self-conscious as it migrates into the public sphere.

[note to self: avoid writing sentences that long and convoluted in the future]

Anyway: yes, society is not a reflection of individual level traits. Yes, organisms and environment co-create. Yes, locating causes in a single physical matter (like DNA) allows us to ignore the wider causal context. There’s lots to nit-pick about Lewontin’s arguments, but without the anchor of some particular example i think it would get so lost in the rhetorical and connotive terrain that it wouldn’t be worth it. Highly recommended