MIT21A_355Js09_assn01_sw1A

MIT21A_355Js09_assn01_sw1A - MIT OpenCourseWare...

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MIT OpenCourseWare http://ocw.mit.edu 21A.355J / STS.060J The Anthropology of Biology Spring 2009 For information about citing these materials or our Terms of Use, visit: http://ocw.mit.edu/terms .
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21A.355 Paper 1 1 Analysis of Time Magazine’s “Is God in Our Genes”: A Critique of Sociobiology GOD—it is remarkable how easily three letters can spell trouble for so many. In fact, many of the important things in life seem to be represented by three letters: from the person who bought you into this world, your MOM , to the genetic code upon which all life depends, DNA . Even more interesting than this etymological relationship, however, is the relationship between the first and last examples mentioned: that is, God and our genes. Which one codes for which? In October 2004, an article entitled “Is God in Our Genes” was published in Time magazine. In this article, Jeffrey Kluger reviews a controversial book by Dr. Dean Hamer, chief of gene structure at the National Cancer Institute, called The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes . Hamer makes two critical claims: first, that human spirituality is an adaptive trait, and second, that he has located one of the genes responsible for this trait. According to Hamer, feelings of spirituality result from the release of certain intoxicating brain chemicals, a process controlled and coded for by our DNA (Kluger). Kluger also offers his own analysis of the relationship between God and our genes, investigating other related studies such as the Minnesota Twin Project in which identical twins and fraternal twins were compared in an attempt to determine the heritability of certain traits (Bouchard 223). The assumptions and conclusions drawn by Kluger in “Is God in Our Genes” exemplify many of the dangers associated with the emerging field of sociobiology. R. C. Lewontin discusses the flaws of sociobiological theory in his own book, Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA . Lewontin describes sociobiology as an attempt to convince people that life is what is has to be and perhaps should be (89). The theory of sociobiology is comprised of three components: 1) a description of what human nature is like, 2) a claim that such universal characteristics are coded in our genes, and 3) a conclusion that natural selection has led to
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21A.355 Paper 1 2 individuals’ particular genetic characteristics (Lewontin 89-90). Each of these components has common flaws associated with it, a point that will be demonstrated by applying Lewontin’s critiques of sociobiological ideas to the “Is God in Our Genes” article. In addition, the popular presentation of this article will be compared to the expert presentation of the aforementioned Minnesota Twin Project. This study was chosen for comparison over Hamer’s The God Gene because the latter was written for a popular audience and therefore is not considered a scientific publication. Lewontin expresses two major concerns about the first component of sociobiology—that
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This note was uploaded on 11/09/2011 for the course ARCH 4.401 taught by Professor Utemetabauer during the Fall '06 term at MIT.

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