Contextualizing genes : a rejection of strong genetic determinism in favor of nuanced interactionism
Lauren Hunter Wilson
May 6, 2019
Department or Program
Outdated notions of strong genetic determinism frame the current debate and cloud our understanding of the issues surrounding the use of genetic selection and genetic modification. I make the case that we ought to reject the paradigm of strong genetic determinism, embodied by the language of genetic disorder, in genetic selection and modification. In rejecting the “paradigm of strong genetic determinism”, I argue that (1) it is mistaken about the interplay between molecular genes and environment in the creation of phenotypes and (2) when informing the ethics of genetic selection and modification, it ignores viable solutions to improve people’s wellbeing, such as the alteration of cellular and social-environmental contexts. I propose that the outdated paradigm of strong genetic determinism and its accompanying language, be replaced by the paradigm of nuanced interactionism. I argue for the adoption of a nuanced interactionism based on difference making and specificity because this interactionism 1) holds environment and molecular genes as both loci for improving wellbeing 2) while also allowing for context dependent evaluation of difference-makers. Under nuanced interactionism, molecular genes will be considered only one of many causes that generate phenotypes and wellbeing. A nuanced interactionist-based ethic will in turn affect our understanding of issues in genetic selection and editing.