My genome is not my self

pinker-hairBy Agustin Fuentes

We are not our genes and they are not us. Knowing what copies of genes we carry can tell us a little about getting sick and losing our hair, and maybe even add insight into our ancestry. But that does not tell us about how and why we do the things that we do.

Steven Pinker, in his recent New York Times Magazine article My Genome, My Self, argues that genes do have great influence on our behavior. As an anthropologist, evolutionary theorist, and a researcher of human and other primate behavior I am here to tell you that he is overshooting the mark. Human behavior is simultaneously biology, culture, experience and more.

Natural selection, one of the main drivers in evolutionary change, works on the whole body and behavior complex, not on single genes or even the genome itself. It is the dynamic product of genes, organs, bodies, behaviors, ecologies, and societies that eventually affects evolutionary patterns in humans. No gene or even set of genes can be held in isolation of the systems in which they exist.

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Four Stone Effort

moneduloides is hosting the 58th edition of Four Stone Hearth, and he’s gone through the great effort of going out to gather good blogging from all four fields of anthropology. I’ll highlight one post from each area, but there’s plenty more next to the hearth.

Here’s a blog I didn’t know, Ethblography, with the fun title, Don’t twitter on my internet and call it lifestreaming. Bite-sized blandness over substantive writing, and fieldwork on new technology/communication in Spain. A great mix.

On the linguistic side moned tracked down this site documenting oral histories of disability in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Return to Chauvet Cave is a new book on the incredible art work done 30,000 years ago in France.

And here we have competing ideas about the extinction of Neanderthals.

So go on over for a dance by the moneduloides hearth.