Scott on science literacy07 Jan 2013
Eugenie Scott, of the National Center for Science Education, has an editorial in the current Frontiers in Genetics. The title effectively conveys the piece’s message about science literacy: “This I believe: we need to understand evolution, adaptation, and phenotype”
The essay expresses several reasons why each of these key concepts is essentials science knowledge. She writes against both genetic determinism and its opposite, environmental determinism:
But environmental or cultural determinism is also false and should also be avoided: even highly environmentally-influenced human traits, such as personality, sexual orientation, intelligence, aggression, and the like, still are phenotypes, with genetic as well as environmental components influencing their expression. Yes, the Tarahumara of the canyons of northwest Mexico value running to such a degree that they are famous for their 48-h jogs covering hundreds of miles. But recognizing the cultural forces at work here should not preclude asking the physiological question of whether the Tarahumara are genetically equipped to process energy more efficiently than the rest of us. If we are cultural determinists, we will never think to ask that question.