Genetics and human behaviour the ethical context

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Perceptions of nature, nurture and behaviour

Kirk - - Nursing Ethics 7 3 Playing in the Presence Genetics, Ethics and Spirituality. Jackie Leach Scully - Human Genetics Choice and Responsibility. British Medical Association - Heuser - - Studies in Christian Ethics 22 3 Magali Franceschi - - Cnrs.

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Arthur Zucker - - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 6 2 Bartha Maria Knoppers ed. Sev S. Downloads Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart. Sign in to use this feature. This article has no associated abstract. Applied ethics. PNAS 85, — Plotnik, J. Self-recognition in an Asian elephant. PNAS , — Steele, M. Cache protection strategies of a scatter-hoarding rodent: do tree squirrels engage in behavioural deception?

Animal Behaviour 75, — The Diversity of Behavior. How Does Social Behavior Evolve? An Introduction to Animal Communication. Animal Behavior Introduction. Mating Systems in Sexual Animals. Measuring Animal Preferences and Choice Behavior. Perceptual Worlds and Sensory Ecology.

An Introduction to Eusociality. The Ecology of Avian Brood Parasitism. Social Parasitism in Ants. Causes and Consequences of Biodiversity Declines. Disease Ecology. Animal Migration. Sexual Selection. Territoriality and Aggression. The Development of Birdsong. How do genes and the environment come together to shape animal behavior? Both play important roles. Genes capture the evolutionary responses of prior populations to selection on behavior.

Environmental flexibility gives animals the opportunity to adjust to changes during their own lifetime.

Historical Background

Aa Aa Aa. Instinct and Behavior.


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Information about where to forage, what prey to select, and how to handle the prey after striking is likely innate in species like this. Imprinting and Development. Imprinting by the goslings on their parents helps to keep the family together. Learning About Specific Environments. These squirrels scatter hoard their food, such as acorns, giving them a food supply they can utilize during the winter.

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Environment, Genetics and Cognitive Development. Cognition allows animals to separate themselves from the immediacy of their environment and to reflect on the past in order to solve future problems. Cognition involves the ability to make novel associations. Cognition was once thought to define humanity, or to separate humans from animals, but scientists now recognize that cognitive abilities are not confined solely to humans.

Learning through cognition may be more removed from genetic constraints than other forms of learning, but cognitive problem solving ability can vary substantially among different animals within a species. Variation in ability is inherited, so at its core, there is a genetic element underlying cognitive abilities. Cognition gives animals a high level of flexibility in their social and physical environments, but even cognition is ultimately constrained by genetic limits.

cmf file 14 () - genes and behaviour

One interesting aspect of cognition is that it can allow an animal to distinguish itself as a distinct identity. If an animal looks at its own image in a mirror and recognizes "self" rather than identifying the image as another animal, then some investigators interpret this as evidence of cognition. A common test is to modify the visual appearance of an animal e. If it touches the dyed patch this is taken as evidence for the animal having a concept of "self. Social cognition, the ability of an animal to forecast how its own actions will affect its future relationships within a social group, exists in chimpanzees although it is more limited than in humans and may extend to other species.

On the face of it, such research appears incompatible with beliefs about individual choice on which criminal law rests.

Genetics and Behavior

Genetic science does indeed pose a challenge for criminal law. Evidence from the United States, where the effect of genetics on crime has been hotly debated, indicates limited use. It should also be remembered that genetics is the latest in a long line of specialist scientific knowledges that have promised or threatened to take the question of criminal responsibility away from law and hand it over to science.

Neuroscience, with its ability to produce a picture of the living brain, and cognitive psychology, with its insights into higher mental processes, have also claimed some territory. And older ideas drawn from eugenics about the degeneracy of particular families and whole populations and phrenology famous for its focus on the size and shape of the heads of criminals , for instance, were once thought to have all the answers to the problem of crime.

Ideas of causation are not the same in law as in science. A particular configuration of genes or, more accurately, the interaction of those genes and the environment may cause a particular disease, for instance, but whether the disease impacts responsibility for crime is an entirely separate issue. Assessing responsibility for crime is a moral-evaluative task, one in which lots of different types of evidence — scientific and non-scientific — is taken into account. At the end of the day, where the individual faces a serious charge, this evaluation is undertaken by a jury of lay people whose role is precisely to weigh all the evidence — and apply their not expert knowledge in evaluating an individual.


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This is the first article in our series Biology and Blame. Click on the links below to read other pieces:. Part two — Irresponsible brains?



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