From my standpoint as a biologist it is hard to conceive of any major aspect of being human that is not the result of nature-nurture interactions (as opposed to straight influences of either nature or nurture), even though these are hopelessly complex to disentangle empirically. We know this to be the case for pretty much every other species on the planet that we have been able to properly study, so why should it be different for Homo sapiens?
The problem with the extreme naturist position, then, is twofold: on the one hand, it is based on often shaky science — consider for instance neuroscientist Cordelia Fine’s masterful debunking of what she calls neurobiological “delusions of gender” . On the other hand, far too many naturists, while claiming the (alleged) objective mantle of science, reveal themselves to be sympathetic to sexist or racist, and certainly politically regressive positions (for instance Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, authors of the infamous The Bell Curve). Even when this is not the case, their research provides easy cover for the most vicious sexist and racist sub-cultures of our society.
Murray and Herrnstein always argued for traits being a combination of nature and nurture, just as the biologists say. So what is the objection?
Leftist soft-subject professors like him nearly always argue fallaciously. Here he announces disagreement with the political views of authors who make a social science argument, and then uses name-calling against those who follow the work. It is a form of guilt-by-association, except that Pigliucci is blaming the authors for who might have read the book.
It is true that nearly all human and animal traits are a combination of nature and nurture. A recent article says Ape study shows anxiety and depression are inherited . Most people are surprised at how much is inherited.
Pigliucci is one of these anti-science leftists who likes to downplay any genetic or nature human influences because it conflicts with his cultural Marxism.
Moreover, all of this, it seems to me, is entirely unnecessary: from a philosophical, and particularly an ethical, perspective, the biological bases of human behaviors are irrelevant to how we ought to treat other human beings. Whether women, or gays, or transgenders, statistically adopt certain behaviors because of culture, genes, epigenes or — again, more likely — an inextricably complex interaction among those factors, who cares?First, most real scientists favor pursuing knowledge regardless of whether it promotes personal political views.
Second, nearly all those who promote gay rights do so based on a theory that sexual preferences are innate. Even the recent US Supreme Court marriage decision mentioned that.
Third, even if you believe that all people should be treated the same, then how would you even know if you are doing that or not, unless you are aware of underlying causes of behavior? If, say, you are trying to figure out why one group has higher unemployment than another, it may be because the groups are different or that they are treated differently. You cannot tell unless you study the group differences.
Fourth, no one really treats all people alike. That is just Marxist nonsense.
Update: A reader points out that Pigliucci's main argument for "The false dichotomy of nature-nurture" is based on a misunderstanding of the word dichotomy. The dictionary defines it as:
being twofold; a classification into two opposed parts or subclasses ("The dichotomy between eastern and western culture")There certainly is a dichotomy between nature (genes) and nurture (environment). Nature and nurture are opposites, and twin studies and other studies do indeed divide between nature and nurture.
a difference between two opposite things : a division into two opposite groups M-W
a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities
; also : the process or practice of making such a division
The word does not in any way imply that a trait must be entirely nature or entirely nurture. Some are, such as eye color being entirely nature and spoken language (like English or Chinese) being entirely nurture. Most other traits are some combination, with maybe subtle interactions. It is really not that difficult to understand, unless it upsets your Marxist egalitarian anti-science worldview.