A number of thoughtful readers have written in on my Monday column
(geneticist makes house call) by remarking that the way genes determine the
characteristics of living things is complicated & not very well
understood — it depends to some degree on the interaction of a gene with
(a) other genes, and (b) the environment a gene, or its host organism,
happens to find itself in.
All of that is perfectly true, and I did not say or imply otherwise. In
this area of science, though, it remains the astounding case that _the
dominant consensus in the public square is an extremist one_.
That dominant consensus is, in fact, the assertion that genes do _nothing at
all_, most certainly nothing to do with brain function! The consensus is,
as Steven Pinker has scoffed: “See no genes, hear no genes, speak no
genes.” This is preposterous. Genes, with all their complications and
subtleties, are tremendously important in determining our characteristics –
both physical and personality characteristics — as every parent surely
My column leaked out to several lefty websites, where there has been much
sneering at it as a typical attempt to buttress white male supremacy etc.
etc. For the record, my visitor — the “datanaut” — is a dark-skinned
South Asian. He boasted to me, in fact, about how easy it is for him to win
arguments with campus lefties by pulling race on them — “I’m darker than
you, so what do you know?…” He says it generally does the trick.