Document Type

Occasional Paper

Publication Date

Spring 5-1-2019


data, genetics, heredity, interpretation, nature-nurture, puzzling


Agriculture | Genetics | Science and Technology Studies | Statistics and Probability


First six chapters of a book motivated as follows: When I had mentioned to colleagues that I was exploring some significant issues overlooked by both sides in nature-nurture debates, the typical response was “we know, of course, that nature and nurture are intertwined”; they never asked “which nature-nurture science are you referring to?” It occurred to me that, in the long history of nature-nurture debates, opposing sides had always assumed or implied that these different scientific approaches were speaking to the same issues. If that were the case, then the challenge—something I was already puzzling over—was how best to draw attention to significant overlooked issues, in this case, the distinctions among the nature-nurture distinctions.

In this vein, puzzling-begets-puzzling has been a repeated experience for me. I have found myself chewing over a range of positions or practices concerning heredity, variation, and their interpretation that did not seem to fit together. Especially interpretation that implies constraints on what we can do, on how much we can change. Puzzling over pieces of science, in turn, has opened up—or, at other times, derived from—puzzling about interpretation of what scientists do and about how to influence them. I hope that the conceptual themes I arrive at have a coherence that is appreciated by various readers of this book. Moreover, I hope that the questions raised but left unresolved seem salient and, together with themes of mine that engage you, stimulate fresh directions of puzzling for yourselves.

Or not. Although conceptual exploration is where I am able to make my most whole-hearted contributions, I am well aware of the limitations of new concepts in shifting the thinking and practice of others. Instead, diverse resources and practical considerations, given by your particular situations and life histories, condition whether themes such as the ones in this book come to make a difference for your knowledge making and action.



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