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Investigating the relationship between beliefs in genetic determinism as related to knowledge in genetics and genomics
Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Department of Environmental and Life Sciences (from 2013). (SMEER)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8735-2102
Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway..
Aix-Marseille Université, Marseille, France.
Federal University of Bahia, Salvador, Brazil.
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2018 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Genetic determinism can be described as the attribution of the formation of traits to genes, where genes are ascribed more causal power than what scientific consensus suggests. This belief is especially problematic when it engenders intolerant attitudes such as racism and prejudice against sexual orientation. The rationale for this is a naturalistic fallacy in genetic deterministic discourse, assuming that what is natural (in this case genetically predetermined) is inherently good or right.

In this study we investigate the relationship between belief in genetic determinism and knowledge of genetics and genomics. The aim is to examine whether knowledge in genetics and genomics can counteract the development of beliefs in genetic determinism. From a scientific point of view there has long been awareness that the description of the gene as an active agent determining phenotypic traits by itself is a ‘strawman model’ used in genetic studies as an instrumental model focusing on the genetic factor ignoring environmental factors. Moreover, in the last decades the development of genomics and epigenetics has reinforced the notion of gene action as probabilistic and mutually interdependent with the environment through gene activity regulatory processes, further reducing the understanding of genes as sole active agents in the construction of phenotypes. Hence, one can conjecture that knowledge in modern genetics and genomics counteracts beliefs in the excessive power of genes and, thus, beliefs in genetic determinism.

We gathered and analyzed statistically data by means of a newly developed questionnaire instrument, “Public Understanding and Attitudes towards Genetics and Genomics” (PUGGS), applied to a group of 427 Brazilian freshmen university students. The results shows no correlations between belief in genetic determinism and knowledge in genetics and genomics. Hence, this study does not give empirical support for the argument that enhancing genetic literacy can prevent genetic deterministic beliefs. There were however indications that social factors (age and religiousness) may have importance for the formation of genetic deterministic beliefs.

The result also shows that belief in genetic determinism is a complex construct that seems to differentiate into two constructs or belief systems: a belief in social traits and a belief in biological traits. The study did not give any support for the existence of widespread beliefs in genetic determination of social traits. This is an unexpected result, which contradicts much of what has been suggested in the literature.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018.
National Category
Educational Sciences Biological Sciences
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-75296OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-75296DiVA, id: diva2:1360705
Conference
Oral presentation within the symposia “Genetic determinism and students’ understanding of gene-trait relationships”, at the ERIDOB (European Researchers In Didactics Of Biology) conference. 2 – 6th of July, Zaragoza, Spain.
Available from: 2019-10-14 Created: 2019-10-14 Last updated: 2019-10-28Bibliographically approved

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https://eventos.unizar.es/_files/_event/_8746/_editorFiles/file/eridob2018/Abstracts%20Book%20Eridob%202018.pdf

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Gericke, Niklas

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