Genetic glitch

22nd June 2007 at 01:00
In his article "Why nurture wins every time" (TES magazine, June 15) Oliver James commits a basic but all too common error. While noting the questionable standing of twin studies, he says "they demonstrate that great swathes of our psychology come out only 10-30 per cent genetic". What he means by "genetic" is that traits "are down to our genes". But this is simply wrong.

The figures he quotes concern the heritability of a trait, where heritability refers to the proportion of the variance in a trait among individuals that is attributable to differences in their genes (more correctly, their genotypes).

Contrary to what he suggests, such figures do not tell us how much of a trait is due to genes and how much to the environment. To be fair, he does use the term "heritability", but not correctly. In fact, there is a long-standing consensus in biology that talk of the kind Mr James and many others use is meaningless.

Dr Terence Sullivan Ferry Lane primary school, London

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now