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Philosophy Colloquium Series presents

Eric Turkheimer, University of Virginia
Friday, March 31, 2017

2:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Tanner Library, Room 459 in the Tanner Humanities Building, Bldg. # 45 (CTIHB)

The Missing Heritability Problem as Genetics, Psychology and Philosophy

The missing heritability problem refers to a substantial gap between the magnitudes of genetic effects on complex phenotypes estimated in two different ways.  For most of the Twentieth Century, quantitative geneticists estimated heritability by comparing the phenotypic similarity of individuals who varied in degree of genetic relatedness.  Although these methods demonstrated that virtually all human individual differences were substantially heritable, often to a surprising degree, they were mostly silent about the specific genes or developmental mechanisms that caused complex phenotypes to be heritable.  As the discovery of DNA led to an explosion of knowledge about molecular genetics and eventually to the completion of the Human Genome Project, the scientific community anticipated that family-based estimates of heritability would be cashed out in concrete biological knowledge of gene action.  It hasn’t happened.  Almost no genes with substantial effects on complex phenotypes have been discovered, and even the cumulative small effects of specific genes do not come close to family based heritability estimates.  This talk will explore the science underlying the estimation of heritability, and reflect on the scientific and philosophical implications of the unexpected difficulties of molecular complex genetics.

Last Updated: 3/27/17