Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 81–105 | Cite as

From heritability to probability

Article

Abstract

Can a heritabilityvalue tell us something about the weight of genetic versus environmental causes that have acted in the development of aparticular individual? Two possible questions arise. Q1: what portion of the phenotype of X is due to its genes and what portion to its environment? Q2: what portion of X’s phenotypic deviation from the mean is a result of its genetic deviation and what portion a result of its environmental deviation? An answer to Q1 provides the full information about X’s development, while an answer to Q2 leaves out a large portion unexplained—that portion which corresponds to the phenotypic mean. Q1 is unanswerable, but I show it is nevertheless legitimate under certain quantitative genetics models. With regard to Q2, opinions in the philosophical and biological literature differ as to its legitimacy. I argue that not only is it legitimate, but in particular, under a few simplifying assumptions, it allows for a quantitativeprobabilistic answer: for normally distributed quantitative traits with no G-E correlation or statistical G × E interaction, we can assess the probability that X’s genes had a greater effect than its environment on its deviation from the mean population value. This probability is expressed as a function the heritability and the individual’s phenotypic value; we can also provide a quantitative probabilistic answer to Q2 for an arbitrary individual where the probability is a function only of heritability.

Keywords

Heritability Probability Normal distribution Quantitative genetics Behavior genetics Analysis of variance 

References

  1. Ariew A (1999) Innateness is canalization, In: Valerie Gray Hardcastle (ed) Defense of a developmental account of innateness, from: where biology meets psychology: philosophical essaysGoogle Scholar
  2. Falconer DS, Mackay TFC (1996) Introduction to quantitative genetics, 4th edn. Longman Press, EssexGoogle Scholar
  3. Eshel I, Matessi C (1998) Canalization, genetic assimilation and preadaptation. A quantitative genetic model. Genetics 149(4):2119–2133Google Scholar
  4. Galambos J (1988) Advanced probability theory. Marcel Dekker, New York, p 1988Google Scholar
  5. Golinskii LB (1990) Distribution of independent random vectors whose sum is approximately normal. J Math Sci 48(5). doi:10.1007/BF01095619
  6. Gottlieb G (1995) Some conceptual deficiencies in ‘Developmental’ behavior genetics. Hum Dev 38:131–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Griffiths AJF, Susan RW, Lewontin RC, Gelbart WM, Suzuki DT, Miller JH (2005) Introduction to genetic analysis, 8th edn. W. H. Freeman, New York, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Hartl DL, Clark Andrew G (1997) Principles of population genetics, 3rd edn. Sinauer, Sunderland, MAGoogle Scholar
  9. Hill WG, Goddard ME, Visscher PM (2008) Data and theory point to mainly additive genetic variance for complex traits. PLoS Genet 4(2). doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000008
  10. Hirsch J (ed) (1967) Behavior-genetic analysis. McGraw-Hill Book Co, NYGoogle Scholar
  11. Jacquard A (1983) Heritability: one word, three concepts. Biometrics 39(2):465–477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jaynes ET (2003) Probability theory: the logic of science. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  13. Kagan AM, Linnik YV, Rao CR (1973) Characterization problems in mathematical statistics. John Wiley and Sons, Inc, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Layzer D (1974) Heritability analyses of IQ scores: science or numerology? Science 183:1259–1263. doi:10.1126/science.183.4131.1259 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lewontin RC (1974) The analysis of variance and the analysis of causes. Am J Hum Genet 26:400–411Google Scholar
  16. Lynch M, Walsh B (1998) Genetics and analysis of quantitative traits, 1st edn. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Massachusetts, USAGoogle Scholar
  17. Meaney MJ (2001) Nature, nurture, and the disunity of knowledge. Ann N Y Acad Sci 935:50–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Moffitt TE, Caspi A, Rutter M (2005) Strategy for investigating interactions between measured genes and measured environments. Arch Gen Psychiatry 62(5):473–481. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.62.5.473 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Montagnon C, Flori A, Cilas C (2003) Transformation of a nonnormal distribution of quantitative traits for breeding purposes. Journal of Agricultural Biological & Environmental Statistics 8(3):344–355(12)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. O’Connor TG, Deater-Deckard K, Fulker D, Rutter M, Plomin R (1998) Genotype-environment correlations in late childhood and early adolescence: antisocial behavioral problems and coercive parenting. Dev Psychol 34(5):970–981CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Pearson CH (2007) Is heritability explanatorily useful? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C. Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci 38(1):270–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Plomin R, DeFries JC, McClearn G (1990) Behavioral genetics: a primer, 2nd edn. Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. Plomin R, DeFries JC, McClearn GE, McGuffin P (2001) Behavioral genetics, 4th edn. Worth Publishers, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  24. Sarkar S (1998) Genetics and reductionism. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  25. Sesardic N (2005) Making sense of heritability. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  26. Sober E (1988) Apportioning causal responsibility. J Philos 85:303–318. doi:10.2307/2026721 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sorensen D, Gianola D (2002) Likelihood Bayesian and MCMC methods in quantitative genetics. Springer-Verlag, New York, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. Tal O (2007) Heritability and its discontents: a need for conceptual and informative clarification in philosophy of biology, Thesis treatise, Tel Aviv University LibraryGoogle Scholar
  29. Van der Steen WJ (1999) Bias in behaviour genetics: an ecological perspective. Acta Biotheor 46:369–377. doi:10.1023/A:1001851319274 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Vreeke GJ (2000a) Commentary: heritability estimates—long past their sell-by date. Int J Epidemiol 35(3):525–527Google Scholar
  31. Van Doren C (1991) A history of knowledge: past, present, and future. Ballantine Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. Vreeke GJ (2000b) Nature, nurture and the future of the analysis of variance. Hum Dev 43:32–45. doi:10.1159/000022654 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wahlsten D et al (1990) Insensitivity of the analysis of variance to heredity-environment interaction. Behav Brain Sci 13:109–161Google Scholar
  34. Walsh B (2001) Quantitative genetics in the age of genomics. Theor Popul Biol 59:175–184. doi:10.1006/tpbi.2001.1512 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, School of PhilosophyTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

Personalised recommendations