WRITING AMISH CULTURE INTO GENES: BIOLOGICAL REDUCTIONISM IN A STUDY OF MANIC DEPRESSION

Abstract

Critical realism is used to explore the problem of reductionism in a classic (the Amish Study) andwidely-cited study of manic depression. Along withrelated ideas drawn from the works of R.C.Lewontin, Arthur Kleinman, and Byron Good, it isshown that natural and social scientists deployatomistic and holistic reductionism; this, in turn,leads to the construction of artificially ’closedsystems' through the control of variables orexogenous forces. The psychiatric genetic studies ofthe Amish were predicated on the assumption thatAmish society is homogeneous and unchanging and,therefore, closed. We conclude by arguing thatinteractions between behaviors and genes, where theyexist, take place only within open systems, characterizedby multiple mechanisms – social andbiological – that together co-determineany event. To move forward, it is argued, behavior and generesearch requires recognition and resolution of thephilosophical conundrums that accompany reductionism.

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Correspondence to JERRY FLOERSCH.

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FLOERSCH, J., LONGHOFER, J. & LATTA, K. WRITING AMISH CULTURE INTO GENES: BIOLOGICAL REDUCTIONISM IN A STUDY OF MANIC DEPRESSION. Cult Med Psychiatry 21, 137–159 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005352727300

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Keywords

  • Open System
  • Social Scientist
  • Manic Depression
  • Genetic Study
  • Multiple Mechanism