Review of “Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are” by Robert Plomin

John Mullen in Metapsychology:

The author of blueprint, Robert Plomin is an American psychologist, geneticist and neuroscientist and perhaps the most important voice, over many years, in the field of behavioral genetics. It is difficult today to imaging how scientifically taboo it was to study the genetics of human behavior after the racist horrors, bogus research and eugenics projects carried out by the Germans in the Nazi period. The field of behavioral genetics got off to a politically rocky beginning in the 1960s, but has gradually gained respectability, although some of its applications, particularly in the area of race, have been controversial (I would argue, misguided). The great achievement of the field is to show without any doubt that understanding human behavior must include the factor of genetic predispositions. Robert Plomin is to be admired for his contributions and his courage. What he writes deserves attention.

Two general points about the book. First, it is not written for specialists. For example, there is a chapter that clearly, and at a very basic level, summarizes the basics of DNA. And a major point of the book is a societal question of how to reconcile the idea of genetic influences upon behavior with beliefs in meritocracy, free will and others.  Second, ideas of innate or genetic differences among people, including human groupings, have a real potential to do harm if not discussed clearly and applied accurately. This is particularly true today as we witness a dangerous rise in racist and nationalist politics. These two points put a difficult burden upon Robert Plomin to write very clearly so that the reader does not misunderstand his conclusions and put them to wrong-headed use.

More here.  And here is another older review by Matt Ridley.