1st Edition

The Heredity Hoax Challenging Flawed Genetic Theories of Human Development

Edited By Richard M. Lerner, Gary Greenberg Copyright 2025
    530 Pages 29 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    530 Pages 29 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This innovative and thought-provoking book integrates both new, authored material and reprints of existing literature that, together, provide a compelling narrative that reveals the fatally flawed science associated with genetic reductionist accounts of human behaviour and development.

    Through an interdisciplinary lens, it illuminates the dynamic nature of human development, empowering readers to question established notions and embrace the complexity of our potential. Across the book the work of top-tier scientists, from developmental, comparative, educational, and biological science illuminate theory and research converging on the conclusion that the multiple egregiously flawed work of genetic reductionists should be expunged from research pertinent to human development. The book challenges the prevailing reductionist narratives and their application to social policies, programs and uses in media. Theoretically based and empirically rigorous, this multidisciplinary approach to human development will shine a light on the inequities in individuals or groups that suggest that specific genes do not enable them to succeed in life.

    The Heredity Hoax invites graduate schools and advanced undergraduate courses on human development, human potential, epigenetics and more to delve into the intricate interplay between genes, environment, and personal growth. This will also serve as an unimpeachable source of evidence for researchers, educators, and social policymakers.


    Section 1. Framing the Choice: The Pseudo-evidence and pessimism of genetic reductions vs. the evidence and optimism from research framed by dynamic, relational development systems-based concepts.

    Editors’ Introduction

    1.1. Addressing the heredity hoax in science and society: A view of the issues - Richard M. Lerner and Gary Greenberg

    1.2. The fallacies and failures of genetic reductionism: An historical review of lessons learned - Gary Greenberg

    Section 2. Metatheory and theory about the nature-nurture coaction

    Editors’ Introduction

    2.1. Metatheory and the primacy of conceptual analysis in developmental science - David C. Witherington, Willis F. Overton, Robert Lickliter, Peter J. Marshall, and Darcia Narvaez

    2.2. The failure of biogenetic analysis in psychology: Why psychology is not a biological science - Gary Greenberg

    2.3. What Galton’s Eugenics Has Wrought - David S. Moore

    Section 3. The concepts of instinct and critical periods

    Editors’ Introduction

    3.1. Development evolving: The origins and meanings of instinct - Mark S. Blumberg

    3.2. Critical period: A history of the transition from questions of when, to what, to how - George F. Michel and Amber N. Tyler

    3.3 Short arms and talking eggs: Why we should no longer abide the nativist–empiricist debate - John P. Spencer, Mark S. Blumberg, Bob McMurray, Scott R. Robinson, Larissa K. Samuelson, and J. Bruce Tomblin

    Section 4. Evolution

    Editors’ Introduction

    4.1 Toward a new developmental and evolutionary synthesis - Gilbert Gottlieb

    4.2. Précis of Evolution in Four Dimensions - Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb

    4.3. Developmental evolution - Robert Lickliter

    4.4. Evolving evolutionary psychology - Darcia Narvaez, David S. Moore, David C. Witherington, Timothy I. Vandiver, and Robert Lickliter

    4.5. Evolution beyond neo-Darwinism: A new conceptual framework - Denis Noble

    Section 5. Behavior genetics: Heritability, Twin studies, adoption studies, and IQ

    Editors’ Introduction

    5.1. From gene to organism: The developing individual as an emergent, interactional, hierarchical system - Gilbert Gottlieb

    5.2 The heritability fallacy - David S. Moore and David Shenk

    5.3. The 1990 “Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart” IQ Study: Ripe for Retraction? - Jay Joseph

    Section 6. Sociobiology

    Editors’ Introduction

    6.1 Sociobiology and the theory of natural selection - Stephen Jay Gould

    6.2. Sociobiology and human development: Arguments and evidence - Richard M. Lerner and Alexander von Eye

    Section 7. Epigenetics

    Editors’ Introduction

    7.1. Social regulation of human gene expression - Steve W. Cole

    7.2. Human Social Genomics - Steve W. Cole

    7.3. Behavioral epigenetics - David S. Moore

    7.4. Dynamic heredity - Douglas Wahlsten

    Section 8. Implications for Programs and Policies

    Editors’ Introduction

    8.1. The Bell Curve at 30: A Closer Look at the Within- and Between-Group IQ Genetic Evidence - Jay Joseph and Ken Richardson

    8.2. Implications for educational practice of the science of learning and development - Linda Darling-Hammond, Lisa Flook, Channa Cook-Harvey, Brigid Barron, and David Osher

    8.3. Whole-child development, learning, and thriving in an era of collective adversity, disruptive change, and increasing inequality - Pamela Cantor and David Osher

    8.4. Promoting positive human development through dynamic, relational developmental systems: Embodiment, holism, and individual-context relations - Richard M. Lerner and Gary Greenberg


    Richard M. Lerner is the Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science and the Director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development in the Eliot Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, at Tufts University.

    Gary Greenberg, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Wichita State University, Co-founder (with Ethel Tobach) of the International Society for Comparative Psychology, has been a comparative psychologist for his entire career.

    "Genetics enjoy a high profile today in the minds of the intelligentsia and lay public alike. Fresh genetic results are often announced in newspapers with fanfare and draw immediate attention. No doubt they are “sexy,” and, undeniably, we are in part products of our inheritance – our nature. However, only in part, and the ultimate story genetic reductionism tells always turns out to be more nuanced and complex than originally touted. Vigilant academics who follow the literature have come to understand that precious few heralded genetic findings survive follow-up scrutiny or replication. Where’s the pushback? Well, here. In The Heredity Hoax, Richard Lerner and Gary Greenberg crystallize conceptual and methodological shortcomings of genetic reductionism in their own words as they expose problematic implications of genetic reductionist ideas for policy, programs, and social justice. Moreover, they skillfully marshal the words of proponents and critics to buttress their contentions. But, you ask, what perspective is left to supplant or, at least, supplement the genetic project? Lerner and Greenberg do not leave you in the lurch, but are persuasive that relational developmental systems – the coaction of nature and nurture -- offer a more rational, productive, and optimistic framework for understanding human development. Want to be an intelligent consumer of the scientific literature in this grand debate of the 21st century? The Heredity Hoax is where to start."
    Marc H. Bornstein, President Emeritus, Society for Research in Child Development; Editor, Parenting: Science and Practice

    "In this magnificent and timely volume Richard Lerner and Gary Greenberg have brought together a collection of chapters by the world’s leading authorities that address the fatal misconceptions of classical genetic accounts of human development. Just as quantum theory has upended our classical view of the physical world, the various chapters in this volume systematically challenge and replace the determinist view of genetic heritability with a dynamic Relational Developmental Systems metatheoretical framework that revolutionizes our understanding of human development and its potential. This reframing of the dynamic nature of the relations between genetics and development has profound and potentially positive implications for our approaches to education, parenting and broader issues of social justice."

    Larry Nucci, Professor, Graduate School of Education, University of California Berkeley

    "The Heredity Hoax is an important collection that battles genetic determinism on multiple fronts. Curated by two field leaders who have devoted their careers to this fight, this collection dismantles fallacies of simplistic reductionism in ethology, evolutionary biology, behavior genetics, and sociobiology. Not content with critique, Professors Lerner and Greenberg bring together perspectives to build a real and rigorous alternative framework that analyzes behavior as an emergent property of dynamic, relational, bio-social systems of organismal development. Connecting this new paradigm to policy frameworks, they show how bio-social science can take part in the optimistic cultivation of human flourishing and greater equality. This guide will be essential reading for newcomers to this field as well as experienced experts."

    Aaron Panofsky, Professor, UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics, Public Policy, and Sociology; Director, Institute for Society and Genetics