Although all human traits ultimately are based in a material nature e. Thus, biological determinism became synonymous with genetic determinism , though some researchers later considered the two to be distinct. In the 18th and 19th centuries, theories of biological determinism were based on vague, often highly controversial ideas about the nature of heredity. Since the concepts and tools were not available during that period to study heredity directly, biologists and anthropologists measured physical features of humans, trying to associate mental and personality traits with anatomical and occasionally physiological features, such as facial angle angle of slope of the face from chin to forehead or cranial index ratio of lateral to vertical circumference of the head.
Certain physical features, such as high cheekbones or a prominent eyebrow ridge, were often said to be indicative of criminal tendencies. With the growing acceptance of Mendelian genetics in the first half of the 20th century, most theories of biological determinism viewed undesirable traits as originating in defective genes. With the revolution in molecular genetics during the second half of the century, defective genes became identified with altered sequences of the molecule of heredity, deoxyribonucleic acid DNA.
For much of its history, biological determinism was applied to what were widely perceived to be negative traits. Examples included physical traits such as cleft palate , clubfoot, dwarfism, and gigantism as well as social and psychological conditions such as criminality, feeblemindedness, pauperism, shiftlessness, promiscuity, bipolar disorder , and hyperactivity.
Whereas many researchers agreed that physical defects likely arise from genetic anomalies , the claim that all psychological disorders and socially unacceptable behaviours are inherited was controversial.
That was partly due to the difficulty of obtaining rigorous data about the genetics of such traits. However, it was also due to an increasing knowledge of the abilities of various factors, such as chemicals in the environment , to interact with genetic elements. Teasing apart the genetic and environmental causes of psychological and behavioral conditions remains an exceptionally challenging task. One of the most prominent movements to apply genetics to understanding social and personality traits was the eugenics movement, which originated in the late 19th century.
Eugenics was coined in by British explorer and naturalist Francis Galton , who was influenced by the theory of natural selection developed by his cousin, Charles Darwin. Eugenicists believed that society was deteriorating through the increased reproduction of the disabled, particularly the mentally disabled. Various forms of inherited mental disability were said to be the root cause of social problems as varied as crime, alcoholism, and pauperism in all cases, it was claimed that low mental ability led to an inability to cope in a complex society, resulting in a turn to antisocial behaviours.
Individuals with slightly below average IQ scores typically were ranked as genetically disabled, even though they were not actually disabled at all; many, rather, were disadvantaged.
In the absence of genetic testing , little sound evidence could be provided in support of the notion that such cases were genetically determined. Sterilization laws were introduced in the s in the United States and in the s in Germany.
More than half of U. In the early s it was revealed that thousands of people had been subjected to involuntary sterilization in the United States. Many more had experienced the same in Germany and other countries.
One of the major consequences of widespread belief in biological determinism is the underlying assumption that if a trait or condition is genetic, it cannot be changed. You might've seen this one before. Paraphrasing in a cut-and-paste world. Some of our favourite British words. The story of an imaginary word that managed to sneak past our editors and enter the dictionary.
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Definition of determinism 1 philosophy. Zhang, a charismatic entrepreneur, conveyed a curious admixture of economic determinism and capitalism that paired well with the communist and Chinese flags that flanked his desk. The brothers were presented to the public, and, indeed, at times, presented themselves, as a striking argument for biological determinism , a victory for those who believe in the primacy of nature over the push back of nurture.
Other workers such as H. Goddard , and Robert Yerkes attempted to measure people's intelligence and to show that the resulting scores were heritable, again to demonstrate the supposed superiority of people with white skin. Galton popularized the phrase nature and nurture , later often used to characterize the heated debate over whether genes or the environment determined human behavior.
Scientists such as ecologists  and behavioural geneticists  now see it as obvious that both factors are essential, and that they are intertwined. Late in the 20th century, the determinism of gender roles was debated by geneticists and others.
Biologists such as John Money and Anke Ehrhardt attempted to describe femininity and homosexuality according to then-current social standards; against this, the evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin and others argued that clothing and other preferences vary in different societies. Wilson founded the discipline of sociobiology, founded on observations of animals such as social insects , controversially suggesting that its explanations of social behaviour might apply to humans.
In , the Austrian biologist August Weismann proposed that multicellular organisms consist of two separate types of cell: He called the material that carried the information, now identified as DNA , the germ plasm , and individual components of it, now called genes , determinants.
This effectively denied that Lamarckism inheritance of acquired characteristics was a possible mechanism of evolution. Early ideas of biological determinism centred on the inheritance of undesirable traits, whether physical such as club foot or cleft palate , or psychological such as alcoholism , bipolar disorder and criminality.
The belief that such traits were inherited led to the desire to solve the problem with the eugenics movement, led by a follower of Darwin , Francis Galton — , by forcibly reducing breeding by supposedly defective people. By the s, many U. This was followed by similar laws in Germany in the s.
Under the influence of determinist beliefs, the American craniologist Samuel George Morton — , and later the French anthropologist Paul Broca — , attempted to measure the cranial capacities internal skull volumes of people of different skin colours, intending to show that whites were superior to the rest, with larger brains.
All the supposed proofs from such studies were invalidated by methodological flaws. The results were used to justify slavery , and to oppose women's suffrage. Alfred Binet — designed tests specifically to measure performance, not innate ability.
From the late 19th century, the American school, led by researchers such as H. Goddard — , Lewis Terman — , and Robert Yerkes — , transformed these tests into tools for measuring inherited mental ability. They attempted to measure people's intelligence with IQ tests , to demonstrate that the resulting scores were heritable , and so to conclude that people with white skin were superior to the rest.
It proved impossible to design culture-independent tests and to carry out testing in a fair way given that people came from different backgrounds, or were newly arrived immigrants, or were illiterate. The results were used to oppose immigration of people from southern and eastern Europe to America.
Social determinism is the opposite of biological determinism, but both theories imply a lack of individual control. Biological determinism has been used to explain crime, mental illness, patriarchy, and poverty or to defend eugenics and Social Darwinism.
Biological determinism refers to the idea that all human behavior is innate, determined by genes, brain size, or other biological attributes. This theory stands in contrast to the notion that human behavior is determined by culture or other social forces.
Biological determinism, also called biologism or biodeterminism, the idea that most human characteristics, physical and mental, are determined at conception by hereditary factors passed from parent to offspring. Video: Biological Determinism: Definition & Theory In this lesson, you will gain an introductory understanding of 'biological determinism' as a theoretical perspective and learn the key assumptions it makes about the causes of criminal behavior.
Biological determinism is the opposite of social determinism, but both theories imply a lack of individual control. Not to be confused with social reductionism. A type of determinism. Sociology. STUDY. PLAY. Sex. The category an infant is assigned to at birth based upon the appearance of the genitalia. (Refers to biological apparatus) Biological Determinism (Nature) The belief that gender differences are shaped by biological characteristics. Differential Socialization (Nuture).