Twin Studies and AST

Pulled from Google:





  1. the set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment.


If I may, to state the simplest form of Nature plus Nurture above in an even shorter way –

Genes + Environment = Phenotype

– right? That’s the basis of it, isn’t it, and so the basis of the famous and never-ending twin studies? The opportunity to move genes around to different environments and see what changes and what stays the same?

Now, I’m not the first to point out that adoptable homes in adoption-capable countries are largely selected for similar socially acceptable reasons, but that’s just not clear enough; the problem is even more basic, and it’s in the definition above. The amazing, specific identical things that some of the separated twins showed that seemed to give all the power to the genetic side of the argument do the very opposite with more logic, prove the opposite.

These amazing parallels defy the phenotype equation, for starters. Either some of these behaviours and propensities are purely genetic, unaffected or unaffectable by environment, or the very impressiveness of the phenotypal match proves that there was no difference in the environment, at least no difference that would or could change that trait. Empirically. The same phenotype means same (relevant) genes and same relevant environment, by definition.

To my untutored mind, that looks like a huge fail. I’m sure the biologists have some long-assed answer that I’d need to be a geneticist or a statistician to argue with, but if they don’t have something to explain away the first rule, the basic syllogism, then . . . on the other hand, though, it’s an understandable conclusion, considering the setup. They move genes to new homes and hope they’ve made an environmental change, but really, we don’t know what it is that might have changed, do we? We’re black-boxing this “home environment” thing, we look at what we put in and what comes out as a sort of high level troubleshooting method, like how it’s done in electronic systems, when we can’t know the inner workings of some device. We really haven’t worked out what about the home environment does what . . . well, hadn’t, I mean. AST has, possibly.

The evidence has been right in front of us the whole time. There is no evidence for all the details of parenting styles, for anything “positive.” The evidence is for abuse, so that’s the environment factor that when we change it, we’ll see statistical results, changes in incidence of all that correlates with abuse, meaning problems. That is possibly the upshot of the adoptable home criteria as well: socially acceptable levels of structure, discipline, control, and abuse. When all that varies only within a narrow range, then it’s not going to matter how widely less important things vary.

Biologists, you want to convince us that parenting doesn’t matter? Change your test twins’ environment in a meaningful way, and there’s only one, level of abuse. You can’t arrange to have one tortured, so all you can do is try to raise some separated twins without discipline and punishment, that’s legal, I think.

Either that, or you’re going to have to explain to us how all the experiments that you say proved the power of our genes seem to disprove your most basic rule.

I don’t know why people never understand me in this way: this is a question, I have posed a problem here, and I’m looking for an answer, an explanation, an argument, something. Silence indicates assent and submission in court, but I don’t think I can make that conclusion here on the interwebs.




April 1st., 2017

14 thoughts on “Twin Studies and AST

  1. Benjamin David Steele April 2, 2017 / 5:28 am

    The problem is twin studies are some of the worst research one could possibly find. There is a near total lack of controls for even the most basic confounding factors. Many of the famous cases of twin similarities were twins that had already met and interacted before being studied.

    We first need some good twin studies, of any variety. Then we could see about researching more specific issues like abuse. But I would argue that there is a lot more going on than abuse.

    The Piraha is a case in point. They have a society that doesn’t fit our expectations in so many ways, not in terms of childrearing and not in terms of how children turn out. That seems to indicate that we have utterly failed to correctly understand our own human nature.

    How is it a society like the Piraha can apparently lack any evidence of spanking/beating, trauma, addiction, depression, anxiety, suicide, long period of young child dependency on parents, teen rebellion, etc? The Piraha in some ways may seem to live a harsh and stoic lifestyle, but they appear to be relaxed, happy, friendly, and forgiving.

    Most modern Westerners have assumed that such a society is impossible, that it contradicts human nature. Still, the Piraha go on existing, unconcerned about our beliefs about human nature.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff/neighsayer April 2, 2017 / 7:53 am

      you get this point, though, right? They have declared that they changed one of the two things, environment, and when the same phenotype results, they ignore that logically, that requires the same everything.


      • Benjamin David Steele April 2, 2017 / 8:12 am

        Yeah, I get that point. But it went over my head before, in the significance you were giving it. That does hit upon the crux of the matter. Even the same genes won’t express in the same way without also the same environment.

        That goes back to such things as epigenetics, the longstanding impact of environment in determining which genes will be expressed and how. That issue touches upon why twin studies have failed to offer any satisfying evidence for much of anything, no matter what theory one prefers.

        You’re suggesting the possibility of doing a twin study that would lead to interesting results. But I might suggest animals studies would be preferable for proving the most basic points, as animals also rear their children. Scientists can’t take thousands of genetically identical mice and create identical environments. Then they can maybe alter the brains of some of the mice mothers so that they act more aggressively toward their pups.

        Even then, it would require great care to get at any valid results. I think I’ve shared that one study with you where they repeated the exact same study to the exact same precise detail, using genetically identical mice. Yet surprisingly different results were observed that couldn’t be explained by any known and controllable factors. Obviously, there were tiny differences in the environment that could not be detected, even as they had fairly large impacts on the development and behavior of the mice.

        This is why human research is problematic. It’s impossible, in human research, to even come close to the controls used in this kind of animal research. Then among human research, twin studies are the least controlled of them all. It’s not that we’ve failed to do worthy research for a lack of trying. We simply don’t at present know how to create the controls that would be necessary. We are barely at the early stage of figuring out how to do this kind of research.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jeff/neighsayer April 2, 2017 / 8:40 am

          It’s really amazing, all that literature, all that work around the twin studies, and the very first part of the premise so badly flawed. That’s the parasitic social meme, though. We seem to make a point of misunderstanding it in the most basic way, as I’ve been saying, good for bad, violent for civilized. That’s a solid point about animal studies. It was a mouse or rat study that originally started the study of stress at all, I’m just cracking Sapolsky’s book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. Need to brainstorm it a little, try to imagine what sort of test might actually address the point, “parenting,” somehow, do something to the adult mice, drug them or something to make them meaner, or nicer to their kids. Yes, that attempt to replicate, when chaos theory asserts itself at those identical sites. That was a bit of a mind-blower. That was a genius experiment itself, wasn’t it? Test for chaos, empirically. I think it was an accident, right, they were trying for identical environments and results, weren’t they? So the genius part of the experiment wasn’t the human bit, so much, it just worked out to a genius setup.


          • Benjamin David Steele April 2, 2017 / 9:04 am

            I don’t know what the intended purpose of that research was. It might have been studying replicability itself. The identical studies were done simultaneously at multiple labs in different cities in the United States. They controlled for everything, even the brand of lights used in the lab. They were trying to control the studies more than is even typically done, just to see what would result. One of the scientists involved must have had some suspicions about replicability, probably from years of experience doing research.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Jeff/neighsayer April 2, 2017 / 9:26 am

              I think chaos theory is the one that says “there are more things under the sun that are dreamt of in your philosophy . . . ” It’s just cool, an experiment that proves the theory that destroys experiments . . .

              Liked by 1 person

  2. Benjamin David Steele April 2, 2017 / 8:29 am

    Jared Diamond mentions the Piraha in one of his books, The World Until Yesterday.

    The Piraha don’t have any formal system of community sanction or punishment. Everything in Piraha society operates on a level of relationships. There is no hierarchy of authority, no governing body, no group of elders to tell anyone else what to do. Still, they maintain social norms.

    There is an incident that Diamond mentions. A Piraha teenager killed a member of a neighboring tribe. He was ostracized, although Diamond doesn’t make clear what that means. I doubt he was forced out, but most likely he became a non-entity to the Piraha.

    The people he once knew as family and friends stopped relating to him or doing anything with him. He was a pariah. It probably didn’t need to be enforced beyond the personal level. He had acted outside of Piraha norms and so, to the other Piraha, he was no longer Piraha.

    That Piraha teenager left the village. He lived alone for a period of time before dying. Diamond states that it was claimed that he died of a cold, but he speculates he was killed. Unless Everett is wrong in his years of observation, it is unlikely the teenager was killed. Where the Piraha live, it is extremely dangerous and little healthcare. Piraha die all the time and an isolated Piraha surviving on his own wouldn’t likely last long.

    That is a great incentive for social conformity, with no need for social forms of violence and punishment. Exclusion would not only mean death of your social identity but likely physical death as well. In being excluded, that teenager probably fell into depression and simply died of loneliness. It might be the only condition under which a Piraha becomes depressed.

    I don’t know how that relates to this post. I guess it could be considered an aspect of childrearing. This involved a teenager, but I don’t know how young he was. Maybe it demonstrates Piraha childrearing. There are ways of controlling behavior without overt punishment. It wasn’t what anyone did to this teenager but what they refused to do, that is interact with him.

    Maybe that is what happens to Piraha children as well. If they did something contrary to social norms, they maybe have social attention withdrawn. That is powerful to a child, as they long for social attention. That would be even more true for such an intimate society as that of the Piraha where their entire society is built on personal relationships.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff/neighsayer April 2, 2017 / 8:48 am

      I ain’t feeling argumentative, it’s just where the conversation goes, but I gotta tell you, having recently been shunned by my family group and made a pariah, that ain’t gentle. They killed that boy, plain as day. I expect if I can’t find a way out of this stress, I’m not gonna last long either.


    • Jeff/neighsayer April 2, 2017 / 8:57 am

      and in this state of mind, I gotta go out now and find a place to live, convince someone I’d be a good fit in their suite, LOL. Wish me luck. Back later.


    • Benjamin David Steele April 2, 2017 / 9:25 am

      I agree with you. That is part of my point. It is real punishment, just not physical punishment. But as far as I know ostracism was rare in Piraha society. That is the only example I’ve heard of, in reading about them. It requires something extreme like murder before ostracism occurs. Otherwise, they seem to be rather forgiving. There are three other examples I can think of.

      In the first, some Piraha got drunk because a trader gave them alcohol and they became violent and threatening, but the Piraha in the community simply disappeared for a while until they passed out and that was the end of it. In another example, a married man slept with another woman and his wife gently chastised him, although it seemed rather playful and the husband submitted to being held down by his wife for the rest of the day, even as he was a powerful hunter who could have got up at any moment and left. The third example involved a man killing his brother’s dog and the brother, while acknowledging it was wrong, put greater value on their relationship.

      In none of those cases was there any form of societal punishment. It was entirely resolved on a personal level or else simply ignored on a personal level. Going by Everett’s writings, I’d assume murder is extremely rare in Piraha society, as they aren’t known for normally being aggressive and violent. It’s their non-violent tendencies that led them to ostracize the boy because, if they didn’t, it might have led to conflict with the other tribe and that could have meant tribal war or violent feuding.

      There always has to be some way to enforce social norms, either personally or through societally, either violently or non-violently. The Piraha prefer the personal and non-violent. Still, it is surely an unhappy experience for the Piraha who transgresses social norms. Then again, that is true of any society. In the US, if a person transgresses social norms in an extreme way, they will likely end up institutionalized or homeless, sometimes dead when they transgress the wrong people such as an authority figure or onto someone’s private property.

      In your case, I assume that you haven’t transgressed so far as to be banished from all of society. The suite your looking for probably won’t be a shack in the woods where you will become a hermit. But if so, there may be worse fates. I’ve always sort of wanted to be a hermit. It was a fantasy I had when younger, based on watching too many tv shows like “Gentle Ben” and “Grizzly Adams”. I dreamed of escaping social norms and expectations along with all of society.

      Anyway, good luck on your new life! The nice thing about our society is that it is so large and diverse. If you lose one social network, you can always gain a new one. It sure can be a challenge, though.


      • Jeff/neighsayer April 2, 2017 / 3:40 pm

        first thing – I think ‘death or exile’ was the option generally in the ancient world, like at least up until classical times, something I read about jails in classical Athens. If you killed someone, you’d be considered a danger and be killed, or the jail was easily escapable and you could run off to another city and maybe start a new life. Only possible with town-sized populations, I guess, that Piraha kid had no-where to go. No shared culture, no melting pot in their world.

        Yeah, I think it was my and my family’s non-violent tendencies that leads us to ostracize one another too, maybe . . .

        I swear to God, B., my transgressions are thought crimes, verbal crimes, all social stuff. I raised my voice a few times, I complained that they weren’t treating me right (my wife and young adult daughters), and that was it, it was over. It’s a little more complicated, but basically. I treated them too nice, I guess, there was no room for me to have a feeling about them, no room for me to be anything but happy. It should have been their adjustment, their transition to adulthood, but the wife stepped in to stop any of that and I’m out . . . it’s personal shit here, don’t feel the need to take anything on, no worries.


        • Benjamin David Steele April 2, 2017 / 5:42 pm

          I suppose, prior to more complex societies, death or exile would have been a fairly typical way of dealing problems. It intrigued me that, when Socrates was given the choice of death or exile, he chose death. Exile apparently was a far worse fate to his mind, as he had spent his entire life in Athens and it was all he knew. To be exiled would have meant social death and he probably would have died of depression and despair.

          Other Greeks, though, seemed to have dealt with exile just fine and were able to join other Greek societies or else later on to be allowed to return to their home. Socrates was older and he probably thought there was no point in trying to start a new life at that point. Ostracism does suck. Relationships can take a lifetime to develop. And there is nothing more important than family, especially in a society like ours where community has taken on a lesser role.

          I’m sorry to hear about your troubles. I haven’t been in that kind of situation, but it’s not hard for me to sympathize with feeling alone. I also sympathize with the demands of others that one should be happy, as if it is a social obligation never to show unpleasant emotions. Hiding what I feel isn’t an option with my depression… nor should it be. That is an unfair and uncaring expectation to place on another.

          Everyone deals with their own issues. The reason some people can’t face normal human emotions in others is because they can’t acknowledge those normal human emotions in themselves. Instead, those repressed emotions get projected onto others and sometimes that means scapegoating someone, such as ostracizing them. It’s not a psychologically healthy way of relating. We live in a society where there are many people who are like this. Few of us ever are taught how to process our own emotional experience and maturely respond to the emotional experience of others.

          There are many crippled in the world. The trick is to find people who have personal issues that are compatible with your own personal issues.


          • Jeff/neighsayer April 2, 2017 / 5:58 pm

            I read the Death Of Socrates. He was in an argument with the city elders or something, and he was taking the stance that he was more dedicated to and more a part of the city than they were, so I guess he had to put his money where his mouth was. Something like that, i forget exactly. I think he wanted a measure of martyrdom, to embarrass someone.

            Liked by 1 person

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