Slate’s Brian Palmer has written an astonishingly ignorant critique of the use of twin studies to estimate the heritability of complex traits. Razib has a pithy response, in which he refers to the Slate piece as “a sloppy mishmash”: there’s just so much wrong with the piece (beginning with its first sentence: “One of the main messages of science over the last couple of decades is that genes are destiny”) that it’s hard to know where to start pulling it apart.
Fortunately there’s no need for a point-by-point response here: Luke wrote a lengthy response to another ignorant critique of twin studies late last year, and his cautious defense of the methodology is just as pertinent here. In addition, it’s been reassuring to see that the comments thread at Slate has been almost universally negative.
As Luke noted last year, there are some valid criticisms that can be pointed at twin studies, although none of these fundamentally undermine the value of these studies for understanding human genetics. It’s a shame that Palmer chose to ignore these substantive criticisms in favour of sweeping dismissals and eugenic slurs.