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Genetic Determinism

8 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2015  

Hub Zwart

Radboud University Nijmegen, Faculty of Science, ISIS

Date Written: July 27, 2015


Genetic determinism is the idea that, although environmental factors play a role as well, we basically are our genes, so that the personal genome (i.e., the genetic material of an individual) not only provides us with self-understanding but may also enable us to become the managers of our own life. This idea fueled the Human Genome Project, meant to grant human beings access to their own "blueprint," as HGP director Francis Collins phrased it. Paradoxically, however, the
HGP undermined its own conceptual starting point by demonstrating, once and for all (so it seems), that genetic determinism is untenable, indeed: that genetic determinism is "dead." At the same time, it is "undead" because, notwithstanding the emphasis on complexity that dominates the various forms of post-genomics research, the language and logic of genetic determinism keeps recurring in contemporary discourse, both in the public and in the scholarly domain.

Keywords: Genetic determinism, Genomics, Post-genomics, Complexity, Human Genome Project, DNA, Nature-nurture debate, Complexomics

Suggested Citation

Zwart, Hub, Genetic Determinism (July 27, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Hub Zwart (Contact Author)

Radboud University Nijmegen, Faculty of Science, ISIS ( email )

P.O. Box 9010
Nijmegen, 6500GL


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