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The spectre of determinism stalks many of the concerns surrounding the impact of genetic research into both disease and normal behaviour. The ability accurately to predict a person's actions would certainly have profound implications for notions of individuality and free will. But to what extent will the current explosion in genetic research provide more accurate predictors than have been available for millennia in the form of wealth, social status and perceived family resemblance? The genetic research program is at too early a stage to answer this question with confidence, but various indicators tend to point in the same direction: the predictive ability of genetic analysis will generally be low. This conclusion runs counter to widely perceived popular notions. The deconstruction of genetic determinism is an essential safeguard against the real concern that genetic information may be used for discrimination by unscrupulous powers. © 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original publication




Journal article


Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C :Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Publication Date





619 - 633