"... present an annoyed defense of genetics research..." Sorry! But thanks for your patience.
"...highlights the conclusion that identical twins reared apart are more similar than identical twins reared together..."
If this finding is replicated sufficiently to be statistically significant, then it is indeed very important. But it also presumably makes the case that environment makes a difference. This is only my opinion (and it's possibly an ill-informed one in these matters) that this column does often read as if society, culture, the ability to think and so on, are of no significance. Except when someone points that out, when their significance is temporarily acknowledged.
I'm not at all saying that genes have no effect on behaviour - of course they must do. As I said in an earlier contribution, it would be astonishing if the brain, alone of all the organs in the body, were not to be influenced by genes! I'm just saying that there is a simplistic style of writing about genes and human behaviour that leads to all the silly arguments in the lay press. Only this week, again in the (London) Observer, there's a headline: "Do Genes Make A Bad Mother?" This way of writing polarizes the discussion and gets us nowhere.
The philosophy I use when dealing with my patients, who are all adult, is that we cannot be held responsible for the genes we came into the world with, nor for the things that happened to us when we were very young - but that people are very much responsible for ensuring that they get the help they need to overcome their difficulties, and for taking the best advice they receive - and I sum it up in the simple aphorism: "Do the best you can with what you've got - you can't do more and you mustn't do less". The important thing there is the "...nor for the things that happened to us when we were very young..."
"Lower" animals can't think, or can't think to the same extent, certainly can't speak, so by definition there can't be any of the cognitive distortions that can so trouble us humans. As you say, no foresight ... But look, you're not saying, at least I think you're not saying, that people in ancient Egypt, in 10th century Western Samoa, in 20th century America all behave in the same way? I think you are saying that genes and culture interact.
Here is Richard Lewontin again: "The fact is, not a single study of personality traits in human populations successfully disentangles similarity because of shared family experience and similarity because of genes. So, in fact, we know nothing about the heritability of human temperamental and intellectual traits that are supposed to be the basis for social organization". ("The Doctrine of DNA ..." Penguin, 1993.)
And here: "If it is genetically determined human nature that we are aggressive and like to go to war, then we must suppose that A J Mustie, the famous pacifist, lacked this gene and was, therefore, in some sense less than human. If, on the other hand, he possessed the gene but was a pacifist, the genes seem somewhat less than all-powerful in determining behaviour. Why are we not all like A J Mustie? There are deep contradictions in simultaneously asserting that we are all genetically alike in certain respects, that our genes are all-powerful in determining our behaviour, and at the same time observing that people differ".
And what is the humble seeker after truth like me to do when reading, after reading your words, the following (from the same book), "There is at present simply no convincing measure of the role of genes in influencing human behavioural variation"?
You must be more tolerant of dissent, Jim! When experts like you and Lewontin, like Jones, like Dawkins and Gould, disagree with honesty and in good faith about interpretations of findings, it would be quite wrong for the rest of us to take one or other view on trust simply because of the personality, or eminence, or prose style of its advocate. The correct approach to take (surely?) is one of a well-disposed skepticism.
It's actually surprising to me that after more than a year of reading your column here, of reading books that you recommended and so on, that I should find myself now less convinced of the all-importance of genes in human affairs than I was at the beginning! But I should be even more surprised if what I like to think of as a scientific skepticism were not to be welcomed, and if as a result I had to leave here. I hope I'm wrong!