The Dead Ends of Sociogenomics

By Nicolas Robette, Paul Reeve

Beginning in the 2000s, high-throughput sequencing and genotyping technologies developed rapidly. This made it possible to study many genetic markers at once in many subjects, leading to the development of genome-wide association studies and polygenic risk scores. It is in this context of technological and statistical progress that sociogenomics, understood as the combination of sociology and genetics, appeared and spread within the social sciences. But the methods used by sociogenomicists are based on several conceptual and statistical presuppositions of doubtful validity. Independently of the limitations of the tools used, the results of sociogenomics research have contributed little to sociological and demographic knowledge. Studies in sociogenomics most often express a faith in the progress of the field through technical advancements, without questioning the biological model on which the entire enterprise is based. From this perspective, the sound of multiple calls for caution from learned societies in human genetics does not seem (yet) to have reached these ‘genetic entrepreneurs’ in the social sciences.

  • sociogenomics
  • human genetics
  • behavioural genetics
  • heritability
  • heredity
  • genome-wide association studies
  • nature/nurture
  • epistemology
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