Interpreting Heritability Causally


A high heritability estimate usually corresponds to a situation in which trait variation is largely caused by genetic variation. However, in some cases of gene-environment covariance, causal intuitions about the sources of trait difference can vary, leading experts to disagree as to how the heritability estimate should be interpreted. We argue that the source of contention for these cases is an inconsistency in the interpretation of the concepts ‘genotype’, ‘phenotype’, and ‘environment’.We propose an interpretation of these terms under which trait variance initially caused by genetic variance is subsumed into a heritability for all cases of gene-environment covariance.

Philosophy of Science, 84(1), 14–34.
Pierrick Bourrat
Pierrick Bourrat
Senior Lecturer & DECRA Fellow

My research interests include the various concepts deployed in evolutionary theory, causation, and the interplay between biological and cultural evolution.