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"The Making of (Un)certainty in Knowledge Production: Rhetoric at Play in a Heritability Controversy" (by Angelica Camacho and Dominique Robert): Review 2

Published onSep 28, 2023
"The Making of (Un)certainty in Knowledge Production: Rhetoric at Play in a Heritability Controversy" (by Angelica Camacho and Dominique Robert): Review 2

Vote: Publish pending minor changes

I would like to begin by stating that I vote that this document be published pending minor changes. 

The paper primarily addresses rhetorical maneuvering and various influence strategies in promoting a stance within a controversy. The controversy in question, the nature versus nurture debate (as listed in the document), is one that many feel is unsettled and forms a schism within the field of criminology. The consideration of rhetorical manipulation within this document is more than adequate.

My concern is that the example itself, the nature versus nurture debate, may require additional development in that the "debate" is essentialized. The number of groups that act as if it is an "either-or" problem suggests a need to address this - or even an opportunity to add value to the paper by considering the impact of the debate itself as harmful.

Considering the references to agnotology, I think an important source to include would be the 2018 text "Ignorance, Power and Harm Agnotology and The Criminological Imagination" and, specifically, "Agnotology and the Criminological Imagination" by Alana Barton, Howard Davis, and Holly White. The 2017 book "Behave: The biology of humans at our best and worst" by Robert Sapolsky also provides a clear description over the first few chapters of how a biopsychosocial model of human behavior ought always include both biological and social/environmental factors, indicating that the debate itself is ill-founded. Sapolsky, in particular, has much to say on using twin studies but is much more focused on synthesizing nature and nurture as a dynamic and interrelated set of intersecting and synergistic factors contributing to behavior.

Of course, this paper did not set out to solve the debate of nature versus nurture. I would understand if the authors disagreed with my estimation. I do bring this up as my only concern because it sits at the heart of the future of criminology, and the use of the discipline to legitimize scientism in courts is just as harmful as social science's resistance to integrating biological covariates.

I suggest that this is a minor change because this could be addressed within a few sentences or a paragraph at most. I will include suggested citations below.

I want to state, for the record, that except for the above comments, I feel this paper is ready for publication. I find this paper to be very worthwhile for the overall advancement of the discipline and hope you take my suggestions with this in mind.

Suggested Additional Citation.

Barton, Alana, Howard Davis, and Holly White. "Agnotology and the criminological imagination." Ignorance, power and harm: agnotology and the criminological imagination (2018): 13-35.

Bone, John. "Beyond Biophobia: A Response to Jackson and Rees, Sociology 41 (5): 917-930." Sociology 43.6 (2009): 1181-1190.

Jackson, Stevi, and Amanda Rees. "The appalling appeal of nature: The popular influence of evolutionary psychology as a problem for sociology." Sociology 41.5 (2007): 917-930.

Sapolsky, Robert M. Behave: The biology of humans at our best and worst. Penguin, 2017.

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