I’m going to promote a comment:
…would knowing the root biological cause for differences which are already apparent to us change anything?
It’s obvious to you that there’s a contradiction here, but to the average educated person this makes total sense.
The proximal reason seems to be that in thinking about “genetic” and “environmental” factors, the average educated person still fundamentally views “genetics” as equivalent to genetic determinism and “environmental” factors as equivalent to social norms or parenting tactics. In this black-and-white view of human development, quantitative distinctions and complex causal models have no place. Genetic causes are irremediable and ever-lasting, whereas environmental causes are a generation-away from disappearing with the right appropriations to social programs. That’s why an environmental cause for phenotypic differences doesn’t “count” but a genetic one is game changing.
It seems as if the nature-nurture world view painted in the 1970s by the anti-heredity crowd has remained largely intact with only minor modifications in the mind of the average educated person. Since the 1970s, they now know to respond to questions about nature-vs-nurture by saying “both”, but their understanding goes no deeper than that. As best as I can tell, “both” to them just means genetic-determinism in some cases and environmental effects in other cases. When pressed, they also seem to believe that the environment ultimately determines which matters when — “genetics” matters only because we are nurturing enough.
With this in mind, imagine their confusion and horror at being told about non-zero heritability. It’s as if a person who believes the world is flat is told that someone can sail westward from Europe to Asia. Because they can’t imagine a round world, they have to instead imagine that there’s a portal on the edge of the world that takes you from one side to the other. Granted that’s a limited analogy, but I think that’s what you’re seeing here — total confusion. Importantly, this is basically what everyone believes.
Alas, I’m not a good communicator. At least not to my satisfaction. Long time readers still speak about “nature” and “nurture” in a colloquial manner which makes it clear that they haven’t internalized what heritability implies about the irrelevance of the structure of their argument. Almost all of the discourse about genetics, and quantitative traits, whether it be behavioral or physical (e.g., obesity in the latter case), in the public domain is basically in a “not-even-wrong” category of incoherence. But we must muddle on. What else can we do? I wish David Dobbs the best of luck with his new enterprise.