Biologist/Author Matt Ridley talks about some of the ideas in his latest book, Nature via Nurture
, in the Edge
He's essentially arguing against the hard dichotomy of genes/culture. Actually, he's extending the argument from the sociobiology movement of the 70's, and enriching it with new research and knowledge about genetics.
The substance of what I'm interested in is that it's the genes that are related to behavior, and how they work. The big insight is that genes are the agents of nurture as well as nature. Experience is a huge part of a developing human brain, the human mind, and a human organism. We need to develop in a social world and get things in from the outside. It's enormously important to the development of human nature. You can't describe human nature without it. But that process is itself genetic, in the sense that there are genes in there designed to get the experience out of the world and into the organism. In the human case you're going to have genes that set up systems for learning that are not going to be present in other animals, language being the classic example. Language is something that in every sense is a genetic instinct.
The point is, a cultural aspect like language is deep in our genes.
So are sexual roles, but not in the simplistic "I'm programmed to be a provider" way. Ridley puts it this way:
What I find happens all the time in this debate is that you say that there are genes involved in, let's say, sex differences, and people say, "Oh no, no, no. Sex differences are social. They've done an experiment that shows that sex differences are socially caused." And I say, yes, sure, sex differences are socially caused. I never said they weren't. I just said there are genes involved too. Indeed, there are genes involved in the social causation. That's the whole point. I don't actually know how sex differences and behavior come about, and I don't think anyone does yet. But it's pretty likely that what happens is a form of prepared learning, whereby there is an instinct for boys to end up one way and girls to end up another. But the way that instinct works is for boys to have an instinct to pick up from the world what boys do, not to arrive in the world with a program in their head saying, "Pick up a stick and go Pow! Pow! Pow! with it." It's "Ah, I like it when people go Pow! Pow! Pow! with sticks. That fits with my perceived way I'm heading in the world." Or I don't, according to which gender I am.
Anyway, it's an interesting read. Have a look.