We usually have no problem atmitting that genetics play a role in height, weight, eye color, skin color, hair, bone structure and so forth. However, when it comes to attitudes and other intangible/invisible qualities we have a problem admitting to it. It must be due to the legacy of racism, nazism, ethnic cleansing and eugenics. Science, is science and shouldn’t be kept from uncovering as much as possible about who we are because of politics. On the other hand, science shouldn’t be exploited for political reasons.
Do you think genetics plays a role in attitudes? Could we come to stage where we will, for instance, recognize that the Smiths next door all have a tendency to be lazy and that it’s beyond their own control, or that the Flemmings upstairs have a problem with violence that is gene-related, just like any other inherited disease?
Considering that we can breed mice to become aggressive, and that every single goddamn member of my family (myself included) for at least 3 generations is a stubborn mule , we might be underestimating the amount of influence genetics have on personality and behavior. On the other hand, emphasizing genetics as a deterministic factor is a far, far more dangerous road to travel… :s and one that fails to account for the incredible flexibility of human beings and our ability to overcome our predispositions, at least some of the time.
One more solid post from Mr. Dragonbones.
AAF, you’re a pretty active new poster and I admit to really enjoy your participation. Keep it up Sir.
I believe genetics plays a fundamental role in the way we envision the world.
I was talking to my mother last night and she mentioned her money problems, but then said, “Ah, we always get by. Things will come out in the end.”
And it struck me how often I thought that very thing about my current situation here and the ones that brought me here (like getting through college solely on the money that my academics and hard work got me since I had no other monetary means to pay for my education).
Maybe behavior has a genetic basis, but I think more often than not, it’s environment. Environment implies learned behavior and something that can be learned can be unlearned. Blaming genetics means you were made a certain way and therefore cannot be changed. That’s why people pretend that homosexuality is a learned behavior and that alcoholism is genetic. If you asked me, I think that’s pretty fucked up as it makes the former seem as if the person chose their sexuality and the latter as if the person has no choice but to drink.
Or that success is something that people are born to have and if you don’t have the right genes then you can rest on your failures instead of trying to grow from them because dammit, that’s just the way you are. It will be a sad day when science “proves” that behaviors like work ethic, honesty, and tolerance are something that cannot be improved through effort and therefore excusable…or worse, require medication to improve them. Which is exactly where it would go. I can almost hear drug companies sneaking the hong baos to the neurological thinktank that can prove laziness and bad judgment are something that can be treated with the right pill.
It’ll turn out very interesting.
It seems our search to link genes to behavior is because of Darwin and Malthus. It’s now our world view.
Our genes do mutate. But do they evolve?
We’ll see. There’s lots of talk. You could check out people like Lewontin and Gould for some state of the debate.
I look out our genome as a map to our capacity, to our limit. It gives us the capacity for language, or anything else. What we do with it, how we get there, we’re just starting to find out.
The debate has gone on for thousands of years. I think we’re more than half way there.
For a taste, Gould wrote an article about Kropotkin. The anarchist philosopher believed people and nature were cooperative. He was a botonist and that’s how he saw nature. So he believed people could someday become like this. So anarchy.
All scientists have their view of nature and see the world with their eyes. For now, we want to believe in evolutionary biology and psychology.
Our history has been so short. Tens of thousands of years of culture shows us so little of all the possible ways we can be.
Many people will say what they think from their experience. I might suggest start reading from people who study this question.
You could start with It Ain’t Necessarily So: The Dream of the Human Genome and Other Illusions
I’m not sure how much of behaviour is genetic. I hear (from psychology classes) 50/50. But I am exactly like my dad. Sadly like my dad. And we have no genes in common at all.