If you consumed a fair bit of popular media during the last decade, you probably heard a lot of genetic determinism, not that the term was actually used. People’s choices, it was breathlessly reported, could be explained by the
fat gene, infidelity gene, religion gene, or violence gene.
It was a natural for pop science. The 1990s saw the human genome mapped, and some of the energy was bound to spill over from hypothesis to … hype. In those days, Nobelist Walter Gilbert, extolling the Human Genome Project, would hold up a data CD and inform his audience, “This is you.” A genome decoded.
But was it you? Or anybody? Let’s think that one out: Puberty, to take an example, is controlled by hormones. So no one wonders whether they should grow a beard or start menstruating. It just happens, and we adjust or we don’t.
But are our choices about relationships, religion, or violence really controlled by genes in the same way? If so, …
More (Best Schools,February 1, 2012) .
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