The Human Genome Project spiked widespread awareness of genes. In recent years, many claim to have identified specific genes or groups of genes that govern human behavior of interest, much in the way a light switch controls a circuit.
Thus we have heard about not only a “bad driver” gene, but a fat gene, “friends” gene, generosity gene, happiness gene, infidelity gene, liberal gene, pedophilia gene, psychopath gene, religion gene, “smother mother” gene, suicide gene, and violent media consumption gene, for starters.
One researcher offers a model for a “religiosity” gene, warning that if such people reproduce, “the religiosity gene will eventually predominate despite a high rate of defection.” And in 2011, the New York Times electrified the corpse of the “crime gene” — even while admitting the weakness of the idea: “Many people with the same genetic tendency for aggressiveness will never throw a punch, while others without it could be career criminals.” So the thesis is true except when it is not? And this is science?
A related outcome is personalized genetics, where people get their genome mapped to learn more about themselves, 23andMe-style. But, quite apart from recent troubles with the FDA, one’s personal Gattaca will likely be in reality, when critically analyzed, an uninformative bust.
Why? Because, in the real world of careful analysis, scientists are just not finding the “genes” that the headline writers need. More.
See also: “The evolutionary psychologist knows why you vote — and shop, and tip at restaurants”
The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (the human mind)
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