Is It All Because Of Our Genes?

833 words - 3 pages

Is it all because of our genes?

"We used to think our fate was in our stars. Now, we know, in large part, that our fate is in our genes." ---James Watson
Considering the central dogma of DNA-to-RNA-to-polypeptide, the above statement by the co-discoverer of the double helix certainly seems undeniable. From crippling diseases like Duchene's Muscular Dystrophy (a progressive muscle wasting disease) and neurofibromatosis (a dominant gene located on chromosome 17 which results in tumors growing on the nerves under the skin, causing severe disfiguration and paralysis) to the essential genes like that on chromosome 3 which codes for the light sensitive pigment, rodopsin, enabling one to see, it seems we are explicably tied to that linear sequence of nucleotides in the nucleus, that string of molecular beads of which genes are made and in whose sequential ordering resides all the genetic information an organism receives from its parents.

Even without such scientific knowledge, many do recognize that not "all men are created equal". Hopeful parents know full well despite their best of efforts that girls turn every toy into a doll and boys turn everything into a weapon; they rarely persist in believing that these differences is the result of early encouragement and training. Researchers who conduct studies on identical twins separated shortly after birth report that these people share too many similar traits, despite their contrasting backgrounds, for these to be due to coincidence alone. More recently, reports of genetic components for culturally-defined traits such as intelligence, homosexuality and even job satisfaction serve to strengthen the cause of genetic determinism. So there just is no escaping our genes, is there? In retrospect, perhaps we are no more than the product of a quirky twist of evolutionary fate.

Such a view is not without its critics. They point to the spectra of eugenics haunting modern genetics research. Retreating to the time where the heritabilty (the relative contribution of genes to a particular trait) of quot;pauperismquot;, quot;criminalityquot;, and quot;feeble-mindednessquot; were quot;provenquot; would be the beginning of a long, slippery road that resulted in the re-emergence of forced sterilization, imposition of biased immigration laws and, perhaps eventually, genocide. With the quot;discoveryquot; of socially complicated traits, this camp frequently argues that human behaviour is one area that seems far removed from the reach of genes. How can the synthesis of proteins, whose effects takes days to show, control responses and decisions that are made over a time span of...

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