Is It All Biology?
The mood nowadays throughout our society seems to be one of entitlement: People seem to be looking for government assistance, government programs, forgiveness of debts, and increasing social services. What is missing from this picture is what is the contribution of the individual for the individual’s benefit.
Entitlement is not just a problem of expecting more, but also of contributing less. “You owe me” not because I did the work, but simply because I am. This attitude can be extended to the lack of responsibility evidenced on the part of chronic offenders, and those addicted to various substances or behaviors. With regard to addiction, there is a tendency to blame disease for one’s affliction, as opposed to taking personal responsibility.
In the article “My Genes Made Me Do It,” Stanton Peele and Richard DeGrandpre argue that in many cases where the media announce with great fanfare the discovery of this gene or that as being responsible for breast cancer or diabetes or even a criminal tendency, later investigations tend to refute those so-called discoveries.
It is understandable that people want answers for what they find frightening or out of their control. For example, a dread disease can perhaps more easily be accepted as inevitable because of some biological cause. Akin to the ancient civilizations who feared thunder or hurricanes, it is expedient to attach cause to one’s biology or heredity, rather than to one’s behavior. Indeed, behavior itself is now being attached to genes, as, for example, homosexuality being biological rather than a lifestyle choice, or obesity being blamed on one’s genes.
Just as with God, people’s psychological makeup is such that they are compelled to attach great significance to mystique to what scientists may deliver. People want to understand what makes them tick.
It is encouraging that the authors look with some skepticism upon all the research done to this point on genes and their importance in influencing people’s behaviors or inclinations. Yet the authors also put forth that it is too easy to look for external reasons. From mental illness to bulimia; from criminality to homosexuality; from disease states to almost every other human condition, looking for an external cause seems to defeat the purpose – that purpose being to take personal responsibility for our lives. In its simplest example, those who are fighting a weight problem can simply yield to the temptation to eat ever larger portions and claim their increased weights caused by their genes, and they have no control. The psychopath may blame his genes on his antisocial behavior and crime sprees; and the mother may blame genes for her child’s rampage through a grocery store, thus not even bothering to discipline him.
Indeed, why bother with anything? It’s all in the genes.
It would be an interesting social experiment if it were possible to carry it out to see what would happen to society as a whole if the entire concept of biology were removed from our lexicon; if people were urged from infancy to rely on themselves and their own resources to arrive at a goal, be it freedom from depression or a trim body. Even where physical health is concerned, research has shown to what extent behavior influenced disease. Cancer in many of its permutations is directly related to lifestyle habits; even mental illness can be traced to upbringing or milieu or living conditions as causes of much greater influence than biology.
In the case of certain behaviors being caused by genetics, scientists cannot directly examine the gene itself; rather, they rely on investigations of cohorts in similar environments. Such research on its face should cast suspicion on the gene theory as being the instigator for undesirable behaviors.