Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Genetics is the modern word for fate. It's tarnished name, thanks to American and later German researchers, was 'eugenics'. As the 'reformer is the enemy of anyone who benefits from the status quo' the status quo have the greatest investment in maintaining and indeed insisting they were 'born king'. Modern 'social darwinism' says that 'survival of the fittest' is indeed the psychopathic CEO who through theft and murder acquires wealth and power as one of the "new" master race. If you are poor, maimed, crippled, mentally retarded, etc. you were born that way and indeed 'deserve' your fate. Genetically I must keep my gene pool pure, breed with others of the master race and avoid association where at all possible with those who are 'inferior'. Very, Ivy league.
The novel, Galapagos, by Kurt Vonnegut was a superb exploration of the meaning and significance of genetics and society. Gattaca, the futuristic movie was another such education in the meaning of genetics. Fate is 'fixed' and what is 'fixed' can't be changed and what can't be changed must be 'accepted' and the more one 'accepts' in the outer world the more one politically will ultimately accept the Queen saying 'give them cake!" The 'caste' system of India, was the 'class' system of Europe and today is increasingly the 'corporate reality'.
Fate or determinism come with a price. Blame and praise are lost. Tell that to the smug and grandiose. However the very same who claim their success is through their own efforts would say that the 'loser' failed. If genetics is the puppet master everyone is a puppet. Emerson the father of American philosophy wrote in a mystical sense, "if the redslayer thinks he slays or the slain thinks he is slain, they know not well the ways I keep and turn and toss again."
The new fascists often appeal to 'pseudo buddhism" for their 'zen' of dominance. Things just are, they say and yet these religious 'cherry pickers' would ignore the 'efforts' of the devout buddhists who abhore consumerism and begin their life of discipline from an early age. Trungpa describes the western mind seeking a 'religious smorgasbord".
The same is true of these terrified power mongers who approach science for their own justification desperately seeking any means to abdicate from responsibility and especially blame. How horrible to think biblically that the 'sins of the fathers' are passed on many generations and not just 'genetically' as this might imply but more significantly 'karmically'. Why consider fate and free will and the philosophical and theological implications that follow from in depth analysis when one can remain superficially claiming 'genetics made me do it" the way the superstitious once said ' the devil made me do it."
Genetics is important scientifically and practically. Many diseases can be avoided with genetic testing in infancy which then allow environmental alterations which will protect a child at risk. PKU is a classic disease of that kind. The key here is 'risk'. It's a probability assessment. Genetics is clearly implicated in the colour of one's skin or the eye colour but at the level of complex human behaviour the contribution of genetics is usually s at most 50%. That means that 1/2 of the outcome was determined by genetics and one half determined by environment. The interface between the brain and environment has commonly been called the 'mind' and some social scientists, more out of cowardice and laziness than science, have excluded 'free will' or 'mind' from equations because quite frankly it's human and humans mess up reductionist science. The study of mice and now computer generated programs is much more satisfying than introducing the human factor with it's almost god like potential for throwing monkey wrenches at monkeys.
I watched Devil's Advocate, last night with Keeanu and Al Puccino and was delighted that the writers and actors really did have a scientifically sound understanding of modern genetics when they made this challengingly brilliant movie.
The genome experiment was so exciting before humanity with it's vanity, lawyers and copywrights got ahold of the thing. Just as the secrets of the papal library are religiously kept so the secrets of the genome will be politically kept. The words changes but in the end so much remains the same. The final question is to ask whether the body or mind is represented by free will or fate. For now there's a lot of probability in reform and change much to the chagrin of some. My own thought is that we are genetically programmed for Love and Space Travel.

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