About Me

Mikael Aizen is a full time author.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Study #4

One possible answer began to emerge after a Dutch woman consulted her doctor about whether to have kids. Her family had a history of violence, including rape and attempted murder. Would her children be violent too, she asked? Her doctor consulted geneticist Hans Brunner, who discovered that the family carried a defective gene: it made too much of an enzyme, called monoamine oxidase A, resulting in excessive destruction of neurotransmitters that help keep us calm and happy.

The finding thrilled some scientists--here, finally, was an explanation for criminality--and appalled others, who feared that if genes dictate behavior, it could lead to genetic typecasting of entire races...The implication, says Terrie Moffitt, a professor of psychology at Wisconsin: "Genes influence people's susceptibility or resistance to environmental 'pathogens.'" Someone with a low genetic propensity will have to be pushed very hard to become violent; another individual with a different genetic makeup might have a hair trigger.

-Lemonick, Michael D. "Children and Violence: The Search for a Murder Gene."  Time, Jan 20, 2003, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1004083-1,00.html

I want to discuss the possibility of free choice vs fate.  In our society, we are becoming more and more "excuse" based.

It is natural when you find yourself in a guilty situation to make excuses.  It is natural for us to deflect blame onto someone else, or something else.  We blame our religion, our government, our parents.  Anything but ourselves.

Studies for centuries have shown tendencies.  We've mastered the art of conditioning and brainwashing.  We've manipulated our young into positive OR negative people.

Yet I believe that there is still, in all these circumstances, no excuse for damaging and destructive behavior.  Who cares if you have tendencies towards violence.  Does that suddenly make you not responsible for your actions?  Do the laws of human altruism become obsolete?

Mankind has progressed on the foundations of overcoming animalistic tendencies.  We can think beyond fight and flight, reproduction, the need to feed.  Because we can think beyond our base instincts we can create an environment of long term sustainability.

The line must be drawn somewhere.  And I choose this line.  I choose ultimate responsibility for our actions regardless of circumstance.  Sure, the nazi soldiers of germany were practically forced into their condition by Hitler's regime, but what they did was still wrong.

Care to debate?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Study #3

Shane and his fellow researchers compared the entrepreneurial activity of 870 pairs of identical twins -- who share 100% of their genes -- and 857 pairs of same-sex fraternal twins -- who share 50% -- to see how much of entrepreneurial behavior is genetic and how much is environmental.

The mathematics behind quantitative genetic modeling are rather complicated, but the upshot was fairly straightforward: Entrepreneurs, the researchers concluded, are about 40% born and 60% made. Ten to 15 years from now, genetically advantaged entrepreneurs might be identified through DNA testing or psychological surveys, Shane says.

Some academics go further: University of Cambridge clinical neuropsychology professor Barbara Sahakian, lead author of a recent study on entrepreneurial risk taking published in Nature, says that drugs used to manipulate dopamine levels might be employed to enhance entrepreneurship.
-Mount, Ian.  "Are Entrepeneurs Born or Made?" Fortune Small Business. Dec 9, 2009.

Moving away from Murder Genes.  This study was able to prove entrepreneurship tendencies via genetic modeling.  Now, they are even trying to modify and manipulate this gene. Is this advancing science?  It doesn't take a great leap in logic to see the dangers to this behavior and research.

ie.  "Let's make the perfect entrepreneur."

Have you heard the term eugenics?  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics  

Is science moving toward a neo-nazi model?  Should we be stopping this research mentality before it gets out of control?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Study #2

...The evidence on one gene, known as MAO-A (monoamine oxidase A, an enzyme that breaks down chemicals in the brain), proved particularly persuasive for the judge: a growing body of work shows that the variant displayed by Bayout is correlated with violence, aggression and gang membership. Its persistent association with violence has even earned it a nickname among scientists: the warrior gene.

The Bayout trial is thought to be the first time that violent genes have been invoked to amend a sentence. It shows that, rather than being the stuff of some futuristic dystopia, the controversial field of behavioural genetics is having a dramatic effect in courtrooms today. And, further down the line, the complex interplay between genetics, race and crime is also likely to come into controversial focus...

-Anuja, Anjana.  "The Get Out of Jail Free Gene."  Times Online.  Nov 17, 2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/genetics/article6919130.ece

Here, we move from theory to practice.  This trial ruled that Bayout was the victim of "genetic misfortune."  He actually had his sentence REDUCED because of his genetics.  This is not a fictional article or a fictional case, a man's choice to murder was somewhat excused because of genetic propensity.  Is it arguable, let's say in a beating or a violent act trial, that we could completely excuse a person's actions based on their genetics?  Would this be fair?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Study #1


The Human Genome Project begun in 1990 changed our understanding of genetics and disorders.  Furthermore, researchers have associated genetic basis for physical behaviors including aggression, impulsivity, nurturing.  This movement of behavioral genetic determinism has been growing at an untamed rate, I worry about the consequences of this social perception.
The Human Genome Project, officially begun in 1990 and scheduled for completion between 2000 and 2003, has heralded a period in which genetic factors have been identified for numerous disorders. In addition, researchers in the field of behavioral genetics have asserted claims for a genetic basis of numerous physical behaviors, including homosexuality, aggression, impulsivity, and nurturing. A growing scientific and popular focus on genes and behavior has contributed to a resurgence of behavioral genetic determinism-the belief that genetics is the major factor in determining behavior. This could lead to grievous social consequences.

-Mark A. Rothstein, Behavioral Genetic Determinism: Its Effect on Culture and Law, in Behavioral Genetics: The Clash of Culture and Biology, 89-115. Ronald A. Carson & Mark A. Rothstein, eds. (Johns Hopkins University Press 1999)

We're beginning this blog with a challenge.  Heavy controversy.  Discussion.

We've all heard the phrases:
"I was born gay, I didn't have a choice."
"God made me this way."
"Don't judge me for who I am."

I am not equivocating murder and homosexuality, don't get me wrong.  It merely is the most common phrase in our society associating behavior and genetics.  We just haven't noticed the laugh-ability of the argument it because we hear it so often.

This belief is conceptually known as "Behavioral Genetics."  It is the idea that we may have tendencies, traits that fate has decided for us in our future actions.  This is a concept found commonly in various species of animals.  Geese migrating, territorial behaviors in many creatures, expressions of happiness and sadness in humans.  Sometimes, we even define a species based on behavior when everything else between the species may be identical such as the hirundo verbanaand and the erpobdella obscura.

So.  Where is the limit.  How far can we take this?  What are the consequences of the decisions we make associating scientific lack-of-choice with fate, freedom of choice, responsibility?

Can we excuse the freedom to choose between male and female partners with genetics?

Comment below with your thoughts.