Wednesday, 9 August 2006

Will & the 'warrior gene'

“It’s in their genes.” A researcher has found what he called a “warrior gene” that appears more often in Maori than non-Maori (about twice as often apparently) that makes them, he says, susceptible to addiction, aggression and other generally bad things.

Before all the headline writers get too excited about that finding, let me say two things.

The first is to be aware that such a gene isn’t necessarily bad: such an obsessive gene may have helped Polynesian explorers conquer the Pacific in the first place.

The second point is to heed the warning of the researcher himself not to read too much into this. As he says, there are many factors that influence behaviour, and this is just one.

And he’s right, isn’t he. Whatever our genes say about us, it’s far from all they say about us. In the age-old argument as to whether it is genes or environment that ‘create us,’ what is infinitely more important is to realise that genes and environment are only half the actual picture. The other half of the picture – the one about which we can do something ourselves -- is the faculty that helps make us distinctively human: Free will. The choices we make to do the things we do.

Tibor Machan has a useful way of seeing how these three things co-relate: nature and nurture (in other words genes and environment) give us our personality, the things about which we as adult human beings can do nothing about. But character is what we make of this. Character is what we choose to do to make ourselves. Character, the thing that makes the us in each of us, is made possible by the faculty of free will.

We might have genes that make us potentially great at tennis or golf, at painting or at music, at intellectual pursuits or sporting endeavour – what is critical however is what we ourselves choose to do about those potentials, what we do to either make the most of them, or ignore them.

“Man,” as Ayn Rand affirmed, “is a being of self-made soul.” We are each given our own ingredients, and by the choices we make with what we’re given we go on to make ourselves. That’s what it is to be a human being, and it's on those things that we should really judge each other.

Going back to where we started then, and if we choose to take this research about ‘warrior genes’ at face value, we can see that all in all it’s an interesting little story but, as the researcher himself says, it’s only a very small part of the picture. Unless, that is, we choose to make something more of it than it deserves. I suspect we all have genes that make us susceptible to certain behaviours, both good and bad. What’s infinitely more important is what we choose to do about that.

LINK: Once were warriors: gene linked to maori violence - Sydney Morning Herald
Nature v nurture - character is all - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

Science, Ethics, Philosophy, Racism, Maoritanga


  1. Oh Please Man is a ...self made soul. Ayn Witless Rand at her twittering best. Twaddle dressed up in self importance and foisted on a gullible public by simpering addleheads like you.
    Atlas Shrugged is amongst the worst books ever written. And the Objectivist philosophy is as moronic as the monotheism humanity has had to endure for the last two millenia. Just about every opinion you utter is drivel. Go back to spluttering at your foolishness at dinner parties or doing some work

  2. Some souls are clearly less well-made than others.

  3. Funny how comments like the one above always come in as anonymous. What's the bet it wouldn't say something like that to you in person PC, where as you'd be fully prepared to defend your arguments in person.

    One point I thought you'd pick up on is that any potential facts about nature vs nurture aside (I can't profess to know a thing about genetics) is that one always sees those arguments used towards the ends of destroying the notion that we are individuals and have control over what we do.

    Someone commits aggression against someone else and:

    * It was his upbringing (attempting to downplay individual responsibility)
    * It was his race (racial collectivisation)
    * It was his genes (racial collectivisation)
    * It was society not caring (whatever society is and however one defines caring).

    All, in the end use to justify the same conclusion of more state collective control.

    Most of those news articles could be summarised in 3 sentances:

    "Who we are"
    "What we want"
    "How we're going to trick someone else to pay for it"

  4. Anonymous because we will never meet. And why should i bother going thru that process. I will never engage you in an argument, there is no point your mind has been muddied, you take Artless Ayn seriously.
    And soul ... I doubt if Rind knew anything about such things and I know you dont from your dribblings.
    The only sanity left is anger at fools like you dressed up with someone else's phoney "Knowledge".
    Anyway back to your twittering cock robin with you tailor made soul.

  5. So the conclusion about anonymous is:
    - Can't be arsed arguing, but can be arsed wasting time posting about not being arsed to argue.
    - the only sanity left is anger.

    If you can't debate a point, but just get angry then you're just a barbarian. Of course barbarians who don't think they are self made can be angry and blame "society" or their "parents" for it - and take their pills before uttering out more insults. Civilisation indeed

  6. *** You're right Willie that there's plenty of conclusions to draw from this, including the notion that just because we have genes and we've been brought up in a certain environment then somehow that absolves us from responsibility for all sorts of things. That's just bullshit.

    As I've said before, when we realise that the responsibility for our lives is ours, that's when our lives really start. 'In Dreams Begin Responsibility.'

    *** It's also the basis for racism. Our choices are what define us. Our faculty of free will allows us to make those choices, and underpins what it i sto be human, but racism just ignores that. Ayn Rand called racism a "barnyard" form of collectivism, which is exactly right: in denting the power or existence of free will, the racist denies individuals what makes them individual and what makes them distintively human. It treats them just as cattle.

    *** And there's another thing. Ignoring free will encourages people to peddle the nonsense that it's wrong or unfair to judge other people. Why is it wrong if you're responsible for your choices? Justice demands that we do judge other people -- it's the man who's afraid of being judged who most values the idea that "I couldn't help it!"

    *** And it also allows people to use 'addiction' as a crutch. "I couldn't help it," whines the addict. Crap. There are people who claim to be addicted to telly, to chocolate to sex ... (well, at least one of those is true...) But, are they? We can be physically 'addicted' stuff we ingest, like coffee and speed, and let's even concede that you hav aphysical addiction to a substance. Still doesn't absolve you of responsibility. There may indeed be physically compelling reasons for continuing ingesting something, or smoking something, and even seriously uncomfortable downsides to stopping, but the choice to do so still sits with you, or the choice to ensure you're not put in such a position where you're unable to refuse is up to you.

    *** Them's just a few implications, it seems to me. Feel free to point out more. :-)


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