Thursday, June 15, 2006

We Are The Robots

The latest shots in the classic argument between free will and predeterminism have left free will on the mat gasping for breath.

From todays NYTimes:
A growing understanding of human genetics is prompting fresh consideration of how much control people have over who they are and how they act. The recent discoveries include genes that seem to influence whether an individual is fat, has a gift for dance or will be addicted to cigarettes. Pronouncements about the power of genes seem to be in the news almost daily, and are changing the way some Americans feel about themselves, their flaws and their talents, as well as the decisions they make.

For some people, the idea that they may not be entirely at fault for some of their less desirable qualities is liberating, conferring a scientifically backed reprieve from guilt and self-doubt. Others feel doomed by their own DNA, which seems less changeable than the more traditional culprits for personal failings, like a lack of discipline or bad childhoods. And many find it simply depressing to think that their accomplishments might not be the result of their own efforts.
It's hard to decide exactly how to react to this. It is comforting and unsettling at the same time to think that we may have much less control than we think over how we behave. It also makes it easier to forgive others and yourself for transgressions, but it does not mean that we cannot hold each other responsible.

As far as our survival as a species, I think it means that we need to so some evolving pretty quick, and that perhaps is the most disturbing aspect. That is, that the seeds of our downfall may lie in our own DNA. But when you put it that way, it just seems natural, doesn't it?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe! This is my first visit to your blog and I am thoroughly impressed... how enlightening. I must say that I'm more for personal responsibility than blame... even if genetics does play a part. I happen to be dating a genetic counselor... let me ask him what he thinks! Oh yeah, by the way-this is Zabor.

10:51 AM  

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