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.
Parents, too, are rethinking their contributions. Perhaps they have not scarred their wayward children so much as given them bad genes. Maybe it was not their superior parenting skills that produced that Nobel laureate.
Whether a new emphasis on genes will breed tolerance or bigotry for inborn differences remains an open question. If a trait like being overweight comes to be seen as largely the result of genetic influence rather than lack of discipline, the social stigma connected to it could dissipate, for instance. Or fat people could start being viewed as genetically inferior.
Bruce Lahn moving on to non-IQ projects?
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Steven Pinker on the Cochran-Harpending theory of Jewish IQ in The New Republic
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