Today’s Word is: Heritability


 [H]eritability captures the role that genetic differences play in making some people (relative to others) taller or shorter, heavier or lighter, more intelligent or less intelligent, so on and so forth. Virtually every measurable trait (which varies within the population), we now know, is heritable. This reality has become remarkably unimpressive to many behavioral geneticists, though it continues to blindside some scientists who have managed not to pay attention for the last several decades.

More here.

4 Responses

  1. I’m surprised Mrs. Byunum cites these nihilists. I, for one, agree with Burke (as in almost everything else) in his contention that “Man’s prerogative is to be in a great degree a creature of his own making,” and that “when made as he ought to be made, [man] is destined to hold no trivial place in the creation.” Supermodels? Physical prowess? Jimmy Hendrix? Oh dear.

  2. I think of it like this – a good inheritance can transcend a bad environment, but a great environment can’t make a person able to transcend a bad inheritance. We’ve been pretending this isn’t so for too long.

  3. Dumb-assity, peevishness and the truncated Johnson are my defining male ancestral traits. Made for an interesting Coat of Arms. Has translated well onto the modern business card as “Inordinate amount of attention paid to the smallest of details.”
    Bynum wins this one.

  4. One might argue that North Korea seems to believe firmly that the propensity for dissent and independent thought is heritable…and since they view it as evil and socially destructive, not as beneficial, when they discover that someone amongst their population has become a Christian, not only do they kill that person either straightway or by starving and working them to death in a gulag, they *also* arrest the person’s entire family. Not sure how far out they cast the net – parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins…And thus they root out the ‘bad seeds’, so to speak; by getting rid of the seed bed as well.

    Muslims, too, believe in weeding out the bad seeds; that is, those that *they* frame as bad. Hence the apostasy law, and ‘honour’ murders. If a woman or girl attracts any sort of attention at all, or is imagined to have done so, better safe than sorry; she is executed, pour encourager les autres…

    And there, of course, is the rub. Genetic study might reveal traits and clusters of traits. But whether those traits are viewed as good or bad might vary in different cultural contexts. For example: much of what Muslims deem criminal, haram, evil – and would, if they had the tools – a gene scan? – to identify it “in posse”, no doubt ruthlessly eradicate (the “Green Man” story; killing off a child who was *going to become* a disbeliever) – is not what many other societies deem criminal.. Imagine if Muslim rulers had the tools with which to identify persons potentially capable of empathy, imagination, independent/ innovative thought, great art, music… would they not kill those infants out of hand, so as to rid the gene pool of these HARAM propensities?

    But suppose one is not in North Korea nor in the Dar al Islam. Even so, how would one understand good and evil, and how would one deal with crime and criminals, if one began from the assumption that these things have nothing to do with and are not subject to individual choice – they *cannot be changed and do not change*… what is the point of the second table of the Ten Words, if the ‘good’ don’t need to be told not to do any of these things (and never will do them) and those who *will* do them…will, because it is ‘in their genes’, they are bad-to-the-bone?

    (Alternatively, you can redefine morality so that theft and murder and falsehood and rape are …perfectly normal and natural?…because, after all, the killers, rapists, sexual cheaters, pedophiles, liars, the false and greedy people are just.. born that way…**and cannot change nor repent**?? And how soon before someone starts saying impatiently, well, just …kill them! And do you wait until they’ve manifested the trait, or do you scan them in utero or in the nursery and…kill or quarantine them? But if a child manifests the “murderer” program…what of its parents? Do you take the North Korea route…if one child is bad that indicates the parents are bad (not in the sense of choices but in the sense of morally crippled from birth; unable to be anything else)…how far out do you cast the net, in order to *deal* with the bad seed, and how far back?

    What happens to the Hebrew and Christian concepts of repentance, grace, salvation?

    What happens to the classic Christian teaching of original sin: we *all* fell in Adam, we are *all* offered redemption by grace…and a thief, a murderer, a licentious person, can by *grace* repent and manifest an amended life, a changed heart? If you leave grace out of the equation, then you are left with despair…and a society that would, increasingly, call for the extermination of the bad seeds, the evil in our midst…and their parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins…whre

    What do you do about the thought-world implicit in the classic hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ – or the testimony of someone like Nicky Cruz in his book “Run Baby Run”?? Would one cease to bother with prison chaplains and Christian visitation in prisons, if one became fully convinced that every criminal was born that way, immutably pre-programmed to do evil and unable to change or be changed? (In the colonial period in Australia, those who sought to bring the Gospel to Australian aboriginals were told by many colonists that it was a total waste of time: aboriginal people were either born too evil/ depraved to be capable of redemption, or were simply not *human* enough to be redeemed… in effect, the colonists wanted would-be evangelists to write off Aboriginal people – all of them – as being either devils (damned beyond redemption) or brute animals.

    Have you ever read C S Lewis, “The Abolition of Man”? Perhaps it should be re-read. And with it, a selection of essays by G K Chesterton, who had quite a lot to say about crime and punishment, and about human free will, and divine grace.

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