Genetic Determinism or Free Will?

There is a famous comparison made between Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. The more mystical types among us find the apparent similarities compelling evidence of some inscrutible fate, and much ink has been spilled (no doubt to buttress the legend of Kennedy, who was largely a failure as president.) Naturally, people focus on the coincidental similarities and ignore the huge differences; people naturally seek patterns, and when they find them they say "aha!" even if those patterns happen to mean nothing.

In a recent blog post at American Thinker the brilliant Rosslyn Smith falls into this trap, making the case that our DNA determines our fate to a large degree. She makes a compelling case, but I am forced to disagree; one should be cautious in confusing coincidence with fate. Smith cites two examples of "nature over nurture" -- one an incident where an adopted man was raised in a strictly religious family and rejected their faith, then met his birth father to find he was also an atheist and the other a case where a tornado chaser's illegitimate son shows up at his funeral and is also a tornado chaser. Eerie, maybe, but hardly proof that we are hardwired by our genes. Many people raised in strict religious families rebel by rejecting the faith in which they were raised, and there are enough atheists that the chances are quite good that an adopted son would find his birth father was also an atheist. As for the two meteorologists, was it not possible that this subject was interesting to the mother, who slept with the father because she interested him, and she passed along that interest to the son? Again, an amazing coincidence, but proof of genetic hardwiring?

Genetics undoubtedly does have an impact on life choices and interests -- and abilities. But the human brain is subject to enormous amounts of remodeling over time, with enormous changes to the neural pathways.

An infant's brain has a huge number of neurons, and a huge number of those neurons will die as the child grows. The surviving neurons establish fixed pathways that determine much of the personality and capabilities that will later be a part of who he or she is. But this is not immutable; neuroplasticity allows the brain of the individual to rewire itself, to change with need. In fact, there have been people who have had half of their brains removed and have gone on to live normal lives (no, I'm not talking about Democrats!) as their brains have simply rebuilt themselves. It used to be believed that the brain, once mature, was "hard-wired" and could not change, but work with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder patients has shown that people can rewire their brains just by thinking. Interestingly enough, the Bible pointed this out long ago "as a man thinketh, so shall he be". While there may be a genetic element to who we are, in the end we can control our own destiny.

What makes Man different from the animals is that he has free will.

Liberals hate free will, and have made war on the concept for decades. Free will means we are free moral agents, can choose which path to follow. The Left has downplayed this capability in Humanity for several reasons:

1. They hate to be constrained by moral, ethical, or religious restrictions and seek to justify whatever behavior they find pleasing, no matter how depraved. If a person can be said to be genetically predisposed to some action, be it criminal or deviant in other ways, then they are not to blame. It becomes a therapeutic matter rather than a legal or moral one. A pedophile is "born that way" for and cannot be held morally culpable for his actions (unless he is a Catholic priest). Being  genetically hardwired means never having to say you're sorry.

2. If free will is an illusion, then people really can't control themselves without great suffering and should be allowed to do as they please (Sigmund Freud preached this). But if people can turn their minds and souls into moral pigpens they will have to face external restraint, which means, drumroll  please!, expanding the power of government! Freedom means more government to Liberals, and they relish the death of the concept of free will as the road to their power.

3. If our genes determine our thoughts and behavior then eugenics is justified. The enlightened have an excuse to tamper with our breeding patterns to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative (apologies to Johnny Mercer)

In regards to these points, consider George Bernard Shaw replied to Francis Galton‘s Eugenics -- Its Scope and Aims thus:

“What we must fight for is freedom to breed the race without being hampered by the mass of irrelevant conditions implied in the institution of marriage. If our morality is attacked, we can carry the War into the enemy's country by reminding the public that the real objection to breeding by marriage is that marriage places no restraint on debauchery as long as it is monogamic, whereas eugenic breeding would effectually protect the mothers and fathers of the race from any abuse of their relations. As to the domestic and sympathetic function of marriage, or even its selfishly sexual function, we need not interfere with that. What we need is freedom for people who have never seen each other before, and never intend to see one another again, to produce children under certain definite public conditions, without loss of honor. That freedom once secured, and the conditions defined, we have nothing further to say in the matter until the necessarily distant time when the results of our alternative method of recruiting will be able to take the matter in hand themselves, and invite the world to reconsider its institutions in the light of experiments, which must, of course, in the meantime run concurrently with the promiscuity of ordinary marriage.”

Eugenics is, I am convinced, the reason why the elites of both parties want our borders wide open; they want to breed us like cattle, to make us more pliable. (See my article on the matter here) The idea is to breed out those ugly American characteristics like individualism, self-reliance, Judeo-Christian morality and the like. The Left firmly believes people are hard-wired, and so they seek to breed these more disagreeable American characteristics out by importing a large new breeding stock.

And of course they have always hated our culture as well, and if they can bring enough aliens to this country then our inherently flawed system will fall.

Eugenics is at the root of abortion, of euthanasia, of Sandra Fluke's demand for free birth control, of gay marriage, and a host of other leftist causes.

All of this stems from the belief that we are slaves to our genes and neurons, and that free will is an illusion. Conservatives should think carefully about this; it is the very root of the Progressive Left's agenda. Are we free men, capable of charting our own destiny, or are we wards of the State, slaves to our bodies, men and women who must be governed by force of law? This is an absolutely critical issue. Our Founding Fathers believed the former, that Man can make a moral choice, and indeed must do so to remain Men. The Progressives promote the concept that we are mere beasts. The future will be decided by how this question is answered.

Read more from Tim at The Aviary

Contact him at bgoccia@outlook.com

There is a famous comparison made between Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. The more mystical types among us find the apparent similarities compelling evidence of some inscrutible fate, and much ink has been spilled (no doubt to buttress the legend of Kennedy, who was largely a failure as president.) Naturally, people focus on the coincidental similarities and ignore the huge differences; people naturally seek patterns, and when they find them they say "aha!" even if those patterns happen to mean nothing.

In a recent blog post at American Thinker the brilliant Rosslyn Smith falls into this trap, making the case that our DNA determines our fate to a large degree. She makes a compelling case, but I am forced to disagree; one should be cautious in confusing coincidence with fate. Smith cites two examples of "nature over nurture" -- one an incident where an adopted man was raised in a strictly religious family and rejected their faith, then met his birth father to find he was also an atheist and the other a case where a tornado chaser's illegitimate son shows up at his funeral and is also a tornado chaser. Eerie, maybe, but hardly proof that we are hardwired by our genes. Many people raised in strict religious families rebel by rejecting the faith in which they were raised, and there are enough atheists that the chances are quite good that an adopted son would find his birth father was also an atheist. As for the two meteorologists, was it not possible that this subject was interesting to the mother, who slept with the father because she interested him, and she passed along that interest to the son? Again, an amazing coincidence, but proof of genetic hardwiring?

Genetics undoubtedly does have an impact on life choices and interests -- and abilities. But the human brain is subject to enormous amounts of remodeling over time, with enormous changes to the neural pathways.

An infant's brain has a huge number of neurons, and a huge number of those neurons will die as the child grows. The surviving neurons establish fixed pathways that determine much of the personality and capabilities that will later be a part of who he or she is. But this is not immutable; neuroplasticity allows the brain of the individual to rewire itself, to change with need. In fact, there have been people who have had half of their brains removed and have gone on to live normal lives (no, I'm not talking about Democrats!) as their brains have simply rebuilt themselves. It used to be believed that the brain, once mature, was "hard-wired" and could not change, but work with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder patients has shown that people can rewire their brains just by thinking. Interestingly enough, the Bible pointed this out long ago "as a man thinketh, so shall he be". While there may be a genetic element to who we are, in the end we can control our own destiny.

What makes Man different from the animals is that he has free will.

Liberals hate free will, and have made war on the concept for decades. Free will means we are free moral agents, can choose which path to follow. The Left has downplayed this capability in Humanity for several reasons:

1. They hate to be constrained by moral, ethical, or religious restrictions and seek to justify whatever behavior they find pleasing, no matter how depraved. If a person can be said to be genetically predisposed to some action, be it criminal or deviant in other ways, then they are not to blame. It becomes a therapeutic matter rather than a legal or moral one. A pedophile is "born that way" for and cannot be held morally culpable for his actions (unless he is a Catholic priest). Being  genetically hardwired means never having to say you're sorry.

2. If free will is an illusion, then people really can't control themselves without great suffering and should be allowed to do as they please (Sigmund Freud preached this). But if people can turn their minds and souls into moral pigpens they will have to face external restraint, which means, drumroll  please!, expanding the power of government! Freedom means more government to Liberals, and they relish the death of the concept of free will as the road to their power.

3. If our genes determine our thoughts and behavior then eugenics is justified. The enlightened have an excuse to tamper with our breeding patterns to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative (apologies to Johnny Mercer)

In regards to these points, consider George Bernard Shaw replied to Francis Galton‘s Eugenics -- Its Scope and Aims thus:

“What we must fight for is freedom to breed the race without being hampered by the mass of irrelevant conditions implied in the institution of marriage. If our morality is attacked, we can carry the War into the enemy's country by reminding the public that the real objection to breeding by marriage is that marriage places no restraint on debauchery as long as it is monogamic, whereas eugenic breeding would effectually protect the mothers and fathers of the race from any abuse of their relations. As to the domestic and sympathetic function of marriage, or even its selfishly sexual function, we need not interfere with that. What we need is freedom for people who have never seen each other before, and never intend to see one another again, to produce children under certain definite public conditions, without loss of honor. That freedom once secured, and the conditions defined, we have nothing further to say in the matter until the necessarily distant time when the results of our alternative method of recruiting will be able to take the matter in hand themselves, and invite the world to reconsider its institutions in the light of experiments, which must, of course, in the meantime run concurrently with the promiscuity of ordinary marriage.”

Eugenics is, I am convinced, the reason why the elites of both parties want our borders wide open; they want to breed us like cattle, to make us more pliable. (See my article on the matter here) The idea is to breed out those ugly American characteristics like individualism, self-reliance, Judeo-Christian morality and the like. The Left firmly believes people are hard-wired, and so they seek to breed these more disagreeable American characteristics out by importing a large new breeding stock.

And of course they have always hated our culture as well, and if they can bring enough aliens to this country then our inherently flawed system will fall.

Eugenics is at the root of abortion, of euthanasia, of Sandra Fluke's demand for free birth control, of gay marriage, and a host of other leftist causes.

All of this stems from the belief that we are slaves to our genes and neurons, and that free will is an illusion. Conservatives should think carefully about this; it is the very root of the Progressive Left's agenda. Are we free men, capable of charting our own destiny, or are we wards of the State, slaves to our bodies, men and women who must be governed by force of law? This is an absolutely critical issue. Our Founding Fathers believed the former, that Man can make a moral choice, and indeed must do so to remain Men. The Progressives promote the concept that we are mere beasts. The future will be decided by how this question is answered.

Read more from Tim at The Aviary

Contact him at bgoccia@outlook.com