Are We More Than Our Genes? That’s the spring focus of the Sinai and Synapses Discussion Forum. Each week, we’ll gather some of the most interesting articles on the topic from across the online world. We hope they make you think — and share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.
From the Garden of Eden to the modern metaphors of genetic fate and “hardwired” brains, the concept of human nature has long been associated with bad behaviour. It conjures images of animal desires held in check by flimsy civilization, and is typically brought up when people have given in to primitive passions and done things they should not do. Conveniently, it is almost impervious to moral objections because human nature is, by definition, natural. This supposedly basic ugliness of human nature is a persistent idea, and modern expressions have mapped neatly onto the ancient Biblical notion of the Fall, in which God’s salvation is offered to people who are by nature sinful. (Joseph Brean, National Post)
A recent, provocative study has the potential to help improve our ability to identify children who are likely to need extra support in school. But it can also, if not read carefully, distract us from important issues that have nothing to do with genetics. (Pacific Standard Magazine)
The similarities we share with chimps on a genetic level can tell us a lot about how humans evolved to look and act so differently than even our closest relations. (Helen Thompson, Smithsonian.com)
As adults, our sense of justice is based on learned rules and norms; we wield punishment as a deterrent and a form of revenge. But “in young children, it seems that we start with the pro-social aspect of [justice],” University of Manchester’s Keith Jensen says, starting “with the concern we have for the individual who’s harmed. Those other aspects of justice then become layered on top of that.” (Kate Wheeling, Pacific Standard)
Clay Farris Naff: Unless you are prepared to be a bigot, you cannot say what gender Caitlyn Jenner should or should not be. You cannot invoke God or the history of women’s oppression to render judgment on how she should choose to express her identity as a transgender woman. Whatever genetic or social influences brought her to this moment, the choice of how to be Caitlyn Jenner is hers to make. No freedom could be more fundamental. (The Huffington Post)
Many couples facing fertility problems turn to the assisted reproduction industry for help – the rise in the number of people seeking in vitro solutions has resulted in an increasingly large number of frozen embryos (as many as one million) being stored across the nation. These frozen embryos occupy an ill-defined space: they are not clearly human, nor clearly not human. Couples don’t always agree about the moral and legal status of the embryo, where life begins, and how religion enters into it. (Kaitlyn Schaeffer, Global Bioethics Initiative)
In 2009, the New York Times Magazine published an article by Singer titled ‘Why We Must Ration Health Care.’ In the article Singer spoke hypothetically of assigning a life with quadriplegia as roughly half that of a life without any disability at all. On this basis, Singer laid out a case for denying health care to people with significant disabilities on the basis that these lives have less value than the lives of nondisabled people. A response signed by 20 disability rights organizations was submitted to the magazine, criticizing the decision to seek out Singer as an analyst of healthcare. (PRWeb)