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rojo's avatar

What are your thoughts regarding predisposition and pre-determination in human behavior?

Asked by rojo (23835points) February 11th, 2014

This article by Chris Renzo argues that having a genetic predisposition for something does not mean that you are pre-determined to have or do said thing. Some scientists have indicated that social factors, the environment in which we are born and raised, can influence or determine which genes are expressed.
What are your thoughts on whether or not having a predisposition can, or is, used as a cop-out or justification for inaction and that it is society that is instrumental in breeding violence not genes?

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7 Answers

KNOWITALL's avatar

Good article, thanks. I think that the author is correct and the genetic predetermination argument is a cop-out.

Am I an alcoholic because it runs on both sides of my family? Not at all, I rarely drink at all.

I loved that he stressed good parenting, too, I don’t think people take that as seriously as they should.

Berserker's avatar

Yeah I don’t know enough about this stuff to make a good answer, but, pretty much, this; the environment in which we are born and raised, can influence or determine which genes are expressed.

Although this does assume that we are born with all the same genes, OR that everyone is born with a certain set of genes, and some of those are ’‘dormant’’ until triggered by something specific?
This is some stupid thing I’ve heard before, but it always stayed with me…the murder gene. Say you’re born into poverty and you live in the ghetto and shit, and you have this gene, then you become some thug shooting people and crap.
But say you were born into a rich environment and went to big schools, you might become a surgeon or a dentist. An acceptable way to express the murder gene by slicing people open or yanking out their teeth.

Seems completely ridiculous for a theory, but it might explain why there are a certain type of people in all sorts of environments, whereas some people think certain types of folk can only come from a certain type of environement? Just seems like retarded generalizing to me, but it was in the paper like 10 years ago. Lol. Or are there sub genes which dictate the methods a potential killer prefers to use? Firearms as opposed to knives, or blunt objects? OR do murder genes depend on the REASON why one would commit murder? (I’d wager on that last one more, unless the whole thing is some kind of obsession or fetish)

I have a hard time believing this is true, and instead of genes, I point at human nature, but eh…those are genes, I suppose. It is not clear to me whether society and culture suppress urges, or only help fan them out. Either way, we adapt, so it’s always present in some shape or another.

Whatever the answer is, I really don’t think that if your dad was a serial killer, that you will become one. I think one’s environment and one’s emotional perception of it creates a big part of one’s personality. Then again there are things that can be passed down which create the personality, like say a mental disorder that runs in the family. But the disorder is otherwise the only direct link into personality shaping, rather than what said disorder did to your parents shaping inside you.

Or maybe it can be more complicated, say all your family is an alcoholic, doesn’t mean you will be. Doesn’t work like that, however psychological dispositions that lead to alcoholism can be present…like your family, perhaps when shit hits the fan, your reaction is to drink. But the alcoholism itself, on a physical level is not passed down.

Now I’m not saying only people in the ghetto become murderers and stuff, certainly not, as this can be totally proven false, but I do believe a strong part of what makes somebody is their environment, rather than what they are born with.

@KNOWITALL makes a fine point too. Parenting goes a loooong way I say, wherever it is you come from or what you are when you’re born.

zenvelo's avatar

Genetic predisposition is an explanation not an excuse. There is a big difference. A genetic underpinning does not absolve one of responsibility to address the problems that arise in one’s life.

There is also new research done on factors that can overcome genetic predisposition. There is evidence that certain factors can awaken cellular genetics that are related to cellular growth at the blastocyte stage that may cause cancer. What the research demonstrates is that cellular level genetics may be awakened to overcome other predispositions.

There is a strong link in my family background to show why I am an alcoholic. But I still had to get sober despite it, or else I was going to die or end up separated from society.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@zenvelo Good for you, brother, be strong! You ever need support you PM me. :)

Cruiser's avatar

I believe that all human man/woman are hardwired, to hunt, fight and kill to survive. That is how we got to where we are. And it was only a few thousand years ago that we had to do this to survive and certainly no where near enough time to evolve away those instinctive fight or flight, kill or be killled genes.

Now as a modern and purported civilized societies we have laws and consequences that are designed to keep the peace and people in control of their desires and this innate ability to attack and kill at the flip of the switch.

We are taught by our peers proper moral behavior and how to make proper and moral decisions. Thanks to the increasing pressures of a modern society and multi media bombardent of all things less than civil, that primordial instinct it tickled and titillated on a daily even hourly basis and the challenge is even greater to resist the urge to go primal on the guy taking forever in the checkout lane.

What I see happening is less effort being given to adolescent on developing coping skills, social etiquette and lessons in morality and we now are putting out generations of overly stimulated and both under and over medicated kids who are really not emotionally and mentally prepared to function correctly in this modern society. My son went suicidal a year ago, last night we were on the phone with his girlfriend who was threatening to turn her insulin pump all the way up to end her life. This was in our opinion due to drastically un regulated meds she is on and blood sugar highs and lows. Also as a Scout Adult leader on one campout I was designated the adult in charge of medicine for the kids who take it and I was given a laundry basket full of prescriptions mostly clonidine and Prozac.

thorninmud's avatar

There’s also the factor of “executive control”, the function of the brain that enforces impulse control. This is a plastic function; it can be developed by exercise, and can be improved at any age. Many studies have pointed to this faculty as being one of the best predictors of success and well-being in adults. It’s centered in the prefrontal cortex, which isn’t fully wired into the rest of the brain until early adulthood.

If our behavior weren’t regulated by your executive function faculties, we’d all be beastly boors with criminal records. A healthy executive function checks all of the urges generated by the more primitive parts of the brain and stifles the ones it knows will get us into trouble, or aren’t in our best interest.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Predisposition and the presence of certain external factors still does not amount to predetermination. It still depends on choices the person makes.

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