The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Like father like son?

I was musing today about why one kid grows up to be hugely successful and another grows up to be a waste of oxygen. Maybe that's putting it in extreme terms but it got your attention, didn't it?

We are animals, after all, and that means genetics makes a difference. But I don't think genetics is the final determining factor. Studies of twins are how we try to determine just how significant genetics play a part in our destiny. We have learned some interesting things about human genetics through those studies and seen some interesting results, especially on studies of twins separated at birth or near birth.

In the end, genes are not the determining factor in personality formation. They do seem to be the primary factor in physical attribute. Oh, there are anecdotal indications of a genetic influence, such as separated twins growing up to marry similar looking spouses and naming their children similarly, but these can be dismissed because there seems to be no constancy involved.

We forget, however, that children are raised by parents who, in most instances, share genes with the child. We cannot dismiss their influence during personality formation. What this means is that if Poppa is a criminal and the child becomes a criminal, it could be because of genetics or because the child was strongly influenced by Poppa's behavior.

My position has always been that genetics is the basic "blueprint" for personality but that environment supplies the details. If we continue with that analogy, think of the architect as the genetic influence and the the buyer and the builder as the "parents." The builder and the buyer influence how the house will look when completed, the architect provided the initial plans only. In other words, Poppa not only influenced the child but provided the genetic structure which the child used to filter the environment in which he was raised.

Let's say there's a gene (or, more likely, set of genes) for a quick temper as part of a child's makeup. Odds are that one, or both, parents also have that gene. That quick temper gene will encourage impulsive behavior and, perhaps, snap judgments. If his younger brother somehow avoids that gene and gets the "patience" gene carried by a distant aunt or uncle or grandparent, he will start with a different personality foundation. He will still be influenced by the temper gene of his parent and the one his brother has but it will be an environmental factor rather than a genetic one.

I find it odd that we accept genetics as a determinant factor in animals while dismissing it out of hand when it comes to humans. Well, we give lip service to that anyway. In reality, we accept it. That's why there are royal families, why there are political, sports, and business dynasties. And, of course, that old saw:

"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

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