“Do These Genes Make Me Look Fat?”

 
This just in:

The post below was three years in the making.  All of the following headlines were spotted on my daily rounds in the MSM.  I didn't specifically hunt down any of them just for the post.

I didn't need to.
    


      
In his excellent novel Next, the late Michael Crichton takes on the subject of genetics, and how badly our courts are prepared for the upcoming legal battles, and how much misinformation the public is being given.

A quote:

Speaking in Washington at a noon briefing for congressmen, Professor William Garfield of the University of Minnesota said, "Despite what you hear, nobody has ever proven a single gene causes a single human behavioral trait.  Some of my colleagues believe such associations may eventually be found.  Others don't think it will ever happen, that the interaction of genes and the environment is just too complex.  But, in any case, we see reports of new genes for this or that in the papers every day, and none of them has ever proven true in the end."

"What are you talking about?" said the aide to Senator Wilson.  "What about the gay gene, that causes gayness?"

"A statistical association.  Not causal.  No gene causes sexual orientation."

"What about the violence gene?"

"Not verified in later research."

"A sleep gene was reported…"

"In rats."

"The gene for alcoholism?"

"Didn't hold up."

"What about the diabetes gene?"

"So far," he said, "we've identified ninety-six genes involved in diabetes.  We'll undoubtedly find more."

There was a stunned silence.  Finally, one aide said, "If no gene has been shown to cause behavior, what is all the fuss about?"

Professor Garfield shrugged.  "Call it an urban legend.  Call it a media myth.  Blame public education in science.  Because the public certainly believes that genes cause behavior.  It seems to make sense.  In reality, even hair color and height are not simple traits fixed by genes.  And conditions like alcoholism certainly aren't."

     
As with global warming, the core problem is that the mainstream media has decided that the science is already settled.  You'll notice we never saw headlines that read, "Scientists On Verge Of Genetic Breakthrough".

It was suddenly just…

Are you a fat, lonely, sleepy, diabetic, fearful transsexual smoker?  Well, don't worry about it.  You can't help it.  It's all part of your genetic makeup and is beyond your control.

Why fight destiny?
 

What's that?  You got married?  Well, congratulations!  And just think how easy it'll be raising a kid in tomorrow's world with this kind of help:

Now all you have to do is figure out what "natural benchwarmer" means.

Your wife blames you for your son failing the test, of course.  Do you have any professional athletes in your immediate family?  No?  Then obviously she's right.  It's genetically your fault the kid's a wimp and her divorce lawyer is going to have a field day with you.

Besides, you didn't really think that marriage was going to last, did you?  At least, not after you found out the real root of the problem.

And you're not thinking of spending any time with your kids after the divorce, are you?  Well, what if your soon-to-be ex-wife has your DNA tested and the…

So much for getting to see the kids.  Sorry, buddy, but you just tested positive for The Ruthlessness Gene.  A representative of the court will be in touch.
  

What's that?  You're worried that, without dual parental guidance, your 13-year-old daughter might soon be having sex?

Bah!

If you've learned anything from this post, it's that the issue is clearly out of your hands.

And hers.

 
Okay, so what about legal issues?  Let's say you decide to exercise your right to free speech and promptly burn down the local community church.  One hundred and seventeen people die including thirty-two children.

No problem!

You simply turn to the judge and say your…

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury," solemnly intones your lawyer.  "Have we really come to the point where we're going to imprison an innocent man for doing something he couldn't help but do?  Something that his genes made him do?  Something that might happen to you or me at any minute, and all because of our DNA?  I ask again, are we really going to imprison a man for doing something his DNA drove him to do in the first place?  Something he couldn't help?  Here (slamming fist on jury box railing), in America?"

"Not guilty!"

Given the argument, who could decide differently?
 

What's that?  The above is completely fanciful and would never, ever happen?

Well, perhaps you're right.  At least, not here in America.

At least, not yet.

 
But hold on a sec.  Okay, we've got food and booze and smokes and pain and fear and emotions and all the rest covered, but aren't we forgetting something?

Yes!

Whew!  I knew it wasn't me!
 

Ah, but I know what you're thinking.  You're not a fat, lonely, sleepy, diabetic, fearful transsexual smoker.  You're not having problems with horror flicks, horrible pain or horrific marriages.  And, on top of that, you're a pretty good driver!

So what have you got to worry about, right?

Did you read the blurb at the bottom?  See the "mental fitness" part?

Now consider what happens when the word "Office" in the above headline is replaced with the word "Job".

Still not worried?

What if you test just slightly positive for the Mental Unfitness Gene?
 

Update, two weeks later:

Well, that didn't take long.

Now let's hope you don't test positive for the To Be Determined Gene.

               
Well, I know this is kind of a depressing post, but take heart.  One day someone will invent a home DNA test so we'll be able to find out what we're afraid of, what we're good and bad at, whether or not we should smoke or grow fat or consider a sex change operation, how likely it is our teenage daughter will get pregnant, which sport our son should try out for regardless of his own feelings, and, for that matter, what our opinion should be on all important matters.

Oh, wait!

We're saved!
  


         
Update:

Speaking of various to be determined genes, the above was written a few years ago.  Proving that our esteemed geneticists are still hard at work, these have drifted in since then:

And, best of all…

Whew!  I knew it wasn't me!