Wednesday, March 25

Are You Genetically Predisposed to Being Mugged?

I have talked a little in the past about the interactions between genes and the environment (see Can Your Genes Tell You Who You Are? or Unnatural Selection), and here is a great post on a similar subject discussing heritability of personality traits that may cause us to seek a particular environment over another.

I think this is extremely interesting. I mean, I was aware that some people have a predisposition to violence, but had never thought about predisposition to being a victim of violence - but now that I have, it really does make some sense (From The Wild Side):

Last Monday, Nicholas Hughes, son of poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, killed himself. His mother was one of the world’s most famous suicides, and news stories have mentioned the tendency of suicide and depression to run in families. But this tragic inheritance is just part of a more complex story in which our lives are shaped by genes, environment — and unexpected connections between the two.

Much more than depression is partly inherited. Here’s a weirder fact: the genes you get from your parents partly determine your risk of being mugged. So do genes dictate our fate? Of course not — but they do have a say in who we become.

We tend to think of the environment as something that just happens to us, but in fact animals actively seek out surroundings that are compatible with their genetic predispositions. Teenagers in the chess club choose to be exposed to different influences from their hockey-player counterparts. Such differences don’t even have to be voluntary: tall kids may be picked more often for the basketball team and end up better at the game because they have more opportunities to develop their skills.

Certain people are much more likely than others to be exposed to stressful life experiences, including specific traumas like car accidents, industrial injuries or being a crime victim. Some of this variation is traceable to genetics. Read more...

An aside for those of you in Comm 3600:

In class today we discussed this quote from Michel Foucault:

...(T)he body is also directly involved in a political field; power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs.

While professor Joseph was likely trying to invoke discussion regarding the influence of culture/environment on our biology (diet, etc.) - this post illustrates that not only does our environment influence our biology, but that our genetics can influence our environment.

So it goes something like this: the environment (culture, economic class, etc.) into which we are born has influence on our biology, but at a certain age we have the opportunity to decide our environment (at least somewhat) - and the environment we choose is predisposed by our genetics.

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