Nature Vs. Nurture
There is much debate in the scientific community these days about what our genes can really tell us about ourselves. Some think that our environment plays a large role in how we look, what we enjoy, and what we end up doing with our lives. Others believe that our genes determines almost everything we do.
James Watson, leader of the Human Genome Project, claimed: “In large measure, our fate is in our genes.”
That may be true for many of our physical and biological traits, but not to worry. You do still have some freedom to make choice in your life. Even if those choices are… less than ideal.
Here is a list of 10 things that even James Watson cannot cure with advanced gene therapy.
1. Body Modification is NOT Genetic
Believe it or not, there are dozens of ways to modify the human body. In fact, you probably know someone whose body has been modified in some way. Know anyone with breast implants, or body piercings, or both? (If so, have her email me!)
Body modification has actually been a practice in many cultures for hundreds if not thousands of years. Recently it has expanded into the West in the form of piercings, tongue slicing, and surgically implanted horns, spikes, and other anomalies.
And for those of you for whom tattoos are not permanent enough, there is even scarification, although I think all of these modifications would produce scars of some kind.
2. Mullets are NOT Genetic
This is a controversial topic as mullets are still prevalent in many retro cultural communities, leading many researchers to consider if the rate of mullets in a particular area might have a genetic cause. This fact is doubly concerning to genetic researchers because mullets do appear to be passed on from parents to children.
However, as of now no conclusive evidence has been shown that a mullet gene might exist, so we must currently conclude with the rest of the scientific community that some people actually cut their hair that way on purpose.
3. Beauty is NOT Genetic
The topic of women and the way they look is so powerful it fills volumes of books, magazines, and men’s locker rooms, and it appears that the topic will never be exhausted.
When we see a beautiful woman, we often say or think that she has great genes. That is a completely fallacy. Why? Because we are not judging that woman based on her genetic ability to reproduce, we are judging her on the modern social standards of beauty.
The standards of beauty change all the time, especially in fashion. What was incredibly beautiful 10 years ago may be laughable now. Even today culture to culture the differences can be dramatic. Western culture believes thin, angular women are more attractive, whereas other cultures prefer women with thick round body shapes – completely the opposite!
The desire to reproduce is, of course, genetic, but the definition of beauty which you have accepted that triggers the attraction is almost entirely socially created, and it is changing every day. To prove this, just look at photos of “attractive” people from your parents’ generation and take note of your reaction to them. Just a single generation can have drastically different versions of feminine beauty.
4. Bodybuilding is NOT Genetic
They call them genetic freaks. Men with muscles the size of my head, and heads the size of my torso (see Barry Bonds). Their arms are nearly 2 feet in circumference, and their body fat percentages are in the single digits. Surely a body structure like this must be genetic in origin…
This is wrong. They should be called hormonal freaks. The anabolic steroids used by bodybuilders in order to stimulate extreme muscle growth mimic the effects of testosterone in the body, which promotes protein synthesis, reduces the ability of cortisol to break down muscle tissue, and even increases bone growth. It has nothing to do with the individual’s genes. Steroids make muscles grow, period.
Where the “sport” aspect of bodybuilding comes in is in making the growth of those muscles symmetrical and at an ideal aesthetic ratio for the human body. Arnold Schwarzenegger is often credited as the first man who perfected the human physique during his time as the Mr. Olympia World Bodybuilding Champion. He has admitted to steroid use, but he claims it wasn’t for muscle growth, it was for maintenance during off training periods. With an ability to spin words like that, he later become a politician.
5. Birthmarks are NOT Hereditary
Ok, this one is a bit tricky. Birthmarks are genetic, but they are NOT hereditary. In other words, birthmarks are not passed down from parent to child. In that sense they are not genetic traits that move from generation to generation.
However, birthmarks have been shown to have both genetic and non genetic causes. Scientists for the most part aren’t really sure what causes birthmarks. We do know that some birthmarks are caused by genetic mutations during the development of the fetus.
Sturge–Weber syndrome, which is related to port wine stains (PWS birthmarks) marks on the face, like the famous birthmark on ex-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, has been shown to be caused by a genetic mutation after conception. The stains are caused by the malformation of capillaries in the skin. The genetic mutation weakens these capillaries to the point that blood “stains” the skin.
So far, however, this is the only kind of birthmark for which a specific genetic cause has been found, and other vascular birthmarks are assumed not to be hereditary.
Some sources say 80% of babies are born with a birthmark, but most fade away by adolescence.