Genetics: all good or some bad?

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Using genetics can be eminently useful. Take a gene that causes a major genetic disease, such as Wilson Disease, where too much copper builds up in a person's system, killing them usually due to organ failure. If someone knows that they are at risk for having children with this, or many other diseases carried on specific genes, they can find out if their child has that disease and, in many cases, help the child live a normal life. When we turn our look to psychology and genetics, however, problems begin to arise. If someone was found to have the gene for "novelty-seeking" or "impulsivity", they will be branded and probably have a hard time getting a job, a home, and healthcare. They could easily become outcasts of society because of one gene that may or may not affect them in an otherwise negative way. In fact, the personality trait for sensation seeking (which could be considered virtually the same as novelty seeking) can be expressed in two very different ways. Both prisoners and firefighters have this personality trait, but what's different is the way they express that personality trait. Mapping personality traits or other psychological traits onto genes and using that information to classify someone will make it much harder for many perfectly "normal" people have a hard time finding a reasonable place in society. DNA1.jpg

10 Comments

May I ask how one might make a child's life easier if the parents found out about a gene that caused a disease (I used to work in ob/gyn and have all too often seen this "info" used to decide what the parents wanted rather than a child and since I MAYBE saw the kid after it was born we luckily didn't have to see kids on a daily basis...deliver, f/u once or so and go away, our company moto hehe).

I think that looking at genetics can raise some ethical questions which is why it has been so hotly debated, just as the person above me was getting at too. If a parent finds out that their kid is going to have some disease or that they might have a gene that may end up being unfavorable, who says that they aren't going to abort the child? The question is where do you draw the line when using genetics? Should there be testing when the child is still in the womb and what should the parents be told? I know that everyone thinks that they wouldn't abort a child if the they knew the child would have a disease that would make it difficult to live but people aren't always as good as they think they are.

So just out of curiosity, how would you advocate for the use of genetics in everyday life? Where would you draw the lines? Would you actually want researchers to find out if they can map and discover all these disorders and traits, then have that passed on into the mainstream world? You seem to have slightly conflicting views, on the one hand you say that genetics should be used for determining disorders but on the other hand it seems as though you're against it because it could be detrimental to perfectly "normal" people.

Great blog. Obviously, these are some of the reasons why genetics is such a controversial area. As the comment above said, where do you draw the lines? How much can you say is being used for good, and how much for bad? It's all pretty much relative...each person is going to feel differently. Genetics could be very useful if used in an ethical and practical way. However, there are many extremists who would just take it too far. I think it will be a very long time, if ever, that genetics would be to the point of being used for extreme purposes...and this is probably for the best.

Wow, thats really something that prisoners and fire-fighters share a similar trait like that, it really takes the ideas you were writing about and gives them some real world birth. This kind of post makes me think about my genetic structure, and if i would really want to know all of my traits if they were broken down for me by some super scientist. Its extraordinary and interesting that we can learn so much about a person simply from their genetic structure. Great post.

A very interesting disease, yet very saddening as well. I never would have guessed that a prisoner and a fire-fighters personality traits were similar, but when you think of it in a sensational manner, it makes more sense. I could not imagine having a hard time finding a job, home, or healthcare, and there are people in the world that have to live with this. Great way to answer your title's question, very well given evidence.

Wow, the prisoner and fire-fighter personality trait is similar, that is very interesting. This reminds me that the most important for a person it is not just depend on his or her gene, but also his or her own behaviors. Seriously, there is not a clear definition for everything in this world, we can not just divide things by two, either good or bad.

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This page contains a single entry by phil0836 published on April 21, 2012 3:34 PM.

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