Determine to Oppose Determinism
Even secularists have trouble with books that promote the idea that we are what our genes make us.
“Genetic determinism rides again,” announces a book review in Nature. Nathaniel Comfort “questions a psychologist’s troubling claims about genes and behaviour.”
The book is: Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are , by Robert Plomin (Allen Lane, 2018). Comfort is troubled by this book:
It’s never a good time for another bout of genetic determinism, but it’s hard to imagine a worse one than this. Social inequality gapes [sic], exacerbated by climate change, driving hostility towards immigrants and flares of militant racism. At such a juncture, yet another expression of the discredited, simplistic idea that genes alone control human nature seems particularly insidious.
The hideous past of determinism, with its racism, wars and discrimination, should be a lesson to history. Comfort shows quite a list of misdeeds that were the fruit of this flawed idea. Nobody should believe in these days of epigenetics and pleiotropy that single genes determine traits such as intelligence.
The most troubling thing about Blueprint is its Panglossian DNA determinism. Plomin foresees private, direct-to-consumer companies selling sets of polygenic scores to academic programmes or workplaces. Yet, as this “incorrigible optimist” assures us, “success and failure — and credit and blame — in overcoming problems should be calibrated relative to genetic strengths and weaknesses”, not environmental ones. All is for the best in this best of brave new worlds.
Think of what can happen if science does not oppose the idea that brought us eugenics.
Ultimately, if unintentionally, Blueprint is a road map for regressive social policy. Nothing here seems overtly hostile, to schoolchildren or anyone else. But Plomin’s argument provides live ammunition for those who would abandon proven methods of improving academic achievement among socio-economically deprived children. His utopia is a forensic world, dictated by polygenic algorithms and the whims of those who know how to use them. People would be defined at birth by their DNA. Expectations would be set, and opportunities, resources and experiences would be doled out — and withheld — a priori, before anyone has had a chance to show their mettle.
To paraphrase Lewontin in his 1970 critique of Jensen’s argument, Plomin has made it pretty clear what kind of world he wants.
I oppose him.
And Nature apparently agrees.
Nature and Nathaniel Comfort sound mighty righteous here, but only by covering up the awful past of Darwinism. See Discovery Institute’s new film Human Zoos for the reality of what Darwinians believed, taught, and did. Jerry Bergman’s books The Darwin Effect and How Evolution Corrodes Morality will make you fightin’ mad about the evil fruit of Darwin’s deadly doctrine.
Always be a fruit inspector when you evaluate new ideas. Darwinism has the most rotten fruit in history. The Bible, correctly understood, has its goal as the “fruit of the spirit” — “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Wouldn’t that make for a better world? No law of nature can produce the fruit of the spirit. It is generated by abiding in Christ (John 15:1-11). The Holy Spirit tends the fruit in the lives of those who have committed their trust to Jesus the Son of God.