Can Genetics Dictate Our Personalities?


journal-geneticsBy: Kaala Harrilal 

Madam Adenine married Sir Thymine. Sir Guanine married Madam Cytosine. Two marriages forced together because of a hostile, miserable, old King’s decree. They had no say about which partner they would like to be with. Maybe Adenine wanted to be with Guanine, but their tragic love story had to end with Madam Adenine being paired with Sir Thymine. Maybe Madam Cytosine could not tolerate Sir Guanine, and they are only together to save their small village from starvation. No one had a say in who they would be marry. They made a compromise to live across from each other in separate rooms connected by a hallway. Surely the King did not anticipate that type of outcome. A message must was sent to immediately to the King.  


The King expected the original couples to deliver the news of their marriages, but no one wanted to go. They came up with an idea to duplicate themselves. The couples found duplicates within town who could pass for them; however, they needed to have a fake member in the group. The fake member was there to tell the difference between the groups. Sir Thymine got a new look and a new name. Sir Thymine became Sir Uracil. The new strand was assembled and sent to the King. The King approved of the message and decided to name the group “aggressive.” The King ordered more couples to be married and renamed. The “depressed,” “introvert,” “over-achiever” and more groups were created.


The King decided each group will take on a personality trait to define the kingdom before it could create itself. Was that fair? Was it fair for a kingdom to be defined before their actions could define them? Was it fair for the King to predetermine the self-worth of a kingdom? You can be the judge of the ethical standards being predefined by someone else. Like the kingdom, we are also defined by a being that we cannot control.


We are living organisms and are made up of a genetic code. We inherited this from our parents, and they inherited from theirs. Our personalities are defined within our DNA, and our DNA can tell more about us than we already know.


What is Genetics?


If the fairytale of DNA did not enlighten you about the makeup of genetics, then you may favor a scientific approach.


Genetics is “the study of the patterns of inheritance of specific traits, relating to genes and genetic information,” according to Biology Online. Behavioral genetics is the field that specifically studied the behavior of genetics.


According to Science Daily, genetic code is a set of rules by which information is encoded in genetic materials (DNA or RNA sequences) by living cells.


Our basic DNA strand is created into a double-helix strand that is held together by hydrogen bonds. The basic make up of a DNA strand consists of phosphate, deoxyribose sugar and one out of four nucleotide bases. Within the nucleotide there are two bases. The purine bases adenine (A) and guanine (G), which are larger and have two aromatic rings. The pyrimidine bases cytosine (C) and thymine (T), and they are smaller and have one aromatic ring. The DNA and RNA strand are made up by the same components, but thymine (T) is replaced by uracil (U), and the deoxyribose is replaced by a ribose.


Think of DNA as a puzzle. Every piece, no matter where the round part of piece is, it has a predestined place. The completed puzzle will tell a tale of how the individual is made up and what type of person they will become. How did the study of related genetics to behavior start?             


How Does Genetics Relate to Behavior?


According to an interview in The Telegraph, Professor Timothy Bates “ The role family and the environment around the home often dominated people’s idea about what affected psychological [well being]. However, this work highlights a much more powerful influence from genetics.” said  The idea is that a force drives our beliefs and actions and threatens our idea of free will.


Scientists believe there is a gene for everything, according to Julian Baggini, a journalist from The Guardian. In prior years, Professor Tim Spector studied identical twins at King’s College in London. His experiment compared a set of identical and fraternal twins and their sensitivities to illnesses. He wanted to understand the genetic roots from their environmental influences.


Spector wanted to explain a popular Facebook post about a pair of twins. If you have not seen or heard about the post, here is the story of the post.


Two twin sons grew up in the same house with an alcoholic father. One of the twins noticed the destructive behavior of their father and did not want to go down the same path. He stayed clean, went to business school and became a successful businessman. The other twin did not go down the same successful path. He ended up like their father. He became an alcoholic and had no job. He was not like his brother. How did his life become so different? Why did the first twin have a different life than the other twin? Was it the environment or was it his genetics? If it was genetics, then why did the second twin inherit the negative traits and not his brother?


Spector’s research wanted to explain the linkage between behavioral attributes and genes. The twin may have wanted to explain certain uncontrollable outcomes and wanted to shift blame to an unknown being than rather himself. Shortly after Spector released his claim, it was disproved. Spector’s claim was still considered in behavioral science.    


Researchers, like Spector, conducted experiments in order to bridge the gap.  

After Spector’s claim, then came the Human Genome Project. The Human Genome Project decoded an individual’s set of genes.


The National Human Genome Research Institute defines the Human Genome Project as “the international, collaborative research program whose goal was the complete mapping and understanding of all the genes of human beings.” The Human Genome Project revealed about 20,500 human genes. The product of the Human Genome Project established detailed information about the structure, organization and function about the complete set of human genes.     


The Human Genome Project created a linkage between the sequence of the bases in our genome’s DNA, through which inherited traits can be tracked over generations.   


If the Human Genome Project and Spector’s claim both related our genetic make up to inherited traits, then what? Do we get a “get out of jail” card? Would the unsuccessful-alcoholic twin blame his genes for his misfortunate life? If he did blame his genes, then that sounds like blaming an unknown being rather than accepting responsibility for his mistakes. Are we alright with an unknown-being defining us or is it another way to shift the blame away from us?  
If we accept that DNA can define us, then does that mean can blame our DNA for our personality? We also do not have to be controlled by it. We make us who we are and we are the ones in control according to DNA or not. We still have the ability to go against the path that is in front of us. It is up to us to shape our personality and life that we want, but we have to take responsibility for the life we create.    


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