Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Don't Get Your Neurons in a Bunch

For some reason or accumulation of coincidences, I have been hearing a lot about scientific studies that attempt to explain individual behavior and predilections at the atomic level. The NYTimes reported a study on undecided voters and how their brains were stimulated by photos and videos of the candidates. And apparently there is a growing concern, now that we've mapped the Human Genome (a project which initially hoped to show how similar we all are), there are reports which prove that different races and ethnic groups are, in fact, not created equal. I tend to shrug these findings off. They are intriguing studies, to say the least, but they remain lacking, in my eyes -- for in science's desire to master the inner cosmos of our minds, it blinds itself to the actuality that in the end, we still reserve the power to lead ourselves to our fates, or at least be led by the world around us.

Hamlet once said, "There is a divinity that doth shape our ends/Rough hew them as we will." Now Hamlet, unfortunately was a character in a play and subject to the whims of his author/creator -- or in his words -- "a divinity". Luckily for us non-fictional heroes and heroins, we remain to a degree the authors of our own narratives. This is not to disregard the lot we are born into or the trials we face along the way through no fault of our own. What I'm trying to say is that our genetic makeup is not to us what Hamlet's "divinity" was to him. Each of us can overachieve or fall short of expectations (based on looks, intelligence, wealth, etc.); identical twins have free will to be a odds with one another. Or, in other words, a clone by any other name could turn out to be a completely different me. In fact, I might not like the guy altogether (personal note: my clone's a real jerk).

So, whether the controversial arguments in a book like The Bell Curve prove true -- and it turns out that East Asians are smarter than the rest of us, from a genetic standpoint -- it will end up being because they have a much better education system that they will bump us out of the number one slot. Whether I'm supposed to be attracted to a certain type of woman, I might end up with what could only objectively be called a dog, because the woman might be hilarious, or maybe I was just really vulnerable when we first met and my standards had gone way way down and I hadn't had steady work for a while and didn't feel good about that...

Basically, I don't like people telling me how it is, or worse, how I am supposed to be. And no matter what geographical and ethnic backgrounds we come from, or genetic schisms that divide us, we still retain the right to choose to be our own selves, each trying to shape our own ends together.