predisposed -v- learnt

Roger Thomas thomasr at
Sun Dec 8 18:20:12 EST 1996

In article <x6spycBTKsrW089yn at>, 
parker0 at (Paul Parker) writes:
> In article <1996Dec4.082357 at topaz>,
> thomasr at (Roger Thomas) wrote:

P>>>> How much of an individuals behaviour is an inherited genetic 
>>>>> predisposition at birth, how much is from culture - what is learnt 
>>>>> after birth ?  
>>>>> Links between culturally modified predispostions are being found.
P>> We can leave this issue - we can all learn bad habits, more as this 
>>> is not relevant directly to the issues raised below. 
R>Except I'd comment that in a family where all members are raised
>>under the same circumstances there are often *marked* differences
>>in behaviour/disposition.
> No denial here !
> Studies attempted over the years with twins, triplets etc were reported 
> as producing some odd findings re commonality of behaviour, lifestyles 
> and perhaps shared emotions/pain.  Whether these reportedly present 
> aspects were supported by the actual findings in the studies I do not
> know...
P>> Sorry as not clear enough.  My concern was not serotonin levels 
>>> influencing a persons behaviour or predisposition to particular - for
>>> example aggressive, behaviour.  
>>> Was reflecting on the debate re race, the usual derogatory comments 
>>> over certain behaviours being normal - or at the time being abnormal,  
>>> for people of a particular race. 

R>Realised that.   'Dour Scot' etc (why wouldn't you be dour if you 
>>had to live in that climate! :-)

P>> In our discussions on racial issues we have dodged questions :
>>> 	1)  	whether exists genetic identifiers for race;
P>> 	2)	whether such gentic identifier - if exist,  might be 
>>> 		linked to any behavioural characteristic;
P>> 	3)	whether any genetic identifier should be linked to
>>> 		rights of individuals;
R>NO way.
> We allow this sort of logic to apply to various ways;  Such as for
> insurance where we see the persons own risk levels reflected in the 
> premiums they pay;  Examples of third party compulsory insurance 
> for cars, or,  insurance against professional liability claims.   
> Another topical area is the rising cost of medical insurance here in 
> Australia and whether our one levy all be covered fees structure 
> should continue.  
> If we demonstrate persons with particular genetic identifiers have
> predispositions - greater risks,  of something occuring then can we 
> levy a premium or impose a higher standard in duty of care for this
> higher risk ?

No.   Be impossible practically and ignores modification by culture/
education/etc  to otherwise 'instinctive' (genetic) behavior.   At 
best it would be a first guess.

P>> IF we accept that in genetic terms there exists an identifier for 
>>> race we can not deny it is possible to have existing a genetic 
>>> link between race and behaviour.
>>> IF we accept that in genetic terms there might exist genetic 
>>> links between race and behaviour can we deny the funds to
>>> persons wishing to study in this area ?
R>I'd have no problem with that, but that is a damn sight different 
>>from characterising a racial behavior on the basis of simple 
>>observation, given that the observation is coloured by culture, 
>>as is the behaviour being observed.
> Observation is coloured by culture, culture is learnt while genetics
> are inherited - though recent news suggest post-natal modifications
> for genetically inherited problems are becoming possible.
> I accept the difference between the perception by others as to 
> someones race and the presence - if any exist, of particular 
> genetic identifiers for race.
> Strongly I argue persons should not have their rights qualified on 
> the basis of racial determinations, regardless of whether such 
> determinations are accurate or otherwise.   


> IF we find exist any genetic inheritable identifiable links between
> race and undesirable behaviours, from then we would need accept
> as possible - no longer so readily call false or inaccurate, peoples 
> perceptions re such characteristics and deny addressing such 
> issues on racial lines.
> The thought of where do we go then, after accepting the existance 
> of genetic identifiers for race, after accepting the existance of 
> genetic identifiers for behaviour, after having to accept the 
> existance of links between these, it is the then where do we go 
> that does frighten me.

Why?    It's already being done on the basis of folklore anyway.
You simply make appropriate allowances when dealing with someone 
from a group which is characterised in a particular way, if it's
necessary at the time.   Eg the dour Scot mentioned earlier.  If 
you're dealing with a Scot and they seem particularly stern and 
obstinate, you automatically make excuses for them on the basis
that it's the behaviour expected.   If they *aren't* dour then
the question of automatic excuses for them doesn't arise.   I 
can't see the problem...    Unless you're suggesting behaviour
*can't* be modified by culture!

> Have any studies on genetic identification for race been recently 
> undertaken in Australia or elsewhere ?  The genome project ? 
> Have any studies on genetic links to behavioural disorders been 
> recently undertaken in Australia ?  Or elsewhere ? 
> If so are any of the reports available on the web ?

(Not my field so I can't help here...)

P>> Should we allow any such public morality on these issues to 
>>> restrict what now seems to be application of reasonable scientific 
>>> investigation of the issue  ?

R>I would have thought public morality was better served by careful,
>>repeatable scientific study than by ignoring possibilities.
> There is little disagreement here, such an approach is essential.
> The difficulty is in becoming prepared to even look at the possibility
> anecdotes have some scientifically verifiable basis to them.   
> The esterone yams in PNG story comes to mind, as does the ridicule 
> given for so long to acupuncture.

'Folklore' often has some truth in it - but that doesn't mean it's
100% accurate, either.
R>>>A possible further step may be manipulation of genetic material so
>>>>'normal' levels are maintained automatically by the individual.
P>> I have seen occasional reports on such work, however I had not 
>>> followed these up in any depth,  so just recall them as interesting
>>> areas of research - but not mine, at the time.  
>>> Manipulation of genetic material we now do often, perhaps with little 
>>> reflection on the wider issues concerning why we are doing such 
>>> research and just where are we going with it.  
R>It's not my field, but my impression is that is not the case.   The 
>>ethical justification for such studies seems to be very rigorous,
>>prolonged and well documented - and this is a requirement for the 
>>work to *commence*.
> Accept the word "often" is possibly a little strong, yet given such 
> work has become far more common, no longer so headlinish,  whilst  
> is seen to be increasingly important in farming related industries was
> not so bad.
> Actions of ethics committees are important.
> Whilst these might be done if this is away from the public, away from 
> being widely reported - widely discussed, for all to see and to consider 
> the ethical issues that arise perhaps we all fail a little.

P>> Are we walking along a cliff face studying articles in the newspaper 
>>> rather than where we are walking to ?
R>'Course we are!   We've collectively been doing that since the 
>>year 'dot'. :-)
> Sometimes we seem lead by those looking forward who forget to
> look back for checking we are all still together;  Other times by those 
> looking back who forget to look forward so not seeing the precipice we
> approach or where the road will take us;  Even worse when we are 
> lead by the committee so busy arguing over what to decide it looks in 
> neither direction and we really get lost.  

P>> Have any of the ethics commitees examining and deciding related 
>>> matters - and the allocation of grants, released any discussion papers 
>>> on their approaches to the issues involved ? 
R>See above.  The documentation relating to ethical requirements
>>for research involving biological tissue seems fat and happy - 
>>at least at this uni.  I doubt the committees would automatically
>>reject any application for race-based research on the grounds 
>>that it *was* race-based, provided all other requirements
>>were met.

> Is the documentation on the ethical requirements available, and in
> a readable by common citizen format  ?

I'd expect so - anyone in a biology dept at any uni should be able 
to dig up the docs on request - as would the medical research
centres and vet schools etc.
R>>>When they've finished tinkering with that one maybe someone will start
>>>>work on a way to increase melanin levels in the skin of white people
>>>>who live in the tropics - so we can cut down on the skin cancers.
P>> As could reduce the health budget studies here might even be funded ;-)
R>Too late for me, though - I'll just have to keep on having 'em
>>chopped out :-(
> One of the discussions I heard/read [sorry the home boss cleaned up] about 
> this serotonin work commented re work - undertaken or needing to be 
> undertaken [?], on Melanin and skin cancer prevention.  May have been 
> just an Australian angle for the story.
> Certainly given the cost within Australia from skin cancer work in this 
> area likely would be supported.

P>> Again, the question is can we now say with any certainty that race 
>>> can not be linked to behavioural disorders genetically, or must we
>>> admit the possibility of such a link ?

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