Carpe Diem/”YOLO”

I hang my head in shame over the fact that it has been months since I last posted anything/went back into the world of teenthropology. To be honest it was hard to keep up motivation in making posts when you have no idea who the readers are/there are no personal benefts other than submitting yet more data into the internet-o-sphere, especially when other areas of my life have been pretty demanding. I’ve been energised though and whilst I definitely cannot guarantee frequent posts, I can commit to a couple here and there. genes

So yesterday, Dr Adam Rutherford (of Radio 4, scientific personality and genetic fame) came to give a talk and spoke about the misconceptions that exist in the media concerning genetics – such as there supposedly being a gene for pretty much everything ranging from violence to laziness to sudoku mastery. He pointed to misconstrued headlines informing the public that nearly everything in our nature can be bottled down to and are a product of our genes. Oh the power of the media.

As much as bad journalism can have bad consequences, I like to think that people would be critical of what they read and would not just accept that everything is down to their genes. Such genetic determinism could potentially have horrendous effects and I’m sure insurance companies would go wild. I do understand that having such incorrect headlines/misunderstood science is not the best of things, but I don’t think that these sorts of headlines are all that surprising or devastating. If anything they make human propaganda and hypochondria all the more entertaining.

Putting all the ‘serial murderer’ genes that have been used in court appeals aside, the mentality that ideas of genetic determinism and reduction has produced is quite revolutionary I think. I think it has made people more care-free and accepting of their fate “as it is in their genes” and any activity/behavior would prove meaningless (their ideals not mine). The current teenage motto trend of “YOLO” or You Only Live Once, also known in Latin terms as Carpe Diem (seize the day) reinforces that life’s too short to worry about what our genes are going to cause or do – we have no control over them, and we only live once so we might as well make the most of it and blame everything on the genes.

Now I personally do not believe in genetic determinism – whilst I think that many predispositions can be found in our genes, I think behavior and actions are just as important in determining their ‘activation’ and effects. It’s nice to pretend though that ‘what happens happens’ and if that can have a biological basis then that is even more motivation for me to take the plunge and do risky things I might not usually do, cause hey, life’s too short.

Life is after all a terminal disease contracted at birth.

So long as correct science is also portrayed in the media, I think it says a lot of the naivety and gullibleness of the general public if they genuinely believe that there is a gene for infidelity. How amusing for the rest of us that can see through the rubbish. If it gives us some entertainment and makes people live life to the fullest then I see no harm done.

*I would just like to add that beliefs of genetic determinism may not always lead to a YOLO mentality and that I have made many various sweeping assumptions above. I also do actually believe that only correct science explained well with a good understanding broken down to normal non-Brian Cox people should be conveyed in the media.

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2 thoughts on “Carpe Diem/”YOLO”

  1. It is not easy to convey the complexities of genetic epigenetic interplay that work in bidirectional concert to incline the biological expressions that constitute the scaffolding that is our life in a way the general population will understand. I think this is true within the scientific community as well. Many are dragging theories with limited capacity to carry the empirical evidence long after that evidence has blown past the carrying capacity of the theory. Einstein himself fought the idea of the probabilistic nature of physics. Lynn Margulis and the theory of endosymbiosis was not welcome for some time in the genetics community, neither were ideas related to how epigenetics and pre-, peri- and postnatal environmental conditions can carry life long consequences and in fact echo through the generations without the necessity for new genetic encoding, but have the capability to turn on a greater propensity for a specific expressions to occur.

    If we consider humanities capacity to use abstractions in comparison to what we know about the length of time since the big bang,this fuzzy newfangled abstract vision is quite new on the biological scene. Civilization has only been around for .0004% of the time when looking through that lens. We are brand new. It will take a while to get a clearer view.In the mean time, those with a talent to put things in ways people can understand including the importance of an idea and the practical application are extremely valuable. Genetics needs a Carl Sagan or a Neil Degrasse Tyson. Maybe Bruce Lipton comes as close as the field has been able to conjure up so far. In any case, the real heroes of science are those that unlock the value caged in academic functional silos of specialty jargon to the masses and throughout the scientific community in my opinion.

    • Hi The Wisdom of Life,

      Thank you so much for your reply, that was a highly interesting read and in all honesty I hadn’t thought of it at all from that perspective! I completely agree that those who are able to convert those super complicated ideas into public friendly concepts for a great understanding are undervalued and do not get as much credit as they deserve. If it weren’t for them I think the world would be a far less educated place and the lay folk would have no idea about the exceptional nature of science! We wouldn’t have so many documentaries and science personalities that are now dominating our screens and creating national treasures.

      To see my arts and business studying friends be so captivated by science and intrigued by the Higgs Boson (and actually know what it is about) is refreshing and encouraging (in a completely non obnoxious/superior way) and I think it is great that the public are embracing science beyond when it was a requirement at school.

      There is still so much to be discovered and learn about (recent developments in genetics have definitely shown us what could be known rather than what is accurately known), and I look forward to seeing how this all plays out in the press. These debates are engaging and refreshing regardless of the scientific validity portrayed in the media.

      Thanks again for your comment,

      Teenthropologist

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