Tag Archives: science

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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What is Anthropology?

One of the downsides to Anthropology being a less well known field in schools (and communities) means that not a lot of people know what it actually is about other than maybe knowing it has something to do with humans and bones. I say communities because for every person in the British Asian community that I have spoken to that knows what Anthropology is, there has been at least 50 with no idea, and according to some of my Anth friends, this is the same for others too.

So then I get asked by those who want to know, what is Anthropology?

And then there is silence. I still haven’t mastered a proper answer (I really should and memorise it), I just sort of say that it’s an interdisciplinary field that studies humans in a broad context ranging from sociology to genetics to geography. It is both an art and a humanity that involves nearly every field. And then I throw in a few examples that usually gets them interested. Then I realise that this is a terrible answer and I am not doing the subject any justice at all. I just searched around the internet and dictionary (for probably the hundredth time) looking for a better and more succinct definition and couldn’t find the right one. It’s kind of like the word Anthropology being just like one of its analytical categories such as marriage – impossible to define when you really look into it.

So now I get all sorrowful and sad, not just by the fact that I can’t really put into words a description of a subject I am so “passionate” about, but by the fact that I am feeling like I need to find a proper definition, arguably so as to prove to people that yes I am studying a very important academic field that rivals the likes of Chemistry.

A little bit of me now doesn’t really want to find a proper definition. Selfish I know, but I just feel that if I attempt to convince people (note the word convince) of Anthropology who have it imbrained that only the Sciences and Maths are real subjects, I am belittling such a wonderful field. Anthropology doesn’t deserve that.

In hopefully my first proper interactive post, I ask YOU, What is Anthropology? How would you define it? I was going to have a proper poll/answer input but realised that this is for everyone’s benefit/interest so please comment below instead.

I am genuinely interested to see how ‘ordinary’ people would define it. If possible, please also state your relationship to Anthropology, i.e. whether you are just interested by it, whether you are a lecturer etc. You may even just put your favourite definition of what it is as said by someone else.

My personal favourite definition of Anthropology that sadly other people just don’t seem understand so I rarely orally repeat it is by Daniel Miller (an Anthropologist at UCL and author of “Stuff” – a great book, review shall come soon!):

An anthropologist is someone who seeks to demonstrate the consequences of the universal for the particular and of the particular for the universal by equal devotion to the empathetic understanding and encompassment of both.

Thank you in advance!

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