June 15, 2006

Watch the weasel words


A growing understanding of human genetics is prompting fresh consideration of how much control people have over who they are and how they act. The recent discoveries include genes that seem to influence whether an individual is fat, has a gift for dance or will be addicted to cigarettes.

My emphasis.

Being medically overweight, physically agile and graceful, and addicted to cigarettes are not actions. Certain actions may contribute (eg, regularly eating 4,000 calories a day instead of 2,000), but these are all descriptions of one's body. This applies equally to fearlessness, predilections for certain diseases and disorders, and all the other examples the article gives. This research may show that we have less control over the state of our body (including our sympathetic nervous system) than previously thought, but it does not show that we do not have free will and our actions are determined by the state of our bodies.

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