Will Science Now Destroy Morality?

Daily Mail (London), February 16, 1998 | Go to article overview

Will Science Now Destroy Morality?


Byline: DANIEL JEFFREYS

DANIEL JEFFREYS As researchers claim to have found a 'promiscuity' gene . . .

SCIENTISTS are making some remarkable discoveries about how the human mind works - and their findings threaten to undermine virtually all the rules and regulations that bind society together.

The researchers have discovered that genes do far more than set the colour of a person's eyes. There are said to be genes for brain functions such as violence, depression, alcoholism, divorce and homosexuality.

The latest finding is the 'promiscuity gene' - which apparently encourages men (and probably women) to have sex with a variety of partners - the existence of which was revealed at a science meeting in Philadelphia at the weekend.

Men with a 'long' form of the gene were found to have had many more partners than men with the 'short' form.

If scientists are right about the power of our genes, society is in deep trouble. Already, the West is falling prey to a victim culture, where no one is to blame for anything that happens. We are seeing the derogation of any sense of personal responsibility.

And now, unless we take urgent precautions, we are set to hand out the ultimate excuse to anyone acting in a criminal, selfish or antisocial manner: 'Don't blame me,' they will be able to say. 'My actions were predetermined by chemicals in my brain.' Until now, the dynamics of human society have been based on free will. We make choices and we are responsible for what happens.

And if we have free will, it is fair to give praise or blame, and to pass laws that separate right from wrong.

When Hamlet said 'To be or not to be?' as he contemplated suicide, he was making a fundamental observation about human life. We think we have a choice, in Hamlet's case to kill himself and possibly face hell or to stay alive and face despair.

Such choice shave consequences.

Suicide

But Shakespeare would have trouble making Hamlet's famous speech a success if he lived today.

For the American human genome project - which aims to identify all our genes - has found a 'suicide' gene. If somebody has it, there's a 70 pc stronger chance that they will take their own life compared to somebody who does not have the gene.

So how can we blame somebody for jumping off a high building if the urge to do so was built into their DNA, the genetic material which determines who we are.

Scarcely a day goes by without something being attributed to genes. Other recent discoveries include a gene related to divorce. People who have the latter are twice as likely to suffer marital breakdown.

There are, as yet, no figures on the chance of staying happily married for someone who possesses both the divorce and the promiscuity genes.

Of course, these discoveries have a profound impact on morality. The Bible says: 'Thou shalt not commit adultery.' Do we now have to rewrite that Commandment to say: 'Thou cannot help committing adultery if it's in your genes'?

This is so dangerous, for we can't make rules to govern actions that are predetermined and unavoidable. And without rules, society collapses.

Genes linked to violent behaviour have been identified within the past year. Studies show that people with these DNA mutations are 'predisposed' to commit assaults, especially when stressed.

One thing is certain: defence lawyers will ensure that the courts will not be able to ignore the 'genetic excuse'. …

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