Genetics and Morality

    When Hitler indoctrinated his Nazi subordinates to hate Jews he needed a rationale.  If he said all Jews were evil he needed an explanation as to why they were all evil.  His explanation was genetics.  Jews were an inferior and evil race.  Aryans were a superior and good race. 

    Can genetics make us good or bad?  Genetics code defines the lamb and genetic codes the tiger as well, certainly genetics have a large influence on behavior.  The following is a poem by William Blake which makes one realize just how amazing this is.



Tiger Tiger burning bright,
in the oceans of the night,
what immortal hand or eye,
could frame thy fearful symmetry?

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In what distant deeps or skies
burnt the fire of thine eyes ?
On what wings dare he aspire,
what the hands dare seize the fire ?

And what shoulder and what art
could twist the sinews of they heart ?
And when thy heart began to beat,
what dread hand and what dread feet.

What the hammer,what the chain,
in what furnace was thy brain ?
What the anvil,what dread grasp,
dare it's deadly terrors clasp?

And when the stars threw down their spears,
and watered heaven with their tears.
Did he smile his work to see,
did he who made the lamb make thee ?

Tiger,tiger,burning bright,
in the oceans of the night.
What immortal hand or eye,
dare frame thy fearful symmetry.

    It would seem that genetics that can code for the tiger and the lamb can code for good and evil.  Yet there are good and evil people from the same race.  The Nazis were evil but there are many good Germans.   There are good and wicked people from all ethnic groups and from all races.   Factors that make a person good or evil include his personal choices.   Supposedly we have free will to make moral choices regardless of our race.   Upbringing, cultural and other environmental choices influence the moral decisions we make.  Our goodness or wickedness can change and so is not a fixed genetic quality.  Hitler made Germans become more evil.  Some evil people reform and become good.  Whether or not genetics can give us a predisposition one way or another would require experiments to determine.  To the best of my knowledge no one has found a morality gene.  It is likely there are genes that make people more aggressive and that could translate itself into violence but it could also translate itself into aggressive behavior toward accomplishing good.


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Tiger and tiger roar is from Blue Mountain Arts (with permission)


c o p y r i g h t   ( c )   1999 -2004 Karl Ericson Enterprises.  All rights reserved

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