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DNA Testing – Nature versus Nurture

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Will DNA testing be able to help put an end to the nature versus nurture debate?

Nature Versus Nurture

Ever since Charles Darwin first expounded his theories on evolution, the nature versus nurture debate has been a hot topic among scientists, psychologists and sociologists, but can DNA testing completely change our understanding? Can the latest DNA testing and investigation into genetics shed new light on the nature versus nurture debate?

DNA Testing and Environmental Triggers

Tens of millions has been invested in the use of DNA testing to search for behaviour genes, but with no clear results. It’s true that we are not destined from birth to be alcoholics, violent offenders or manic depressives, but a team of psychologists in New Zealand discovered that we do have behavioural genes that can be triggered by our environment. DNA testing has uncovered genes that can make us pre-disposed or susceptible to certain behaviours, given the right environmental triggers.

DNA Testing and Depression

DNA testing can reveal if you have the gene that makes you susceptible to depression, although this is not the kind of DNA testing currently widely available to the public. It reveals if you are prone to severe depression during difficult times in life.

DNA Testing – Genes and Behaviour

The belief that DNA testing can reveal a link between genes and behaviour is impacting the nature versus nurture debate. Using DNA testing scientists have discovered a gene for violence that, combined with a stressful childhood, can result in jail for violent crime. The new thinking is if DNA testing shows you to have the gene and you are in a particularly difficult environment such as an abusive childhood, the two things combined can seal your fate. If DNA testing shows you to have genes that make you susceptible to violence or depression, this can be a powerful predictor of human behaviour. This could have significant implications on the legal system, healthcare and insurance. After all, what's to stop potential employers and insurance companies discriminating against people with the ‘wrong’ genes? So far there is no specific legislation drafted to prevent discrimination based on DNA testing and genetic information.

DNA Testing In The Future

The idea that DNA testing could in the future reveal your genetic destiny carries significant implications. Things that were once in the realm of science fiction could become real and ethical issues for society. In the 1997 movie, Gattaca, genetic engineering is used to develop and maintain a ‘perfect’ humanity. In the movie, the character Vincent is the product of natural reproduction and through DNA testing he is genetically predicted to die aged 30. He is born into a society that discriminates against those who are genetically inferior through regular DNA testing to ensure everyone is in their ‘right’ place. Vincent steals the genetic identity of a paralysed athlete in order to break free and pursue his ambition to be an astronaut. The film challenges the morality of creating genetically engineered humans and the ability to overcome our biological predispositions. The movie's tag line is “There’s no gene for the human spirit.”


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