Tag Archives: genetics

Ethical Considerations of the Nose Picking Gene

My crazy, writer brain never stops working.  Typically it’s most active when I’m in the shower, where it got a real work out on Sunday.  I know this may be a bit TMI, but while shaving my legs, I noted one big toe had hair on it and the other didn’t.  While I know I’m at fault (got lost in my own head and forgot to shave both big toes the last time), it got me thinking about genetics.

We know hair color and  eye color and finger lengths and big knuckles and hairy backs and unibrows are all genetic.  Some physical traits can be manipulated by outside forces such as weight and height being affected by diet.  While other physical traits are guaranteed such as gender and skin color.

We can bask in or avoid the sun to tan our cheeks or keep them creamy white, but we can’t inherently change the actual, honest to goodness birth-given color of our skin.  It will always revert back to its natural color.

But what about those seemingly random behaviors like, say, nose picking?  Some people have never stuffed a finger in their nostrils while others dig for gold several times a day.  Does this run in the family?  Is it genetic or purely learned?  Or a combination of both?

Because, let’s face it, some behaviors that seem to be completely learned may be very genetic–or vice-versa.  For instance, while recently visiting the zoo, I watched a nasty bunch of monkeys.  This crew was unkempt, boisterous and engaged in base behaviors–like rapidly taking turns urinating on a pile of fresh pooh.  They clamored about and banged on windows.  One went so far as to pick his hinder and sniff his fingers.

Learned or genetic?  I don’t know.  The monkey clan next door was far calmer and seemed prim and proper by comparison.  And cleaner too.  Maybe a hidden camera would have caught this species picking and sniffing and claiming piles of debris like their neighbors did.  Or maybe not.  After all, they could see into each other’s pens…

The question of Nature vs Nurture is a favorite topic in science and psychology.  It has been forever, and likely will continue as a much debated topic through all eternity.

But, what if the code gets cracked and a formula is written that can pinpoint certain predispositions with 100% accuracy.  What then?

Teachers (and maintenance engineers), would you demand that the Nose Picking Gene gets turned off before kids enter school?  Especially the gene that makes some wipe their boogers on anything except a Kleenex?  Even if the frequency and gross-factor of nose picking can vary from student to student?

Seriously, if we could, would we turn off crude behaviors because they disgust and annoy us, effectively creating a homogenized race?  And, who would get to decide the onslaught of Crude Behavior Banning?

Or, what about impinging behavior restrictions on individuals based on medical predispositions?  Is it feasible that insurance companies could refuse treatment to someone genetically predisposed to skin cancer if she sun bathed on the beach?  Even though non-sunbathers still get diagnosed?

The implications are too many and make my head want to explode, so please chime in with your two pennies.

If we could genetically pinpoint behaviors do we have a right/duty to restrict them?  Why or why not?  And who decides which behaviors are merely annoying and which ones are downright dangerous? 

Seriously, do we let school boards determine whether or not to turn off the Nose Picking, Loud Talking and Mouth Open While Chewing genes?  Or, do we simply compile class lists differently?  IE: giving the Nose Picking students to the Nose Picking teachers and assigning Nose Picking janitors to clean those Nose Picking rooms?  Or do we create specific classes, such as Nose Picking etiquette 101, geared toward modifying natural tendencies in a socially acceptable way–even though we know these students will continue to nose-pick on some level because of their genetic codes? 

And, what of the medical implications?  Diseases found in snot can be fatal to certain groups of people.  So, are these genetic Nose Pickers potential murderers?

Curious minds really, really, really want to know!

What happened to Genetics?

As many of you know, I am an avid reader and a writer at heart.  I love literature.  If I had a day with no responsibilities and absolute freedom, I would read. 

Unfortunately, my oldest fell far from my tree.  While he loves stories, he doesn’t like to read or write.  He has struggled with both of these since he attended preschool and rhyming was the eighth wonder of his world.  This despite the fact that I read to him for hours every single day of his wee childhood.  This despite my deep, abiding respect for the written word. 

So what happened to genetics?  Why can’t he read as easily or as fluently as I can?  Or his three younger siblings?  Why does punctuation have no meaning to him, and why, oh why, does he break every spelling rule ever created and not notice that his version is unreadable? 

Eldest is now in the 10th grade.  Today we embark on our newest edition of his educational life.  Today he is getting tested for Dyslexia.  While I have felt for a long time that he has Dyslexia, schools do not test for it.  When he attended a private tutoring center, they didn’t test for it either.  In fact, very few facilities do despite the fact that Dyslexia is considered the number one cause for reading disabilities.

To me, it makes sense to identify the problem and treat it specifically, rather than treating all struggling and reluctant readers the same.  Yet I appear to be a minority.  Maybe because my son’s struggles hit so close to home.  Nobody else seems interested in why the written language is elusive to him or why he can’t remember a string of directions or how to get home from the video store.

Instead, teachers seem intent on disciplining him for failing to complete an assignment, writing poorly or forgetting to show up for a band lesson.  Rather than being rewarded for figuring out the math problem in his head, he is docked points for not showing his work.  His brain does things a little differently than the rest of ours.

He is an anomaly.  Intelligent, yet average.  Attentive, yet forgetful.  Articulate, yet functionally illiterate. 

I hope these tests finally give us some answers.  I would like to understand how his brain works, because it obviously does not work like mine.  I would like him to feel, for the first time, as if he is amazing and that he can accomplish anything.  A diagnosis would go a long way in explaining what happened to genetics and how they seemingly missed him. 

I wonder if the Schwan’s man can read…

Just kidding, Eldest is the spittin’ image of my DH. 

Who gave you your love for the written word?  Do your parents read and write, or are you the apple that rolled down the hill and nestled into a storybook land of your own making?