We have a few threads floating around where discussions of genetics are occurring. We have the islam thread, where we're discussing genetic propensity for intelligence (and religion actually). Incidentally that has its own thread. We also have a threads on genetic counseling, race, and tribalism. Somehow I felt that we were missing a deeper discussion of the role of genetics. This is a subject that I've spent a lot of time on due to personal circumstances, particularly when it comes to procreation. It has been a long journey for me, especially when it comes to evaluating the role the genes play in who I am personally. Tribalism comes from our desire to spread genes, and our desire to spread our genes comes from our genes. Genes are designed to spread and thrive in a biological environment, they transcend species, and individual members of the human species. Some of them are good, some of them are bad, and some of them are a little of both - like the genes that cause our eyes. Great that we have eyes... the design needs some work. But it's good enough that it gets passed on and on and on. A gene's desire to spread itself is not limited to the individual member of the species. Members band together in tribes to spread on their collective genes. Nowhere is this more easily seen than the family unit, which is a close-nit collection of individuals that usually share a high degree of genetic similarity. And those genes want to protect each other, mostly the older infertile protecting the young fertile for the purpose of keeping those genes moving. The less genetic similarity you have with someone, the less you're hardwired to help them propagate their genes. This is the foundation of racism. Each of us tends to think of ourselves as special. I'm sure this is helpful for keeping us alive. And our desire to procreate is intertwined with that special sense of self. That we have the unique gift of our genetic combination that we need to share with some other individual. It's an illusion. You're not a special snowflake. You're the same decaying matter as everyone else. To the extent that you are special, it's your choices that make you special. The choices you make ripple through your life in a never ending (until death), building, cascade of effects that create who you are as a person. And you can even pass some of those choices on to other through memes (a term first coined in the 1970s to describe self-replicating concepts). This is the way that you pass on what makes "you". Your genes carry none of that. To the extent that you care about your children or your parents because they share your genes, it is no more meaningful than racism, or other forms of tribalism. It is your hardwired propensity to protect your genes, and your genes are just physical expressions. It's true that they can physically manifest in your brain, but they can't physically manifest as experience, which is really what makes you yourself. The fact that someone has your nose, or your eyes, or your hair color, skin color, body type, athletic prowess... none of that is any more meaningful than the most basic tribalist, racist, bigoted nonsense you see anywhere else. Your children, your parents, your grandparents, if you love these people, or feel obliged to love them, it is their choices that should inform that. Don't love your genes. Your genes are not you. Your genes might even torture and kill you (because most of us have some horrible genetics ready to pounce as we get older). The great thing about being human is that you can make yourself who you want to be. You can change the contents of your mind. You can mold yourself the way you want to be. I'm not saying you should hate your genes either. They're familiar (in a deep sense of that word). They're a part of your experience. But if you're going to get attached, be proud, or find your identity in something, do it with something more meaningful than the accident of your particular genetic combination. Do it with choice, with effort. We get into these discussions about genetic propensity for IQ, or EQ, or even memes such as religion. Maybe you do have a genetic propensity for mathematical intelligence. Or for emotional intelligence. And maybe your particular circumstances of birth made you predisposed to being exposed to the religion meme. But there are so many expressions of intelligence, whether it's art, social, or science. And there are so many opportunities for the memes you were exposed to as a child to fall away. I find that this view of genes helps inform a lot of discussions about policy. If you adopt a child is it your child? Yes. In every way that is meaningful (choice, experience, responsibility, emotional bonding). Just because you share fewer genes with that child than other parents do does not mean that you are any less its parent. In fact, if you conceive a child with someone that shares fewer of your genes (hair color, eye color, skin color, propensity for pancreatic cancer), then your children will share fewer of your genes than someone who conceives a child with someone who shares more of those genes. And that is not meaningful in any particular way. Does it matter what country you were born in? No. It's arbitrary. Does it matter whether we splice out genetic diseases? Does that make the child any less yours? Is it playing god? No, they're just genes. Anyway, this thread is for discussion of all things genetic and the tribalism that comes from our propensity for spreading genetics.