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The gene-machine view of human nature states that we are predisposed to what our genes depict. This view is a theory in which no responsibility need be taken and responsibility is therefore diminished. Whether the determinism is genetic or social, there still appears to be a loop-hole in which people can enter and be blameless.

If the gene-machine view of human nature is correct, then there are certain implications that one needs to consider. Whether or not we can change what we are predisposed to do is of no relevance at this point, the only necessary point now is to define the implications surrounding the theory.

The first implication is that the actions that one commits are entirely inevitable. For example, men are predisposed, genetically, to be of a more violent nature than women. Knowing this, it is understandable why many men turn violent in situations in which they have no control. Given this, it is then logical to assume that because men are predisposed to be violent, their aggressive behaviour should be forgiven because they cannot be blamed for the actions for which they are under no control.

A counter argument to the above mentioned implication is that even though it appears as if men are predisposed to violence, it should not be considered an excuse when a fight ensues. If it was the case that we could not be blamed for that which we are predisposed to, murderers and rapists could argue in court that it was not their fault because they were predetermined to commit the crime because of their genetic makeup. If it is true that they were inevitably going to commit the crime, they should still be punished because of the need for control and moral grounding.

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If the gene-machine view is incorrect and it is our social environment that predisposes us to commit to doing certain actions then the same argument would arise. If someone grows up in a violent home and then they themselves become violent, they should still be held responsible for their actions. In some circumstances, people are rehabilitated in order to live in a normal society. Although they still might have violent problems, they learn how to control them to a certain extent. One may still not be able to control their actions and only channel them to the extent that they are socially acceptable. If rehabilitation is not possible, it is obvious that the gene-machine argument would seem more plausible because one cannot change ones genes. Whether the action is by genetic or social determinism, the events will still occur so what does it matter which form of determinism it is? It seems that even if people are predisposed to commit crimes, they have a moral responsibility to try and control their impulses.

The second implication is that it is impossible to change that which we are predisposed to. It is said that a child is fully developed in character by the time they are seven so this would suggest that if a person older than seven commits a crime, they cannot change their behaviour. Genetically speaking, if someone has a “crime” gene, we cannot change that gene with modern day technology. If one had the ability to alter the genes of say, their unborn baby, it would seem plausible to remove any genes that are predisposed to things of an unsocial nature such as drug addiction, violence and in the case of philandering males, sexual fidelity to a partner.

It would seem a good idea to rid a baby of all negative genes but would it be a morally correct act? If a person is predisposed to something and we eliminate the genetic and social influences, what is to say that they would still not commit the act? Perhaps it is not genetic or social influences that predispose us to commit an act, but something of which we have no understanding of. For example, if God did exist and he created us with a soul and the predetermined act was imprinted on the soul, how could we possibly say that the act could have been prevented?

The third implication is that we cannot be blamed for the actions that we are predisposed to. If you come from a family in which alcohol abuse is rife or even drug use, it can be assumed that you would be more predisposed to a life of alcohol abuse than a person that does not come from a family with these habits. It is said that addictive personalities are hereditary, for example, alcoholism has been known to be hereditary. It would be assumed that the blame would then fall on ones genes and not on ones choices; hence we cannot control our actions. It is an irreversible inevitability.

On the other hand, ones social circumstances could introduce us to a life of alcohol and drug abuse even coming from a family that does not partake in such actions. Therefore, our social environment would play a great role in the formation of our characters leading to certain actions that we are predisposed to. The blame would then fall on our social predisposition and we would still not be held responsible because how can someone be held responsible for an action over which they had no control? Keeping this in mind, it would then be possible that we would pass on these acquired dispositions, via our genes, to our offspring who would then not be held responsible because of genetic predisposition.

It appears that we do not have choices in life as such, we have mere events that cause us to act in a certain way or do certain things, or we have a genetic predisposition in the same way. Living a life that involves no choices seems to be life of bliss and blameless activity in which there is no place for morality. Society governs us in a way in which the “choices” we make are socially acceptable. In every form of media there are certain messages that get portrayed, for example, violence is not tolerated. This then becomes a moral choice that one would make, yet it is no choice at all because we have been predisposed to act in a civil way because of the rules that society delivers. If one is predisposed to violence because of genetics, society would then deliver an option and a choice would have to be made. The choice, again, is delivered in a way that there seems to be no choice at all my genetics tell me to beat beggers, therefore I will despite society’s attempts to inform me otherwise.

In conclusion, whether ones actions are determined by genetics or social influences, one should still have a moral responsibility and should be punished for actions which deem so. Therefore, if we are predisposed, be it genetically or socially, we should act appropriately and take blame for our actions regardless of determinism.

RICHARDS, J.R. (000). Human Nature After Darwin. Routledge London and New York.

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