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Social and philosophical issues in genetics. Part 3

To what extent are we free to decide our actions and to what extent are we predetermined products of our genome?
So, the idea is that unpredictability within a determinism framework gives room for free will. And this is, I think, a very simple, a very precise and at the same time a very easy-going way of accepting that we are matter, that we have a determinism but at the same time we are free people. The second point we are going to talk is on the determinism, but to which extent the changes that are in the genome, that we are doing now, or we may do in the future is going to change our biological humanity.
The idea: culture is changing our biology, this is something that we could talk a lot, but today we are just going to see something very simple. What we try very hard in human culture is to preserve our life. If we look at the graph with time and when we die, we may see that humans always try to live as long as possible and then will all die.
The idea is: try to survive, and lots of things in our everyday life, in our culture, in what we do, in what we produce, is to preserve life; we do not want people, once born, to die before they get old. This has very important genetic consequences we’re going to see right now. And the second point is that we also culturally help people to reproduce –a little bit, not too much– and this amount of reproduction has been decreasing through time in all world populations; and the idea is that the amount of reproduction which should be just to reproduce to more or less have a standard still population is something that also we keep a lot of efforts for people to do.
The idea: to help people survive and reproduce a little bit. They biological meaning of that survival and reproduction are not so important for the genes that are going to be present in the next generation.
So, sometimes people say: “I’m going to define culture” and culture is whatever you do to try to survive and reproduce. I mean, we understand that this is something that we cannot say this way, but this is clearly one of the consequences culture has. Which is the impact of that? If we do survive independently of our genes if we reproduce a little bit,
independently of our genes; what we’re doing is something very simple: to prevent natural selection to act, less purifying selection, less adaptive selection. What we’re doing at the very end
is to say the following: “now we have a given genetic composition of humankind and what we are going to do is to frozen that to make this the composition that is going to be “the” composition of the future”. At the very end, what we do culturally is to prevent the consequences of the biological differences. It’s very nice to see this view in the sense that what we try is to help everybody independently of their genes to survive and to reproduce.
And the consequences are very simple: which is the future of a given gene pool is selection doesn’t act on that? There is a general trend of no change, and this trend of no change means that the future of humankind is going to be very similar to our present because the traditional, the historical forces acting in our genome do not act or act much, much, much less. Of course, there will always exist genetic diseases and these people may die, but this would be for very strong and rare cases. In general, what it will be is the internal trend of no change and on that we have to see to which extent the human genetic manipulation may be important.
This genetic manipulation is going to be very important to cure a disease but in this case is going to affect just a few individuals that have the disease and now they are able to survive. Maybe in the future there will be also manipulation to choose traits or to enhance some characteristics, but these changes are going to be changes done on a tiny fraction of humankind, this is not important for the evolution of humans. This may be important for the welfare of a given individuals that use some very enhanced and high-tech biotechnologies to be able to have these traits.

To what extent are we free to decide our actions and to what extent are we predetermined products of our genome?

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Why Biology Matters: The Genome and You

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