Week 2 Response : Genetic determinism: Nature vs Nurture

In this week’s lecture, we watched a sci-fi movie called Gattaca. It intended to raise several discussion about genetic modification and bio-engineering, as well as over-dependence on technology and statistics to judge a person’s ability. In the future depicted by the movie, the technology enables people to modify the genes of the new-born baby accordingly so that a “perfect” fetus is made without genetic defects such as vulnerability to heart diseases. However, Vincent(the lead character) was born naturally without any genetic modification. He is myopic and very vulnerable to heart disease. Moreover, he had extremely high possibility to die in his thirties according to the analysis of his blood sample.  In a world which is ruled by genetic determinism, he was considered as inferior and discriminated in his life. Despite all the barriers he encountered, he still managed to complete his dream – flying to the space.

One issue intrigues me most is the actual realization of the idea of genetic determinism in this movie. Genetic determinism is defined as “the theory that human character and behavior are shaped by the genes that comprise the individual’s genotype rather than by culture; environment; and individual choice” according to http://www.reference.md. In the world of Gattaca, people whose genes modified to perfection are considered as more superior and privileged than those who were born naturally with deficits and vulnerabilities to diseases. Genetic discrimination is everywhere. The application of genetic analysis when babies were born is used as augury to determine their future. However, even in a world with such advanced technology, the prediction of the future is still possibility. Vincent is predicted to have 99% chance to get heart disease but it is still 99%, not 100%. There is still 1% chance for Vincent not to have heart disease. Gene deficit is a very important factor in causing diseases, but not the only factor. Another important factor is the environment factor which might trigger the the gene deficit. That is why the possibility is never 100%, because the environment factor is unpredictable. The total disregard of the environment factor in a person’s growth as a human is one of the major flaws in the world of Gattaca.

Nature vs Nurture debate has been going on for many years and there is no conclusion for now. For Gattaca, I think it proves that the environment/the person’s choice/the culture (nurture) is more important than the genes(nature).  One example is that Vincent(genes with deficits but kept practicing) was able to win his brother(perfect genes) in the swimming race twice after countless number of failure, as shown in the video clip below.(taken from youtube channel “movie clip”).

After watching this movie, I am glad that I am not living in the world of Gattaca, where once you are born your destiny is already determined by your genes and the environment factor is totally ignored. I personally believe that nature is important but nurture plays a more important role due to human’s brain’s neuroplasiticity as well as ability to learn.

I think I have signed up for Week 2 reading so I gonna present this week.

—-Tian Wu



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