Saturday, April 6, 2013

Genetically Determined?

Summary of Article
In class this week, we discussed genetic determinism and what that means to how people perceive their lives.  This theory states that people behave the way they are
Because of their genetic encoding.  We also talked of the environmental approach that states that the environment is the cause of the way that people are and the reason behind why they act and behave the way they do in certain life circumstances.  This article, “Genetic Determinism-Oversimplification,?” that was published in Philosophy & Politiy,  included the opinion of the author as well as the opinions of those featured in the video clip provided. It is discussing the effects of genetic coding on one’s phenotype.  This includes one’s exterior looks as well as his or her behaviors and attitudes.  The author believes that although one does have a distinct choice when considering one’s reactions to life, he or she is also greatly affected by one’s genetic and environmental factors. These do play a role in shaping one’s disposition and personality.  The video however favored more on the side of the power of choice.  They disagreed that the environment or the genetic coding played such a significant role.  Mr. Sapolsky, in the video clip, argued that although people may have a pre-disposition towards behaving a certain way, they are not in any sense predetermined to live out exactly what is set forth for them in their genetic make-up.  The largest concern that was discussed here includes determining what plays a larger influence on one’s life outcomes: choice or predetermined factors.

Relating to Counseling
This relates to counseling because if a person was set on believing entirely in genetic predisposition or even in the environmental approach, it would be very difficult to convince them that change was possible for them, let alone a reality.  In addition, if one was set on the fact that they are going to become an addict simply because of their lineage, then they are more likely to becoming that simply due to their belief system.  As a counselor, one must be aware of one’s genetic and environmental pre-dispostions in order to help that person uniquely and most effectively overcome them. 

Relating to Me
I found this article and video clip interesting because I can personally relate to it.  For years, my dad would say that he is the way he is because that’s just the way he is, meaning that he can’t change his personality or how he talks, or reacts to different events in life.  He also used to look tothe environment to explain his actions.  Although those two factors did certainly play a role, they did not prohibit him from changing.  He has since seen a counselor and a psychologist and he has changed how he deals with life. I am so proud of him.  Although his core being certainly did not change but his behavior has.  That in itself proves to me that genetic determinism and the strict environmental approach do not hold up as being the sole reasons for change without at allowing for possible improvement.


(2011) Genetic determinism- oversimplification? Philosoph & Politiy: Investigating in
philosophy and political theory.  Retrieved from 


  1. Thank you for your post, and personal application at the end. I heard Dr. Jennings speak on his book, the God Shaped Brain this week and his main point was 'what we believe has power over us: power to heal or power to destroy.' This post about genetic determinism and the environmental approach reminded me of that saying as I was reading. Believing that we are supposed to be an alcoholic because our parents were, or because we grew up in a community where it was acceptable, has the power to make us alcoholics. But if instead we believe that we will not be an alcoholic regardless of genetics or our environment, we will not be. Many times people attribute their actions and thoughts to the nature vs. nurture issue but we have power over how we act.

  2. Great post! I am inclined to believe that it is a combination of genetics and environment that make up who we are. With this approach I think that there is a lot of potential for a person to change. A person could change their actions and behaviors simply by switching environments (as with a child who acts out because they have to move houses) or by changing their body chemistry (those who improve their mood with anti-depressives). Also within Christian counseling there is more room for change as we rely on God to change our lives and hearts form the inside out.

  3. I think the our actions and development are a combination of genetics and environment but as Christians we have a third option. In the the power of Christ, we have a third option that gives us power and hope for change. No matter what our environment or genetic endowment is, Christians should rejoice that Christ has come to make all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17). In Christ their is power for change and we should act on this new power in Christ instead of relying on our genetic and environmental predispositions.


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