In 1953, amazing scientific research reported by James Watson and Francis Crick captured the attention and imagination of human civilization. I vividly recall a New York tabloid’s coverage of their discovery, the full front page covered in large bold print read, “SECRET OF LIFE FOUND!” Their seminal studies on the nature of DNA, the molecule that forms the structure of genes, are a foundational pillar upon which modern medicine is built.
From Watson and Crick’s insights on how DNA encodes an organism’s hereditary traits, we bought into the belief that genes control biology. This belief led to a concept known as genetic determinism, the notion that our physical and behavioral fates are encoded in the genes. Since that time, modern medicine has operated under the principles of the medical model, an understanding that implies the human body is a chemical machine controlled by genes.
The perception that genes control our abilities, and more importantly, our disabilities, is so fundamental that we introduce this concept at the most elemental level of a child’s schooling, and continuously repeat the message through every level of higher education. Consequently, the public has been conditioned to believe that the human body and its behaviors reflect the activity of an exquisite genetically-controlled biochemical automaton.
Though we know differently, don’t we…..
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