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The Big Answer

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Exploding the Gene Myth

a book by Ruth Hubbard and Elijah Wald

(our site's book review)

Like all good thinkers of our time, the authors are in a hurry for our society and world to leave the mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm behind and adopt the ecological-holistic paradigm instead. The authors expose the flawed thinking of the reductionists. And they show how paradigms are holding back science as well as biasing it, even though in scientific education, students are taught that science is immune to the capriciousness of political trends. Students adopt this belief and it misleads them: “One of those beliefs [adopted by students erroneously] is that science is immune from political and societal pressures, that scientists can function in an ideological vacuum. This belief has been proved wrong time and again. Scientists, as a group, tend to provide results that support the basic values of their society. This is not surprising, since scientists live in that society and make their observations with that society’s eyes. This is particularly true when scientists are studying people.”

Scientists, as a group, tend to provide results that support the basic values of their society
Scientists, as a group, tend to provide results that support the basic values of their society

In trying to rationalize their views that blacks and females possess some inferior traits, some cynical conservatives were quick to point out any evidence that seemed to point to inherited inferior traits, which could then be used to explain the current social order in which the disadvantaged are disadvantaged by their genes, not the society. “Like reductionists, hereditarians try to find simple answers to complicated questions. But the interactions and transformations that go on inside us and between us and our environment are too complex to be forced into such simplistic patterns.” The authors point out that these issues take systems thought to analyze and no amount of reductionistic thought will suffice. Nature is about interrelationships and interdependencies.

At first, their own cultures held them down in Africa, relatively speaking, since these cultures were not as advanced as American culture
At first, their own cultures held them down in Africa, relatively speaking, since these cultures were not as advanced as American culture

Cynical conservatives pointed to inherited inferior genetic traits in blacks—but is this true?

An embarrassing self-fulfilling prophesy full of misunderstood cause and effect exemplifies the gene confusion fiasco: Reductionistic genetic explanations by some cynical conservatives pointed to inherited inferior genetic traits in blacks. But was this true?

  1. At first, their own cultures held them down in Africa, relatively speaking, since these cultures were not as advanced as American culture. No genes here.
  2. Next, being kidnapped and sold into slavery held them back. As slaves, they didn't get the benefits of white American culture so they continued to appear to be racially "inferior." No genes here.
  3. Next, they were "freed" but whites were slow to assimilate them or accept them so again they were held back. No genes here.
  4. Next, racial prejudices surfaced violently as some whites resisted dropping of prejudices and they applied insulting terms like "mud people" to prove to themselves that their biases were based on reality, so racism in all its forms once again held blacks back. No genes here.
  5. Then the social engineers arrived, equipped with legislation to make up for unfairness towards blacks for over a century. Unfortunately, the way they set up affirmative action and quotas and welfare ended up backfiring. Many whites saw affirmative action as validating their beliefs that blacks were inferior and they required an unfair advantage to live in white America, and many blacks saw quotas and affirmative action as insulting—it was disguised racism where the context seemed to be that whites rigged the game for blacks to make up for their genetic inferiority. This created anger in passed-over whites that were more qualified than the blacks that got the job or college admission. No genes here.
  6. The welfare issue was the coup de gras. It made many whites feel better when blacks got payoffs instead of taking white jobs. And these welfare payoffs—like quotas and affirmative action—made liberal whites feel better as a way of working off white guilt for the whole slavery thing (in spite of the fact that no American black alive today had ever been a slave). One of the main legacies of liberal social engineering is unintended consequences. And welfare had a lot of those, helping to create an underclass of nonworking blacks that turned to crime and prostitution when money was tight. Not to be outdone by the liberal welfare programs that often destroyed black work ethics, bleeding-heart liberal elites in Hollywood started making movies depicting black criminals as heroic—so decent black role models were replaced with crooks who felt like victims who were too good to work. Work was for suckers, crime was "cool." And then liberal judges began accepting the victim excuse—blacks were all victims so not responsible for their crimes. The final blow had been struck, beating black identity and self esteem into the dirt. Blacks were NOT RESPONSIBLE for their actions. No genes here.
    Rap songs and boom-boxes were created to annoy whites as well as blacks who were not part of the underclass-ghetto culture
    Rap songs and boom-boxes were created to annoy whites as well as blacks who were not part of the underclass-ghetto culture

  7. But blacks struck back vengefully with rap music that had a jungle beat and was violent, obscene, ugly, misogynistic, anti-law-abiding, glorifying crime and seeing women as "ho"s. The blacks were returning the insult and whites deserved this for all their social engineering, bleeding-heart, racist, insulting, naive, foolish, elitist interference proving that the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions! No genes here either.
  8. Then guilty, confused whites embraced and even pretended to like this rap music as simply a reflection of "black culture," repressing the degeneracy of the crude, misogynistic, crime-glorifying, hate-filled music full of pretentiously macho lyrics and sexually crude gestures. We remember all the great black music, from blues to jazz to ballads to rock to popular—everyone from Ray Charles to Oscar Peterson. Genuine black culture had lots of greats and geniuses and it all sounded great. It pleased all races immensely. Rap songs, on the other hand, were created to annoy whites as well as blacks who were not part of the underclass-ghetto culture. It sounds crude and degenerate and it annoys everyone, but the underclass-ghetto culture pretends to like it so whites will be forced to accept it so blacks can torment whites with it. And as usual the ever-so-politically-correct bleeding-heart liberal elite Hollywood fools present this image of blacks as crude, degenerate, racially inferior savages who think crime is cool, women are "ho"s, whites are suckers to rob or threaten or sell drugs to, and by the way us deprived underclass victims are not responsible for our actions—right, Judge? Again, no genes operating.
  9. And since the movies depict black crime as cool and black entrepreneurialism as nonexistant, blacks naive enough to fall for all this oppressive nonsense end up behind bars where they can rape and brutalize, proving the whites' racist suspicions of black inferiority. Some of the black criminals end up locked up. Not any of those that get found innocent by liberal judges and juries that fall for the "poor deprived victims who are not responsible for their actions" baloney. They're back on the streets to rob, rape, and murder. Still no genes in sight, folks.
  10. To sum up: a race with morals, character, and a work ethic gets kidnapped to the U.S. as slaves, then freed and they still had morals, character, and a work ethic, and they got jobs wherever they could and even sometimes started businesses and they still had morals, character, and a work ethic. But then the bleeding-heart liberal do-gooders in politics and the bleeding-heart liberal do-gooders in Hollywood and the bleeding-heart liberal do-gooders in our courts and the bleeding-heart liberal do-gooders in our legislature all joined forces with the very best of intentions and almost singlehandedly ruined black American culture so that millions of our blacks are in criminal gangs, without morals or education or self-esteem or jobs or work ethics or ambition or hope or responsibility. Goodbye morals, character, and a work ethic for blacks, and hello drugs, crime, slackerism, crudeness and—last but not least—jail cells. More blacks are in prison than in college. Still no genes operating in all this.
  11. When the covertly racist bleeding-heart liberal do-gooders look at this crime against black humanity, do they feel shame for what they've done? No, they feel what liberals preach best: "We're not responsible." Then to put delicious irony on this disaster they go put up Black Lives Matter posters and we're left wondering why, if they matter so damn much to these elitist liberal do-gooders, have they spent the last half century wrecking them!? And again no genes were involved. Plenty of unacknowledged racism from the do-gooder liberal elites, but the degeneration of millions of American blacks was never about the blacks' genes and always about the bungling social engineering from the do-gooder liberal elites.
See The Dream and the Nightmare, Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America, The Abuse Excuse: And Other Cop-outs, Sob Stories, and Evasions of Responsibility, and A Nation of Victims: The Decay of the American Character.

Genetic explanations are easy to use but unlikely to be true—cultural explanations are usually correct

As depicted above with our very depressing example, the genetic explanation is easy to use but unlikely to be true. Cultural explanations are usually correct. Hubbard and Wald tell us that “Genetic explanations have their attractions. We have gone through a period when parents’ actions were blamed for whatever went wrong with their children. It should not surprise us that parents who have had to walk a thin line between being ‘overly permissive’ and ‘overly strict,’ being too ‘distant’ or ‘smothering’ their children with affection, would embrace the idea that genes, rather than their own mistakes, are at the root of their children’s problems.”

“Many instances of slow or arrested mental development have their origins in . . . psychological or social traumas and hence are not inherited biologically, though members of the same family may share them because they share these experiences.” So the authors point out that eugenics is hopeless, since politics defines what traits are benevolent, and all eugenics would inevitably boil down to racism, sexism, prejudice, and the Haves weeding out the Have-nots.

Even though upbringing has a tremendous effect on how a child turns out, genes are relevant as well
Even though upbringing has a tremendous effect on how a child turns out, genes are relevant as well

Parents need to see this book not as an indictment of themselves or anyone, or as proof that genes aren’t to blame for some problems. Rather, this is a systems book that has little patience for single-cause theories and reductionistic conclusions. In reality, a multitude of factors influence most problems, and the cause and effect isn’t as simple as we would like. Genes do influence how kids turn out. Nevertheless, parents aren’t about to get away with the claim that now there is scientific backing for their assertions that the way they raise kids is not relevant to how they turn out.

There is absolute, unequivocal proof that the upbringing has a tremendous effect on how a child turns out, and parents need not bother looking for genes or anything else to hide behind to mitigate their responsibility in this matter. But responsibility isn’t the same as blame. Blame is not a useful concept. What is useful is the act of finding out the facts about the best way to raise kids and then following through consistently and assiduously with correct parenting actions and attitudes.

More pills for kids means more cash for Big Pharma
More pills for kids means more cash for Big Pharma

Big Pharma dislikes "the genes are to blame" excuse since it leads to very little pill pushing and profits, but it LOVES "the brain chemistry is to blame" excuse since it leads to a ton of pill pushing and profits. The most outrageous posture taken by the biological psychiatric industry is that the abuse and neglect and bad parenting aren’t very important. A century of scientific evidence that proved just how important this misparenting is has been cast aside by this industry in their fervor to dispense their wondrous potions to the masses to fix their deficient brains. Ritalin has been peddled as a happiness pill for not just kids but the families that cope with such “defective” members, in ads that look like updated Norman Rockwell paintings. Big Brother, 1984, and even starker and more scary visions come to mind as the drugging of America proceeds at a dizzying pace. Even the Communist Party’s drugging of Soviet nonconformists during the Cold War is recalled by this dark and dreary drug craze.

Big Pharma spreading 'good health via medicine' across the land
Big Pharma spreading "good health via medicine" across the land