The God of Genetics: Can You Teach Right vs. Wrong?
So, the logic goes like this—
You can’t really influence your kids, it’s all genetics…so have more and enjoy them!
A new book by Bryan Caplan is well-intentioned; he wants parents to lighten up, have more kids and enjoy the ride (because you aren’t in control).
Here are a few excerpts from Caplan’s book:
All of those “life lessons” we teach our kids? Don’t really matter, says Bryan Caplan.
All those talks about morality, and right versus wrong? Again, Caplan says, doesn’t really swing the pendulum either way.
“The idea that it’s the way that we are raising our kids that causes them to resemble their parents is mostly an illusion. Again, if no child was adopted, it would be hard to tell this.”
Caplan believes we as parents spend too much time worrying, fretting, and picking apart our parenting styles. He advises us to relax, be selfish, have more kids, enjoy them, and enjoy the ride.
“I cannot responsibly offer any guarantees, but still, the odds are good that your child is going to turn out to be just like you when he grows up.”
Of course, it is a silly proposition that is simply fatalistic. Genetics is an influence, but it isn’t a god. Environment is an influence, but it isn’t a god either. Caplan say that no one challenges him with data (he has flawed twin studies in his back pocket as proof.
I’ll say I’m proof. I come from generations of alcoholics on both sides of my family…but I am not an alcoholic. Oh…it could be a recessive non-alcoholic gene! We had 5 children who slept through the night from 6 weeks old and onward…5 in a row (what are the genetic odds?). You see, this is called unfalsifiable position, which means there is no way to prove it wrong. Of course, if you can’t prove it wrong, you can’t prove it right. It is easy to find credible sources challenging the validity in the twin studies: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=A0BDE8276F7814C3B660A475D5CACCCA.tomcat1?fromPage=online&aid=31667 .
In a way it is like Skinnerism– You have no control, no real will, no influence, and no learning. The Scriptures wouldn’t support it, nor does philosophy, or common sense. It seems the nature of humankind is to seek out and find excuses. If you are a victim then you must be a victim….but before you laugh at Caplan, how about what we do say about IQ and alcoholism, and ADHD. Are we really without choice?
Caplan wants to let parents “off the hook” by realizing they have far less influence than they think (and can take less credit). Of course, he is stripping credit from the individual for life choices. Moreover, following his premise…not much you can do about people at work either (or your cell-mate in prison). You get the point.
What a destructive idea in parenting…in one moment of deifying the human gene, we disempower both parents and children. Not me.
The Bible puts it this way:
…a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. (Proverbs 29:15b)
Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. (Proverbs 29:17)
I’d love to here your thoughts…and share this…let’s have a conversation,
Dr. Fred Lybrand