Letter – Humans are who we are

Published 6:55 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

It sometimes seems to me that many of the things for which we blame other people are things that essentially are beyond one’s control.

Accepted science is that we are, each of us, the product of our genetic makeup and our environmental experiences. Unless someone wants to make a case that 2-year-olds, or 4-year-olds, or even 16-year-olds have significant control over either of them, we pretty much arrive in our teens, and into adulthood, with marginal input into either.

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Certainly, our genetic makeup is pretty much settled at birth. There are some “turning on” and “turning off’ of genes due to environmental factors over which some input can be had. And for the vast majority of us, our genetic makeup is pretty fixed. My sister will tell you that I think differently than she, and I have known since I was 12 or 13 that she was better with people than I.

There was an amazing study looking at violence perpetrated on a child and the child’s propensity for violence in adulthood. It was found that a neurotransmitter, monoaminoxidase, was key to understanding the dynamic. The research, done on males, found that both low MAO levels and the experience of violence in childhood were necessary to increase the likelihood that the man grown from the child would be violent.

If attention is turned to the environment, a child has no say about the environment into which he/she/they is born. Whether poverty or wealth, good schools or bad, violent neighborhoods or safe, and the family into which one is born, the child is without a say. Certainly, there are children born into horrendous environmental experiences who excel and children who inexplicably go off the rails.

So, yes, there are many things that are beyond our control that have gone into the making of who we are today. How we manage that reality seems important with regards to how things turn out.


Jo Weaver