Genetics has by now passed into parlor room conversation. Everyone can talk a few pseudo-intellectual minutes about their “family genes” and how they affect us. But now comes a new twist: Epigenetics. It’s telling some researchers at Stanford University that “environmental factors can actually switch our genes on and off.” In other words, maybe the genes we’re born with may not be the genes we have to live with….!
Whoa, you mean I’m not genetically destined to be bald like Grandpa or fat like Uncle Benny or racist like half my cousins…? Epigenetics is raising the prospect our environment not only interacts with our genes, but it may actually alter those genes via our exposure to diet, pollution and medications.
Well now. If this is true, might Epigenetics help explain our national passion for controversy? We Americans thrive on controversy. We love it, we create it, we seem to need it. I mean, do the media ever report how politicians are “getting along”…how the players on the team “are a happy locker-room family”….how the stars in Hollywood are “ideal fathers and mothers”….how our candidates “have an unsullied personal history?”
Hell no. Not as long as we have Herman Cain, Jay Cutler, and Lindsay Lohan to kick around!
So here’s the thing. We’re a democracy. In contrast to a dictatorship where everything is passed down as good, here nothing is so good that we citizens can’t — shouldn’t — dig around and smell out the lies, deceits and controversies.
Look at it this way. If your morning newspaper or blog site didn’t have anything bad to report…well, what would it do? Civics classes in a democracy prefer to call this the “marketplace of ideas” where everything and everyone is fair game as good citizens wrestle with the facts, smarmy or not.
Maybe so. But how did this come to pass? No one’s quite sure. It’s just the way it is. Is it good? Is it wrong? Is it necessary? Well now look, we’ve just started another controversy….
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