The Dangerous Topic of DNA

I propose that every single human being alive today brought exactly as much value to human society as any other human ever period. There are no more and less valuable humans; there is no high or low; there is no genetic superiority.

I don’t know why there are so many differences among humans, but there always have been so I take the position that this is the right way, the way it is supposed to be. Humans come in exactly as many different sizes, shapes, colors, opinions, capabilities, and ways as there are humans all told at any given moment. It is inevitable. It is good.

Recent events have raised the ugly subject of racial or genetic superiority in American public conversation. I am going to explore that topic today.

The proposition of genetic superiority is based on a more insidious underlying proposition: That people can be assigned a value.

“So and so is a very important person.”steve_ballmer_-_mix_2008


“He’s the CEO of [X] and is worth {Y} billion dollars.”

OK, why does that make him important? If we acknowledge any measure by which he can be said to be a more important human than the very least among us, then the assumption our lives express proves the theory of genetic superiority. The two propositions stand or fail as a pair. They cannot be separated.

The owner of this photo has kindly placed it on the web for reuse. I thank you.

Because we know for absolute fact that genes determine or strongly influence the vast majority of everything that we are. We simply know this. To dispute the genetic basis of life is as absurd as to argue against gravity. Therefore, if there is one specific set of traits that constitutes the superior human being, then there is genetic superiority. Because having any trait is largely genetically based.

While I was driving this afternoon to the library where I often write, I saw a short, wide, bandy-legged man with a distinct rolling gate walking down the sidewalk. He looked just like a guy in my town. They are a genotype. These two particular guys don’t have the same color skin, but genetically I’d bet they are more alike than they are different. (Besides the fundamental fact that genetically they are human beings.)

Our minds are as genetically different as our bodies are. Not better. Not worse. Different. Evil lies, not in acknowledging genetic differences, but in assigning levels of value based upon them. Because if we accept the underlying system of valuing humans then Steve Bannon is right. Donald Trump is right. There is one particular gene pool among humans that is like him. Bannon has assumed himself to be superior; by our society’s current operating standards he has considerable evidence to support his claim. He graduated from the right schools, held the right jobs, earned the right dollars and did many of the things that modern America society values. He could be be said to have a great resume. He is a valued adviser to The President-elect of the United States. His only problem socially is that he has said out loud what the common values of our society already accept but pretend not to notice: some genes are worth more than others. He’s not stupid, he’s just evil. Perhaps it is genetically programmed that he must be.

If a society values people by skin color, then there is an obvious genetic link to human value. This has been an assumption made by those in power since the European folks got to this continent, particularly those from England. They operated under a basic assumption: I am better than everybody else. The more somebody is like me the more valuable they are. And the obverse. If their skin is real dark I can own them like chickens.

It has gotten better since then, but it’s obvious that in America still today having black or dark colored skin automatically reduces your odds of making a lot of money. Leaving aside for the moment the moral implications of this, if we say (or live like) money measures the value of a human, what have we said?

It goes beyond race. Race is America’s most visible and discussed fight over genetic superiority, but our free market economy directly associates a dollar value with various genetic traits. A certain kind of intelligence is rewarded, so there’s one economically measurable example of genetic superiority already. However, even the right intelligence is more valuable when wrapped up in a larger genetic package. It helps if the intelligence is wrapped in a tall, lean white (but not too white) man, facile of speech, with a low voice. But not too low. Look at corporate CEO’s and the men who own the media. Don’t let Roger Ailes fool you – he was powerful, but the little fat guy was still an employee.

Besides the above traits, you don’t get rich because you’re smart, or honorable, or stupid, or dishonorable, if you don’t also value money very highly, to the extent where you would put off activities that don’t make money, forever if need be, in order to have more money. Donald Trump appears to play all the time, but he inherited part of his money and stole the rest. And it’s not really play: he’s been running scams with every waking minute since at least puberty. Real rich people like Bill Gates worked for the gold. They didn’t strut around clubs with babes on their arms. Bill Gates just did absolutely nothing but work until he was rich. Even so, Bill Gates appears to have done what few others have ever done, and that is to say, I’m OK now, I’ll let the money look after itself why I accomplish some other things.  Look at the Koch Brothers, two old men with nearly infinite wealth who still spend their lives in a demeaning dishonorable scramble after ever more money and power. For that matter look at Trump, still the dandy in the spotlight, still running a gigantic scam, still right on the edge between “Will he get away with this?” and “He finally flew too close to the sun.” But he’s been there all his life, he may pull it off again. This trait is probably based on a genetic predisposition. I don’t think it would offend Donald Trump for me to say that he has spent his entire lifetime in the pursuit of money. I think that’s his claim. Mark Cuban loves money. Rupert Murdoch does. Otherwise after they had some money they’d have done whatever else it was they loved, like paint or surf or write obscure essays into the howling universe.

Feet of a Down's Syndrome boy
The feet of a boy with Trisomy 21 (Down’s Syndrome)

That’s ok. They are genetically predisposed to be that way. And I don’t mind them being rich. I would prefer they paid a fair share of taxes, because things would get a lot better for everybody else, but they can go on being rich. They really prefer to be rich. All the not-rich humans I personally know today would prefer to be not rich. I certainly would.  What I have had and done with my time I would not trade for all the money Donald Trump claims to have. Humans have always had the rich and the poor and the vast majority between. I don’t propose that we give that up.

What we need to do is to separate the measure of money from the value of the human. I propose that every single human being alive today brought exactly as much value to human society as any other human ever period. There are no more and less valuable humans; there is no high or low; there is no genetic superiority.

Therefore I also propose that we quit saying (or believing, or acting like) the rich person is superior, better than, more valuable than, the poor person. Because if we believe that, then it is scientifically true that there are genetically superior and inferior humans. Then what? Fix it? We know selective breeding works; look at chihuahuas and Holsteins.

I object to the very idea. We are not supposed to be the same. We all belong here.

I have known people whose prize from the genetic lottery did not include the ability to learn to read, no matter how hard they tried. I have a friend who is hovering right on the border, between, well, maybe he can read, at least some, or maybe not. It doesn’t matter. Right now he is happy with the pursuit, and that is all that matters in this world. He is not marketable. He is human. His genetic prize made many things hard for him. My genetic prize made many things easy for me. Every time I see him I learn something, often something very valuable. It is true that there are genetic differences; it is not true that genetic differences are a bad thing. Some genetic differences cause huge suffering in their owners. I grieve for them. Would I want the power to see that their suffering never happened to another human? I don’t think I  would. I have not the wisdom.

I am dubious of any human who claims to have that wisdom.

I propose that every single human being alive today brought exactly as much value to human society as any other human ever period. There are no more and less valuable humans; there is no high or low; there is no genetic superiority. And further I propose that, since no human ever chose his or her own genetic makeup, the few be not rewarded quite so grandly for their prize in the genetic lottery, not at such expense to all the others.

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