Are you genetically predisposed to be annoying?
Has there ever just been one person that can annoy you in three seconds flat? Or perhaps you know someone who has the most explosive temper? In the past, people have always been thought to be responsible for themselves and their behavior, but as we learn more and more about our genes and their effects on our brains the amount of responsibility any of us should be taking for our personalities is becoming less clear. This idea is brought up in Richard Powers’ novel Generosity in which he describes a young girl, Thassa, who may be genetically engineered to be incredibly happy. Thassa is constantly protesting that we are the ones who can control our moods and behaviors and that nothing is fated, but how much of that is really true?
If a person’s personality is simply made up of chemical signals firing off in our brains, and the amounts and frequencies of those signals are determined by our DNA, then aren’t we all fated to our own dispositions? Perhaps there will come a day when every person’s genome can be sequenced to predict the probability that a person will be prone to anger, joy, hate, cruelty, kindness, or even laughter. If that day comes will it change the way that we see each other? Instead of feeling upset at the person who can never manage to control his or her temper, perhaps we will feel pity because we believe it is simply an unlucky set of genes in his or her DNA that he or she could have never controlled.
Then again, Powers was very careful when he wrote the way his scientist described his findings on happiness and genes. He did not say he had found the gene for happiness, only that he had found a set of genes, which if a person possessed, might be more inclined to be happy. So maybe there is room for something else besides our genes to affect our personalities. Perhaps that something is our principles, our upbringing, our surroundings, our role models. In effect, it’s nurture not nature. So maybe we will go on to be annoyed with loose cannons for a bit longer because while it is possible they may be inclined towards angry behavior, it may also be possible that they can learn to control it.