Humans select animals with traits we like, and breed them together to create more animals with those traits. This is common practice everywhere, it’s how we get “breeds” of anything – dogs, cats, horses, bovine.
It’s also done with plants. Controlling the reproduction of flora and fauna is a big part of agriculture.
I’m simply saying that we do it to ourselves, too.
No One is Born Blank
And I’m not the first one to ponder this. Gordon Allport founded the study of personality 100 years ago. His work is the garden in which all others bloom, such as the Meyers-Briggs and Big Five systems.
Some personality theories address the cause of temperament, and some don’t. Dr Hans Eysenck, founder of the “3 Factor Model,” critic of Freud and stalwart advocate for science (“I always felt that a scientist owes the world only one thing, and that is the truth …. if the truth contradicts deeply held beliefs, that is too bad,”) believes personality derives from the brain. Much of your brain structure is down to genetics.
However, the brain turns out to be much more malleable in adult life than was previously believed. Think of temperament as your personal baseline.
Gentlemen Prefer Hourglass Figures
Over time we have selected mates with desirable qualities, whatever those happened to be in our time and place. Many personal quirks have enjoyed crosstemporal trendiness, and a few physical traits seem to be beloved across the world.
According to the National Institute of Health, “Beyond matching on similarly, little is known about why we choose who we choose.”
Men have gotten taller while women have been selected for petiteness. The average erect penis is 1/3 larger than the average vagina…. What sense does that make in Nature?? Small wonder so many straight women experience painful intercourse!
What About Personality?
Domesticated animals are also bred for temperament. I see no reason humans should not be effected similarly.
And I believe many of these traits can lie dormant until triggered by outside forces.
As a kid my idol was Idgie Threadgoode and these days I’m genuinely interested in what Martha Stewart has to say. I still love the outdoors but also a good Clean & Organize.
I did not learn to enjoy domesticity so much as attain a different understanding through what felt like osmosis.
I find my fingers itching to sew, to bake, to turn the dirt and create in all kinds of small ways. But like a purebred hound raised as a pet, I have instinct but no real training.
There’s a feeling of emptiness where domestic culture should be. I blame the Cult of Youth where each generation is encouraged to ignore the knowledge of their elders. And I blame the intergenerational breakdown in my family. My mother can’t teach what she was never taught.
And, frankly, I blame Feminism. With its rejection of the womanly in favor of beating the boys at their own game.
Instinct Vs. Intellect
All of this has been very difficult for me to admit – That I was feeling this way at all, let alone that I have no real idea what I’m doing. I have always shied away from “girly” things because dimples and freckles are bad enough. I thought maybe if I swaggered around like a man, people would take me more seriously.
And if I didn’t find myself in the position of Lady of the House, I doubt that these thoughts would be bubbling up.
I lack positive associations and role models for these traits. I’m conflicted about it all, to say the least. But I have to ask myself, Where is it coming from?
Science Gets Weird
Scientists are just beginning to understand that our lifestyle leaves its mark not just on our bodies, but on our genes. Epigenetics is the fascinating idea that the genes you pass on are directly effected by your behavior.
Then there’s the weird concept of genetic memory. People have been found to have aversions that reflect experiences of their direct ancestors. So, what if dozens of generations of your ancestors lived pretty much the same lifestyle? Hypothetically, you could have strong temperamental leanings for that lifestyle, even if you had never done any of it.
Is Philosophy Genetic?
None of this rules out free will. Just because we have an inkling to pursue something doesn’t mean we have to. Or that we can’t find success doing something else. And some people will have stronger expression of any given attribute than others. Just like any physical trait you can think of.
I wonder if our stubborn refusal to accept the mind as an outgrowth of the body is causing us to overlook a potentially very fruitful field of psychology. If we have genetic code for our minds as well as our bodies, understanding this could lead to amazing shortcuts in treatments and development.
This idea is not controversial when searching for the genetic components of cancer, diabetes or autism.
Knowing what environments could trigger certain traits could bring a whole new vibrancy to education.
But to consciously harness the power of selection for good –
(This is NOT an endorsement of Eugenics! Traits are just traits, people don’t need Official Help finding partners, and race is not a real thing 😁)
– We have to accept that we are animals, too. Not holding my breath on that one.