Thursday, 11 July 2013

Biologism - A Post You Can't Decide Not to Read


Biologism, Free will, Neuroscience, Biology, Human, Homo Sapiens,
The Human Genome Display at the Smithsonian Museum
Photo by Jim H.

BIOLOGISM

Noun. Mid-19th century.
[from BIOLOGY + -ISM.]

1. = Electrobiology (b). rare. Only in M19

2. The interpretation of human life from a strictly biological point of view. E20

Why are you interested in words? Specifically, why are you interested in words? Many people aren't, of course, and would struggle to think of a more boring thing to be interested in. So why are you? Did you choose this interest? Did your parents or culture nurture it? Come to think of it, why am I interested in words?

To a proponent of biologism (also known as biological determinism), the answer is rather simple (even if the mechanics behind it are not): I am simply a product of my own biology. My genes, DNA and biological makeup determine the way I am, from my temperament to my tastes to my physical characteristics and, crucially, even the choices I make. While societal influences may play a part, these are most definitely secondary to the overriding and and inescapable biological 'me'. Therefore, I was always going to be interested in words; my biology dictates it.

In the ubiquitous "nature vs. nurture" debate, biologism is roughly synonymous with the nature aspect, although the theory itself posits that nature is by far the dominant factor. As such, it is a deeply uncomfortable theory for many, threatening as it does the sacred notion of free-will and, in the past, being used to justify such heinous practices as eugenics. It also undermines the idea of personal accountability: if a serial killer could show that it was his inherent biology that made him commit murder rather than any personal choice, how could he be held personally accountable for his actions?


The nature vs. nurture debate continues, as does the research into what factors determine someone's character, attributes and decisions. 

Do you have any thoughts on free will? Do you believe in biologism?

Do please leave your comments below (although, presumably, your brain chemistry has already decided whether you will or not). 

4 comments:

  1. This post makes me kind of sad... So what you're saying is, that whichever decision you make in life, whichever interest you have in something, is decided by genetics, and you basically have no say in it? I don't like that idea. It would mean that maybe, in time, geneticists would be able to create the perfect human, with the perfect interests, the perfect abilities... Sad.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well, *I'm* not saying that; I'm simply writing about the theory of biologism. If one views humans as purely biological entities, it does call into question the notion of free will, in much the same way as it's questionable whether a lion or any other animal has any form of free will.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If that were true, then all of us are just helpless cogs in an astronomically complex machine which is making steady plodding progress toward an inalienable pre-determined and probably not-too-wonderful conclusion. If someone proved to me this were true, I would be thoroughly disillusioned, but would no longer take as much time to decide which pizza I want.

    -clueless

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I heartily (biologically?) agree, though not liking the idea of something is never a good reason for not believing it. One of the biggest problems with biologism, if it were ever proved to be true, is that it would just be an excuse for everything:

      "Ed, why are you being such an obnoxious prat today?"
      "Oh, it's just the immutable course of my biological processes."
      "Fair enough."

      Delete