Can Science Define our Identity?
The definition of Identity, expressed in this site (The Science of Identity), is relatively simple and straightforward. It represents an objective solution to the ancient conundrum of “sameness” despite all changes in the person and is, therefore, a significant breakthrough. The mere revelation should induce acceptance—at least amongst experts in the humanities and social sciences. Surprisingly, this is not the case. Why?
There is no single answer. In the field of technology, a breakthrough is exploited relatively rapidly because industry is highly competitive, and the application of innovations often produce enormous gains in profits.
But why is there a reluctance to link human genome and “identity”? Perhaps the simplicity of the new findings causes it to be ignored. Maybe it is assumed that to solve such an intricate and persistent problem would surly need an intricate and extremely complex solution. These arguments don’t stack up because, once the solution is clarified, opposition should melt away. That is not the case. There has been a stubborn clinging to the old that can only be explained through a more detailed examination.
Apprehension comes in four main forms:
- First Instinctive reflexes are triggered and antagonism aroused against the belief that human behaviour is controlled by an individual’s genes at the expense of the role of the environment, learning or free will. This has created an almost kneejerk assumption that the door is now opening to genetic determinism or reductionism. We are only a stone throw from uncovering disturbing facts about the heritability of IQ that could lead inevitably to scientific racism and, finally, widespread eugenics.
- Second The second set of objections are technical and involve cloning. It is claimed that human clones (moral or ethical moratoriums aside) would make the donor indistinguishable from its offspring, thus violating the condition or fact that a person is itself and not something else.
- Third The academic world is reluctant to override the classic thinkers’ perspectives on identity. It is almost sacrilegious to propose superimposing the great works of these philosophers with a relatively simple scientific definition. Besides, their approaches seem to fit an intuitive understand of identity.
- Fourth A person’s psychological awareness of who he or she is, is often seen as a better indication of identity than one’s genetic base, which is detached from the warmth of feelings, instinct and lived experiences.
The next article (March 2020) will examine the arguments in favour of The Science of Identity.