Does biology determine who we are?

It’s a bit funny to me that with all that is going on in the world – economic crashes, ecological transformation, oil depletion – we should still consider it an important issue to what extent our behavior is determined by biology.

People asking that question aren’t wondering whether we should go back to the Savanna, leave electricity, central heating and clothes made in factories…

They are saying: despite all that, we are still, to a large extent, determined by our biological basis.

I had a teacher at university who said, when discussing women in religion, ‘my biggest fear is that they will turn out to be right: that there will turn out to be a biological reason for women to be subordinate’. But he didn’t believe it.

Recent biological research has made great strides in this direction. Yes – there are differences between men and women. HOWEVER, while statistically significant, they are quite marginal compared to differences between human beings in general. For instance: a smart woman is likely to have a better sense of direction than a stupid man. I’d like to think that my technological insight is quite good and better than that of most people (men and women).

The human species is quite remarkable really. I’m a teacher (or was trained to be one) – and one of the first things I learned was the amazing difference in intelligence between the smartest kids and the stupidest. We know of course that intelligence is partly trained into us, but there is also a genetic factor. The biology is what we are stuck with, but what we build on that basis can be quite remarkable.

Maybe it is precisely because all our technology removes us from our biological roots that we are fascinated with those aspects of our lives that are at least partly biologically determined. We create technology, but we are never quite at home in it.

3 thoughts on “Does biology determine who we are?”

  1. Peace be with you, Katinka. What you wrote depends on what you mean by ‘biological:’ either pranamaya kosa (including prana; bios) or the body, which is ‘soma,’ not ‘bios.’ ‘Scientists’ outside of Greece have irrationally switched these words.

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