Don’t Be Proud—or Ashamed—of Your Genes:

You Didn’t Make Them.
(c) 2015, Davd

Once upon a time, a young woman gave birth to a baby boy, but as the baby grew, he didn’t develop as his older cousins had done. He was lethargic, slow to learn, insensitive to pain, hard of hearing—but he would eat almost anything. Eventually, she learned, her toddler had something called Prader-Willi Syndrome, and it was genetically based.

Her mother, the baby’s grandmother, searched the Internet and “found that the syndrome was Larry’s fault,” which in Grandmother’s mind, exonerated her daughter. To me, what she located seemed more to show that Grandmother wanted to be proud of her genes and her daughter’s. Larry [not his real name] had not known he carried any genes for that syndrome or any other seriously damaging medical conditions. He himself was healthy and intelligent… as was their other son.

So Larry shouldn’t be ashamed of his genes, nor Grandmother proud of hers. Genes aren’t made by our actions, they are received from our ancestors, who didn’t make them either*. Most, probably all genetic adverse syndromes, are not caused by the sins of the parents of children born with them. They come as dreadfully bad luck; and it is mercy when those around, intervene with help rather than blame.

Those of us who know they carry a serious genetic defect, have some responsibility not to pass it on—once they know. Larry might be wise to have a vasectomy, if indeed what Grandmother found on the Internet does show that he carries a gene for Prader-Willi Syndrome. Prader-Willi is a heavy burden on those around the afflicted person; best that people who might produce Prader-Willi children, not produce children at all. But this is no shame on Larry—because he did not make his genes, he received them from his ancestors; and until his child was diagnosed with Prader-Willi, he did not know.

There is another, better reason than pride, for sires to be fathers: Though we did not make our genes, we do transmit them. A child has more in common, biologically, with his or her father, than with a man who is unrelated. The father’s understanding of his own child will be better, on average, than that of a man who shares fewer genes—because more of the child’s nature, is shared with his.

Don’t be ashamed, nor proud, of your genes—but recognize they are important. Genes in common aren’t all there is to children being safer, and developing better, with their natural fathers than in any other kind of family—but they are an important part of the value of fathers.


* I’m not David Suzuki [who is a geneticist] and don’t know just how genes came to be. I have read repeatedly, that all higher animals have genes, as do higher plants; and that “evolution” refers to their selection by way of differential reproduction. Prader-Willi children do not reproduce; the syndrome includes not experiencing puberty. Choosing not to sire or bear children if one carries a gene for Prader-Willi, amounts to deliberate selection against one’s own set of genes—or one could say, applying intelligence to replace the harsher effects of having a Prader-Willi child.


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About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together "in peace and brotherhood" for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.
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