Re: letter to the editor

Garry DeWeese (
Mon, 03 Nov 1997 12:53:58 -0700


I commend you for composing a good letter to the editor, and for wanting to
get a Christian position into the "public square." But I am unclear about
a couple of points you made.

At 09:16 AM 11/3/1997 -0500, you wrote:


>Clearly scientific studies will eventually link the physical structure of
>the brain and its accompanying neural activity to the genetic makeup of an

"Clearly" to whom? I do not think this is at all clear. You seem to be
saying that brain structure is genetically determined. But if Glenn
Morton's recent posts about the information required to specify the
structure of the brain is correct, this is theoretically impossible.

>Therefore, all such human traits as charitableness,
>criminality, drunkenness, hatefulness, kindliness, licentiousness, etc.,
>will be shown to have a foundation in the genetic code that determines our
>physical bodies.

This certainly doesn't follow. Even granting that the structure of the
brain is genetically determined, only a reductionist theory of mental
properties would yield this conclusion. But eliminitive materialism has
not been a very productive philosophy of mind in recent decades (Paul and
Patricia Churchland notwithstanding). I think a good argument can be made
that a biblical view of personal survival and identity afer death cannot be
grounded in anything physical (even though what it means to be human is
closely linked to the physical, and the Christian hope is the resurrection
of the body, not the immortality of the soul).

>Man/woman have a free will and so genes alone do not determine our final
>actions. For some it is belief in God that determine which choices we
>actually ought to make. Such questions of value, purpose, and meaning are
>usually derived from religious beliefs and are not the result of mere brain
>flashes. The consequences for crime and punishment are immense. For
>instance, a criminal cannot just excuse his/her crimes by saying "my genes
>made me do it."

But if, as you say, all human traits "have a foundation in the genetic code
that determines our physical bodies," it would seem that the criminal can
claim just this. Further, given your position, it is difficult to make
sense of the concept of free will, for anything which is reducible to
physical processes is determined by the laws of physics (barring possible
quantum indeterminacy entering the reasoning process).

Now, your way out might be in the somewhat fuzzy terms "linked to" and
"have a foundation in." If so, I'd appreciate you clarifying these terms.

Garry DeWeese