While I believe HBD is of immense importance for policy, it may sometimes be negative stimulus in family life. Do we really want our parents to not try their hardest because they have faith genetics will just take care of it? I think being cognizant of genetics can make some parents lazy or have a defeatist attitude.
Previously, it was shown that those who believe personality is primarily determined by experience are on average of modestly higher intelligence than those who hold that personality is largely genetically determined. As the breadth and scope of free will continues to be hemmed in, is a move toward greater determinism harmful? A study released early last year out of the University of Minnesota found evidence that priming participants toward greater acceptance of fatalism increased the likelihood that they would cheat on a self-administered math test. My codons made me do it!
Conceptually, it’s easy to see the problem of maintaining a fatalistic outlook. I could go get a start on next week’s case load or go mow the lawn. But I think I’d rather go flip on the PS2 and eat peanuts. Let’s see what I end up doing… oh, looks like it’s game time. That’s what I was destined to do–it’s not like I’m culpable for being slothful.
The problem with that facile line of thinking is that it assumes complete determinism and the total absence of conscious free will, when in reality the deterministic influences–genetic, epigentic, cultural, or whatever–are probably probablistic, not absolute. Since the deterministic contribution to a decision is by definition not freely chosen, it does little good for a person to dwell on it. Better for me to assume that it is up to me to bring to bear (or at least think I am bringing to bear, despite being influenced by my time preference and energy level) the full weight of my reason, rationality, and morality to the decision of what to do on a lazy friday afternoon in order to arrive at the most optimal decision.
I see similarities with Pascal’s Wager. The free-willer is better off than the determinist to the extent that he is correct and no worse off in being wrong, while the determinist doesn’t benefit any in being correct (it’s not like he or the free-willer had a choice in the matter, after all!) but misses out majorly if he’s off the mark.
In this, I am only considering an individual’s actions at the individual level. The evaluation of deterministic thinking is not nearly so simple. There are confounding externalities like how policies on criminality are constructed or how the educational system is structured where an over emphasis on free will can be disastrous. And when evaluating someone else, it’s disadvantageous to presume everyone has a perfectly free will and so act under the assumption that until learning more about a person, nothing can be assumed about him. Stereotypes exist because they are accurate more often than not.
The question, then, concerns whether or not it is better to err on the side of conscious free will at an individual level.