DNA is the building block of every living thing. Our DNA determines our hair color, eye color, and our tendency to break out in hives before any public speaking. It determines how tall we are going to be, the color of our skin, and even shoe size. My DNA even determined that I would be round, despite my efforts to the contrary.
All the research into DNA has found other things as well. Who gets certain types of cancer can be located in our DNA. Doctors can find out if a baby has any sort of birth defects before they are even born. Scientists have found that there are genes that predict some mental disorders, such as depression. They can even tell if a person will become an addict; a certain gene indicates a predisposition toward addiction.
The vast amount of research and discovery is awe-inspiring, and it leads to some positive outcomes. People with a genetic predisposition toward a particular disease can actively work toward preventing that disease, or at least lessening the effects. That's why Angelina Jolie had her double mastectomy; she carries the gene for breast cancer, and she wanted to prevent it. People with a predisposition for heart disease can change their diet and start exercising to help themselves. Couples who know they carry the genes for diseases like cystic fibrosis can make informed choices about having children.
Knowledge is power.
Sometimes I think that people get confused about those predispositions, however. A person who has the gene for addiction, for example, might decide that they have no choice in the matter. They may believe that they will be an addict, and there's nothing they can do or say to change that. That isn't necessarily true. A predisposition does not mean that you will have the disorder. It means that you may. A genetic predisposition is a maybe, and that allows for some choice in the matter, particularly for something like addiction.
We all have choices, no matter our genes. To believe differently is to deny the responsibility that we all have to ourselves to be the best we can be. Yes, some of us may have the gene that indicates a problem with addictions. But we do have some measure of control. We don't have to drink that first beer at all. We can stay away from the break room where the doughnuts are stationed. We can make the choice to say no. We have that control over ourselves. And if we are addicted to something, despite our best efforts, we can choose to work hard to overcome that addiction, accepting that it may be a long battle. We have control over that, too.
Knowledge is power, if you put it to good use.