‘Roy Baumeister and his colleagues recently published a study in the Journal of Positive Psychology that helps explain some of the key differences between a happy life and a meaningful one. They asked almost 400 American adults to fill out three surveys over a period of weeks. The surveys asked people to answer a series of questions their happiness levels, the degree to which they saw their lives as meaningful, and their general lifestyle and circumstances.
‘As one might expect, people’s happiness levels were positively correlated with whether they saw their lives as meaningful. However, the two measures were not identical – suggesting that what makes us happy may not always bring more meaning, and vice versa…’
Trauma can change you at a genetic level
So does crime leave a genetic trace?
‘Meaney’s study was a landmark moment in a field known as epigenetics, a line of study that is changing our understanding of the links between childhood experiences and adult behavior. His focus was suicide, but epigenetics is revealing that a slew of behaviors, from depression and other mental illnesses to aggression and perhaps even crime, may be shaped by chemical imprints laid down in the cells of people who suffer traumatic childhoods. It’s an area of research that, as a recent article in Nature put it, provides “a molecular middle ground in the centuries-old debate over nature versus nurture”. It may even tell us why families like Yokia’s have endured so many generations of chaos.
‘The epigenome helps determine how that potential is realized. It can turn off one gene and enhance the activity of another, shaping the behavior of our cells in the process. If our genes are our hardware, the epigenome is the software that runs on top, the instructions that govern how our genes behave…’
Will you genetically modify your children?
The ethics of genetically enhanced monkey-slaves
‘Think parents should be able to select their children’s talents and personalities? Or want to run and hide in the woods at the thought of it? Whatever your opinion, it is precisely the kind of question that Julian Savulescu wants you to take seriously. Professor of practical ethics at the University of Oxford, Savulescu thinks deeply about the ethics of the biological enhancement of the human race. In his view, not only should you stop fearing such changes, you should consider them for yourself. In fact, he argues, you may even have an ethical responsibility to genetically modify your children…’