“The use of the word ‘theory’ can mislead those not familiar with science..”

With Lisburn Council encouraging post-primary schools to teach neo-creationists’ untestable hypotheses as alternative theories to evolution, and the NI Department of Education apparently unsure about what they should do about it, James Randerson at the Guardian’s Science blog has pointed to the government’s new guidance to teachers in another part of the UK. And that guidance couldn’t be clearer – creationism and intelligent design are not alternative scientific theories to evolution and “should not be taught as science.” Perhaps someone could tell the spokeswoman for the Department of Education here?From the post by James Randerson

The new guidelines could not be clearer:

Creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science.” [added emphasis]

That doesn’t mean it cannot be mentioned of course, but the guidelines state that it should only feature as part of discussions about what does and does not make a scientific theory.

The use of the word ‘theory’ can mislead those not familiar with science as a subject discipline because it is different from the everyday meaning of being little more than a ‘hunch’. In science the meaning is much less tentative and indicates that there is a substantial amount of supporting evidence, underpinned by principles and explanations accepted by the international scientific community…Creationism and intelligent design are sometimes claimed to be scientific theories. This is not the case as they have no underpinning scientific principles, or explanations, and are not accepted by the science community as a whole.

And also from those guidelines

Creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. However, there is a real difference between teaching ‘x’ and teaching about ‘x’. Any questions about creationism and intelligent design which arise in science lessons, for example as a result of media coverage, could provide the opportunity to explain or explore why they are not considered to be scientific theories and, in the right context, why evolution is considered to be a scientific theory.

If the Northern Ireland Department of Education haven’t issued these guidelines to schools here, they should do so now.

Adds here’s another snippet from the guidelines to teachers elsewhere in the UK

Which subject should deal with creationism and intelligent design?

Teachers of subjects such as RE, history or citizenship may deal with creationism and intelligent design in their lessons. If such issues were to arise there might be value in science colleagues working with these teachers in addressing them.

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  • Greenflag

    ID has become popular because it stops people having to think . The Earth centric universe of Galileo’s time provided the same service . With God above the firmament and his designed creatures crawling /flying /swimming in the 12 mile high biosphere and Lucifer condemned to the fiery abysss of Dante’s inferno with it’s 9 strata of tortures – universal order was maintained . Any questioning of such order was ‘heresy’ and a threat to the stability of both church and state .

    We or some of us have moved on from that time . But there are many who would rather seek comfort in the simple faith of a ‘religion’ than study or examine the most recent biological and neuro scientific findings on the human brain . It appears t we are not born as blank slates but inherit ‘innate ‘ qualities /abilities which are then exposed to environmental influence . We have evolved through both influences . Our evolution has been physical , mental and cultural and it continues .

    Hobbes the English philosopher was closest to the mark re human nature when he commented that ‘In a State of Nature’ the life of man was nasty , brutish and short’. Rousseau’s ‘noble savage’ was a mythological creature . Looking around the world today or indeed at any period in history who can doubt Hobbes finding ? Yes of course man is also capable of great nobility, generosity etc etc etc but these qualities arise the further man is from his ‘original ‘ state of nature . They are part of the cultural add ons that have accumulated over centuries . Religion has been part of that add on and so recently has Science .

    We are not condemned by nature to be either devils or angels ( metaphorically speaking) but we can become either as it suits the circumstances or our political leaders at specific times . Which path we follow at particular periods in history depends very much on how the complex mix of nature and nurture combine with the forces of ‘history’ , ‘circumstance’ and random individual human nature .

    Had Hitler not been rejected by the Art Academy he could well have spent his life in a garret churning out mediocre ‘paintings’ Had Stalin not being brutalised by his father then ‘Communism’ might have succumbed to Fascism in WW2 .

    As individuals and as ‘democrats’ all we can do to ensure the non repeat of man’s inhumanity to man is to make sure that the ‘nutters’/ ideologues never get their hands on absolute political power. We should also work for the complete separation of Church and State. We know from our common histories world wide that when both institutions are bound together by law , tradition , custom then individual’s freedom of thought is endangered and in too many cases extirpated.

    Greenflag

  • abucs

    Yes Greenflag,

    that is the materialistic view of the universe.

    If i had a narrow view of science and didn’t think so much, i probably would agree with you.

  • Greenflag

    MR
    ‘I keep running into that quotation, but haven’t yet traced its originator. Any clues? ‘

    No but probably somebody ‘enlightened’ :)and also shrewd observer of human nature.

  • Greenflag

    Abucs ,

    ‘that is the materialistic view of the universe.’

    Indeed and that is what the universe is made of i.e ‘material’ some of it ‘alive’ but mostly inanimate . Evolution as a process is self evident from scientific analysis and factual observations . Over 2 billion years life once started has clung on to this piece of rock by astronomical accident and we humans as homomsapiens owe our existence as much to geological inspired climate change as to species evolution . We know know that our Neanderthal primate ‘cousin’ was not alone in co existing with Homo Sapiens . Evidence from Indonesia seems to prove that the ‘Hobbit’ people survived into modern times even more so than neanderthal i.e up to 18,000 years ago .

    It may come as a shock to realise that the Universe /Earth can carry on without us and that we are not either the centre of the universe nor perhaps it’s most highly evolved ‘animal’. If Galileo’s contemporaries could get over their shock at a non earth centred universe then we too will get over our shock at a non man /god centred
    universe .

    But while we’re here we should enjoy it while we can and while we’re at it make it as pleasant as place for the rest of humnaity as we can .

    JC’s ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ seems as good an ethic to follow as any and such an attitude and behaviour is likely to be returned to the doer by all one’s fellow humans apart from the 3 to 4% of the male species that are pychopathic and the smaller percentage of women who are in the same category .

    Science will continue to develop and discover more about our ‘human’ natures as time goes on .

    PS As a ‘materialist’ I confess to being of the Groucho Marx variety and not the Karl . And although the latter was a shrewd and often correct interpreter of man’s economic and class/history , he missed out on his perception /understanding of our ‘human natures’ by the proverbial millenium.

    Modern neurological and biological research as well as the Human Genome project is endeavouring to hone in on how much of our nature both as individuals and as species is innate (heredity)and how much is environment. We appear to be neither blank slates at birth nor entirely products of our environment . I hold out the hope that research might yet leave us with what we call ‘free will’ . And yet when we consider how long it takes for a young teenager to become addicted to ‘smoking’ (one packet of fags appears to be enough to complete the addiction) perhaps we overestimate our ‘free wills’ Teenagers are of course free to start smoking but it appears they are mostly ‘unfree’ to stop such is the nature of addiction .

    Those addicted to ID may suffer more from ‘withdrawal’ systems than those who while aware that ‘evolution’ as theory may not yet be 100% of the explanation are comforted in the realisation that Science will in time ‘discover’ the missing few percent.

    Greenflag

    Gravity btw is not intelligent falling.

  • Comrade Stalin

    greenflag,

    I enjoyed those contributions. I have no problem with religion as such, but I do agree that in extreme circumstances, the outcome is that people stop thinking critically and stop discovering.

  • Greenflag

    ‘I have no problem with religion as such, but I do agree that in extreme circumstances, the outcome is that people stop thinking critically and stop discovering.’

    Indeed . It’s so much easier for many people not to think critically be it re religion or any other subject . The fact that we or most of us anyway are no longer cave dwellers is thanks to those few critical thinkers . Being a ‘critical ‘ thinker however , has according to recent anthropological research not always been an ‘advantage ‘ to individual ‘survival’. In ancient times long before Galileo those who ‘thought’ too differently from the tribal elders were often ‘sacrificed’ presumably to please the God/Gods that may have been offended by ‘strange’ ideas. The role of ‘sacrifice’ modern day religion /religious practices may hark back to ancient rituals in which the shamans/elders / priests protected the ‘people’ from strange ‘thinkers’ who asked too many of the wrong questions ?

    Religion is of course an important part of man’s cultural heritage .The part of us that wants to know why we are , where we’re from and where if anywhere we’re going . As Science has progressed many though not all of the questions which the religious mentality poses have been answered.

    Taking a long view present day extreme fundamentalists in their pro Creation /ID pursuits are in many respects similar to the absolutist RC Church in medieval times . But no matter how much the fundamentalists rage the truth is that just as in Galileo’s time the Pontiff was powerless to restore the Earth to it’s place at the centre of ‘Creation’ it’s even more true that Darwin’s theory of ‘Evolution’ is not going to disappear as an explanation for how we and the entire plant and animal kingdoms have come to be what we are .

    Indications from the upcoming American Presidential Election seem to indicate that many religious minded Americans believe that the ID fundies have gone too far.

    President Hilary Clinton’s election will just be proof that the nutters on the religious right have had their day . But they’ll be around for quite some time yet in the Middle East /Islamic countries more’s the pity 🙁

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s so much easier for many people not to think critically be it re religion or any other subject.

    This is true. If you find marxist fanatics, or free-market fanatics, or Apple Macintosh fanatics, you are dealing with people whose approach to life is such that the answer to every single question ever postulated by mankind can be found within their chosen ideology. This is very similar to the behaviour found among the religious fanatics here.

    I do know a few people who are religious, some more than others, but none of them see a particularly big deal with modern cosmology or evolution (as far as I know). There is nothing about any of these scientific theories that rules out the existence of God.

    The only people whom science presents a challenge for are those who insist that every single letter of the bible is absolute truth. Reading the bible’s riddles and contradictions suggests right away that anyone with this point of view is on a hiding to nothing.

    President Hilary Clinton’s election will just be proof that the nutters on the religious right have had their day .

    I do not think the American election will come down to Christian principles or the business of whether ID is taught in schools. Having recently returned from the US, people I spoke to over there seem to think that the war, and domestic matters such as healthcare provision, will be what count.

    Hillary’s election is not a sure thing, remember Howard Dean’s “sure thing” position at approximately this stage four years ago. Hillary is running into trouble with her creepy-sounding laugh. More seriously, she spends a lot of time avoiding answering hard questions.

    Hopefully Edwards or someone else worthy of the job will get it.

  • Turgon

    Greenflag / Comrade Stalin,
    The debate here seems a little more civilised. At the risk of lowering the tone may I put my tuppence worth in?

    I agree with much of what you say. I would not pretend to be a “critical” thinker, I am not really clever enough. I have thought, discussed, prayed and worried about much in the bible and come to a resolution on some issues. On others I have made a concious decision that I am not clever enough to understand (and sometimes am not bothered to research?) and so accept it. I believe this is a form of Pascal’s Wager.

    I do not believe that one must accept that God created the world in six days to be a conserative evangelical / fundamentalist Christian. I do believe that to be one you should probably believe that He could have done so. The difference is pretty obvious and pretty important in my view.

    In terms of the American election (not my field at all) I have heard that Hilary Clinton is actually pretty religious.

  • abucs

    Greenflag and Comrade,

    i agree with just about everything you’ve said.
    I think religion is a call to think more, not less though.

    My money is on one of those big shocks which shake up our understanding of things – is the questioning of the true nature of what matter really is, how it behaves and how much we can really ‘know’ about it through our mechanical senses.

    For example, you speak about the brain. From our ‘classical’ understanding, all our experiences come through electrons fed into our brains.

    And of course there is no such thing as a coloured electron, or an electron with depth or size or smell or texture or high pitch or roughness etc etc. It is clear that all of our experiences are creations of the mind.

    Sound for example exists nowhere else but in our brains. It does not exist in the clapping of hands (air waves) or when it first enters our bodies (vibrating ear drum) or on its way to our brain (electrons). Sounds, and all other experiences exist only in our minds.

    I think once we understand that our experiences are an illusion we can start to ask what else is an illusion.

    Of course we can assume there is an underlying reality that causes our illusions. We can have our different theories about what it really is, where it comes from and what the rules are for it’s own interaction. But we have to admit that we have no direct contact with it.

    That’s why i think the study of quantum mechanics is so important. It goes to the heart of examing our reality.

    We can only build our model of understanding reality indirectly through observed experimentation.

    You can build a concept of our reality without matter but only mind. Then you can use Occams Razor and leave matter out completely.

  • abucs

    Rather than religion believing that there is some old man in the sky, Christians are not waiting for BBC to report on the sighting of a bearded face behind a cloud by a passing Israeli airplane.
    Religion attempts to explain and examine the true nature of reality.

    For example, the discussion on how many angels on a pin goes to the heart of space and materialism and its constraints, if any, on the spiritual world. In turn, it was a way of exploring the logical consistanties of a spiritual world in parallel with our own. It wasn’t spoken about as a matter of practicality but an exercise in logic to explain the nature of reality.

    Yes, religion has claimed revelation too and i think it is fair enough to look at is critically (as in what makes sense and is probable).

    But it’s philosophical concepts stand as an explanation of reality and just about all ‘successful’ religions have that underlying concept to some degree. I still think it stands as a coherant strong arguement.

    I also note that there has been no atheist civilisation that has survived. It some ways, the idea that there is no God (until quantum mechanics and in the absense of any revelation) is compelling and i honestly ask why no civilisation has emerged which espoused (forgive me) that belief. Especially since atheists assume that it is the true picture of our universe and therefore the truth would presumably give an atheistic culture an advantage. We know that there have always been atheists, yet no atheist civilisation has emerged. I seriously ask why ?

    I think it is not really credible to say – ah they were all pig ignorant and invented a stupid idea and based their whole civilisation – agriculture, lifestyle, architecture, song, study, relations around this invention.

    The soviets tried to create an atheistic civilisation on the carcass of a maginalised Christianity. The west too now is trying to build a similar civilisation on a disregarded and discredited Christianity.

    The soviets failed and so too will the west.

    Just one example – look at the birth rates in every country that embraces secular humanism and scientific materialism. They plummet. They have in Russia, they have in Spain, China and Italy where couples have an average of only one child.

    That means from generation to generation you might go from a population of 60 million to 30, to 15 to 7.5 million. It is not sustainable. If it is not to be brushed aside by other cultures it will have to have massive immigration and then convert those people to secular humanism and give them the task of finding immigrants from some other place and converting them also. It is not sustainable. In my opinion the reason why atheism will not create a civilisation is that deep down it is destructive and incoherant. I think it favours personal gratification over all else. As you said Greenflag – ‘enjoy it while we can’. This is the logical conclusion. Anybody that gets in the way of that is denying your personal individual right.

    Also you mention free will. In a strictly materialistic view of the world i could go out tomorrow and shoot dozens of shoppers in Westwood and then come up before the judge and say ‘hey – i’m just the product of atoms and electrons and forces and i have no spiritual control on any of it. All the things that transpired was inevitable as soon as the matter and forces were created at the big bang. There is nothing else but physical matter and the laws of physics’.

    As you rightly indirectly allude to – there is no room for free choice. In essence the logical conclusion of scientific materialism is that there is no me, only a set of arranged atoms reacting mechanically to an uncontrolled outside environment.

    The judge quite rightly would call me a pyschopath and tell me what a lot of crap that explanation was.

    Yes, it’s a load of crap. That is, the strictly materialistic view of the universe is a load of crap. You cannot build a civilisation on that. It is destructive.

    You are left with things like saying my collection of genes must be bad (no clean slate). In Germany last century they had a solution for bad genes. We should be careful where our philosophies take us.

    We should go into the silly talk of angels on a pin and take everything to its logical conclusion to test its soundness – in my humble opinion there is a reason why the atheistic philosophy is incapable of building a coherant civilisation.

    I ask that sensible people like yourselves look at the big picture and examine everything with an open mind and you continue to encourage everyone to think more, not less.

    Best wishes.

  • Abucs,

    So Northern Ireland is the model of a Christian country that the rest of the world should adopt?

    Chance would be a fine thing.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I agree with much of what you say. I would not pretend to be a “critical” thinker, I am not really clever enough.

    In no way do I intend to suggest that critical thinking is some kind of high-minded exclusive intellectual pursuit. All it means is that if you’re presented with an idea or concept, you assume it’s probably bullshit until you’re able to firm things up somewhat by making your own enquiries and establishing things to your own satisfaction.

    There’s a hell of a lot of bullshit in this world. Without intending to be sycophantic, that’s what I like about Pete’s contributions to the blog, it’s all about confronting bullshit, whether it’s based in religion, dodgy science (eg Steorn) or politics (eg the Causeway business).

    I have thought, discussed, prayed and worried about much in the bible and come to a resolution on some issues. On others I have made a concious decision that I am not clever enough to understand (and sometimes am not bothered to research?) and so accept it. I believe this is a form of Pascal’s Wager.

    I don’t consider your beliefs to be any of my business and nobody should ever require you to justify them. The only place where we run into trouble is where you have misguided attempts to discredit alternative explanations for things by forcing beliefs on people. I would never butt into a room full of religious people and tell them that their beliefs are rubbish. The trouble here is that you’ve got religious people bursting into a room full of science people and telling them that science is rubbish.

    I do not believe that one must accept that God created the world in six days to be a conserative evangelical / fundamentalist Christian. I do believe that to be one you should probably believe that He could have done so. The difference is pretty obvious and pretty important in my view.

    Again, theological arguments in themselves aren’t my concern. I don’t believe any of it, but that’s not really important.

    In terms of the American election (not my field at all) I have heard that Hilary Clinton is actually pretty religious.

    Religion is something which is used quite cynically in American politics, it’s very hard to pin down precisely what people’s beliefs are.

  • Comrade Stalin

    abucs:

    My money is on one of those big shocks which shake up our understanding of things – is the questioning of the true nature of what matter really is, how it behaves and how much we can really ‘know’ about it through our mechanical senses.

    The thing is, if you use religion as the sole determinant of everything in life, there can be no shocks as everything is predicted or explained by the big book in front of you. Everything that happens is part of God’s Plan.

    And of course there is no such thing as a coloured electron, or an electron with depth or size or smell or texture or high pitch or roughness etc etc. It is clear that all of our experiences are creations of the mind.

    You’re getting into tricky philosophy about perception and cognition there. Reminds me of “The Matrix”, are we all just brains in a jar somewhere with wires attached ?

    I think once we understand that our experiences are an illusion we can start to ask what else is an illusion.

    Just because the parameters of our perception of the environment around us are limited by our senses, does not mean that everything we perceive is an illusion. According to dictionary.com, illusion is a false or misleading impression of reality. In order to describe something as “false” you have to know what “true” is. I don’t see any particular reason to assume that what we perceive is false. I guess that makes me an optimist.

    Of course we can assume there is an underlying reality that causes our illusions.

    Trouble is, there’s no basis for that assumption.

    You can build a concept of our reality without matter but only mind. Then you can use Occams Razor and leave matter out completely.

    That’s a bit far out for a Saturday morning.

    I also note that there has been no atheist civilisation that has survived.

    This is a point which is full of problems. How long does a society have to exist before it can be said to have “survived” ? Atheist and non-atheist societies alike have been and gone. The Roman Empire for example wasn’t saved by its conversion to Christianity. It’s not a good barometer. Societies with religions at the centre have failed all throughout history.

    I would suggest that atheism or agnosticism is a relatively new concept on the scale that we have now, and this has a lot to do with the fact that technology and education have improved our understanding of the world and allowed us to seek out alternative explanations outside of the mythology presented to us in books like the Bible, the Koran or Dianetics.

    Especially since atheists assume that it is the true picture of our universe and therefore the truth would presumably give an atheistic culture an advantage.

    Being an atheist does not tie anybody to any particular explanation for the universe, or anything else. It’s just the absence of acceptance of deity.

    The soviets tried to create an atheistic civilisation on the carcass of a maginalised Christianity.

    That’s a worn-out old red herring. The soviets weren’t trying to create an atheistic society, they were trying to build a socialist society based on their interpretation of Marxism. It failed because their innate human corruption got the better of them, and more significantly because Marxism is bollocks; not because there wasn’t any religion at it’s core.

    Just one example – look at the birth rates in every country that embraces secular humanism and scientific materialism. They plummet. They have in Russia, they have in Spain, China and Italy where couples have an average of only one child.

    Only religious zeal would suggest that we continuously multiply until we all kill ourselves off through starvation and famine due to competition for the food supply.

  • snakebrain

    I’d highly recomend the first 6 or 8 chapters of “Mind, Brain and the Quantum” by Michael Lockwood, published by Blackwell for a really good look at the workings of the mind from a philosophy of science POV. It’s haevy going though, I’ve been wading my way through it for 18 months now…

  • Greenflag

    ‘also note that there has been no atheist civilisation that has survived—- Especially since atheists assume that it is the true picture of our universe and therefore the truth would presumably give an atheistic culture an advantage. We know that there have always been atheists, yet no atheist civilisation has emerged. I seriously ask why ? ‘

    All of the major religions have an advantage over ‘atheism’ in that they hold out the hope for a better ‘life’ for ‘followers’ in the next world for those who obey God’s law in this world which generally means supporting the politico /religious powers that interpret God’s law for the people .

    Atheism does not hold out any such hope and accepts that this is it in terms of our individual lives. No after life .

    Compare the offering of two political parties at the hustings . One offering no taxes , more welfare benefits , better schools, free university education , full gender and racial equality , etc etc . The other offers nothing . Guess who gets the vote ? It’s only human nature of which more later .

    There is a presumption that somehow atheists given that they don’t believe in a personal God must therefore not believe in anything and have no reason to be ‘good’ i.e not ‘sinful’ and moreover cannot be trusted in the same manner as one would trust a truly Christian or religious person .

    This notion reached it’s highest publicity level back in the days of the Evil Empire i.e the Soviet Union . The point was made by some ‘moral majority’ American spokesperson Pat Robertson perhaps ? that you can’t trust people who don’t believe in a God .

    Of course the corollary to this argument was that only people who believe in a God can be trusted . But at the time that this comment was made ‘religiously minded Iranians were fighting a war with their fellow Muslims – the Iraqis . Nobody doubts the sincere religious beliefs of the people of Northern Ireland . It did’nt stop the people there from not trusting and murdering each other . Of course maybe that’s just the NI Catholic /Protestant thing and they’re all mad anyway so it probably does’nt apply to Protestants within the same country ?. However many Baptists in the USA are White and many are Black and there has been major mistrust between these ‘protestant ‘ groups since the USA was settled . In ancient Japan Shintoists and Buddhists also indulged in wars of religion .

    ‘In my opinion the reason why atheism will not create a civilisation is that deep down it is destructive and incoherant. ‘

    So the above examples I give of ‘religious’ wars are merely destructive but somehow ‘coherant ‘ ?

    Atheism per se is not a political credo in the same way that Communism , Fascism , Nazism or Conservatism or Liberalism . The common denomiator between Stalin & Hitler was not their ‘atheism’ but the fact that they were both psychopatic totalitarian dictators . Their political credos were not so much about imposing ‘atheism’ on people as imposing their views of what they understood /wanted to believe was /should be man’s true nature . Neither believed in individual freedom . Both believed in the power of the State and that each person could be moulded into the perfect ‘man ‘ according to their political credo. Hitler’s was based on theories of ‘racial and ethnic superiority’ Stalins was based on the superiority of the proletariat .

    ‘I think it favours personal gratification over all else.’

    You might think that but look around and see how many ‘clergy’ and men of religion lead lives of ‘personal gratification’ some of the more enterprising ones not only helping themselves to their parishioners financial contributions but evening maintaining a mistress or two or three or a boyfriend under the cloak of their spiritual soutans ?

    Bishops Casey , Fr’s Clery etc etc not to mention the Jimmy Swaggarts etc etc are part of a long line of ‘Pharisees’ . They may even have been closet ‘atheists ‘ But their principal distinguishing factor was their fraudulant and hypocritical behaviour .

    Atheists given that they are not motivated by the hope of a heaven or the fear of a hell may work to improve human life in this world the only one we are ever likely to experience .

  • Greenflag

    ‘In terms of the American election (not my field at all) I have heard that Hilary Clinton is actually pretty religious.’

    She’s United Methodist by denomination and I’d prefer her to Giuliani’s nominal Catholicism and 3 wives. But what distinguishes her from the Bush ‘baptists’ is as she says herself ‘she does not wear her religion on her sleeve’ I suspect she’ll get a lot more RC votes than Giulani will if he makes the nomination .

    Romney’s ‘Mormonism’ is a bigger issue for most American Protestants and Catholics . It’s still considered among ‘religions’ to be out there in ‘weirdsville’ although the vast majority of individual Mormons lead exemplary ‘christian ‘ lives probably more so than ‘christians ‘

  • Greenflag

    ‘In essence the logical conclusion of scientific materialism is that there is no me, only a set of arranged atoms reacting mechanically to an uncontrolled outside environment. ‘

    Each individual human being is unique in his /her particular genetic aand environmental inheritance . How we behave in social situations is not just down to our genes . Nature may have endowed me with the particular gene which makes me want to possess a large yacht . Nonetheless the salesman at the marina is not going to part company with the yacht in return for anything other than cash . Thus mine and other’s natures are controlled /restricted by the artifices of our political,economic and legal systems. Not only are human beings shaped by the environment but we also shape the environment by means of our actions , thoughts , deeds , laws , cultures ,etc etc . In this respect whether you personnally believe that you have a free will or not is immaterial . Human society such that it is and as it has developed is based on law . And thus the excuse that the reason you shot ten people dead in a shopping mall is not your fault but the fault of your genes may be acceptable if your found to be clinically insane otherwise it’s life imprisonment (Europe) or the electric chair (USA ) ?