Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hello, My Name Is Ryan, and I Have DNA

Welcome all to the University of Rhode Island's APG 350 "Human Variation" outreach experiment! I, Ryan, shall be your Guru for this evening, and probably most evenings, at least in this tiny section of the internet we are building up. It should be interesting to see what becomes of this.

The posts which will follow this one will come from many authors from many backgrounds, focusing (however loosely) on the biological anthropological questions of "What makes me human?" and "What makes me me?" These questions should have meaning to everyone since, odds are, if you are reading this right now you are probably a) human and b) you. I suspect our contributing Human Variants (or as I've started saying in my head, DNAnonymoi) will reveal that there are many different ways to approach and answer this questions, as well as a number of places those answers can lead us. For example, as someone interested in philosophical questions regarding identity and the self, some of the following related questions stand out to me:

When we say "me," do we mean our self, our identity, or some combination of the two? Are they even separate? What aspects of those are permanent, and which ones mutable?

Does answering questions about the biological concept of a human tell us anything about the moral concept of personhood? (Hint: is-ought)

Is the biological anthropological approach to these questions sufficient to give us a meaningful answer to them?

As we move on, I also expect many opinions around DNA profiling to result as some of us see our genes laid out and translated for us. Maybe some of those things have been thought of already, and someone has probably already thought of something that would never occur to me in my entire lifetime.

Expect another post from me soon about what may happen when genetics becomes more and more central to our conception of ourselves, but for now I'll leave off with this video. I think it is appropriate, as the title addresses the question of whether or not our central two questions are meaningful to ask in the first place.

Until then!


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