This weekend I read the Times article, Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure, While Others Fall Apart:

Some scholars have suggested that we are all Warriors or Worriers. Those with fast-acting dopamine clearers are the Warriors, ready for threatening environments where maximum performance is required. Those with slow-acting dopamine clearers are the Worriers, capable of more complex planning. Over the course of evolution, both Warriors and Worriers were necessary for human tribes to survive.

In truth, because we all get one COMT gene from our father and one from our mother, about half of all people inherit one of each gene variation, so they have a mix of the enzymes and are somewhere in between the Warriors and the Worriers. About a quarter of people carry Warrior-only genes, and a quarter of people Worrier-only.

I recently got my DNA analyzed by 23 and Me, as I wrote about a few weeks ago. So I logged into 23 and Me, dug through my DNA and found the specific area of my DNA responsible for the COMT gene (position 1995271, SNP rs4680) and found that I am an AG out of a possible AA, AG, or GG. Therefore, I am a Warrior/Worrier. 

It was actually my first time that I read about a gene, dove into my DNA, determined my alleles, and was able to apply scientific findings to my own life. In many ways, I feel like we’re living in the future.

However, when I graduated from Washington University in 1998 with my Biology degree, I was told we had about 100,000 genes. Now the estimate is 20,000 to 25,000. The point is, at this point in time, we really have no clue what all this genetic stuff means.

The best way to think about this is that your body is like a little universe with 25,000 variables. They all interact with one another to create you. Scientists don’t have the tools to understand such massive complexity, so they try to carve out the complexity and focus on one of the 25,000 genes, such as the COMT gene. Then they try to find behavioral correlations between two genetically distinct groups of people (Warriors and Worriers) who all happen to have wildly different cultural experiences contributing to their outward behavior. Meanwhile, there are 24,999 other genes interacting in their bodies with the one gene being studied.

Sounds daunting doesn’t it? More like impossible. Again, it goes back to the following:

Simply put, if you’re attracted to ideas that have a good chance of being wrong, and if you’re motivated to prove them right, and if you have a little wiggle room in how you assemble the evidence, you’ll probably succeed in proving wrong theories right…