A Genetic Appraisal

We may not be due our year end, a salary review or our final exams but it should not mean that we are exempt from an appraisal of how we are performing as a species.

Are we achieving what we are supposed to be striving for? How well are we doing? How do we compare with others? What should we be working on?

Having an appraisal is an assessment of what we’ve done, where we are at and what we are going to do next. It’s a time to ask questions and a chance to get feedback.

Are we surpassing ourselves, doing enough to get by or failing to meet expectations? Are we revealing ourselves to be a top performer, a middle-grader or an under-achiever? What have we done well and where might we seek improvement?

By considering the outcomes we have achieved, it provides a measure of our commitment, endeavour and focus; by assessing our current position it enables us to plan for what’s needed in the future.

Any comprehensive appraisal needs to be two-fold: assessing both the overarching body and the constituents that make up that body. In genetic terms, that would be both the species as a whole and also the individuals within that species.

By so doing, it enables the identification of any divergences or inconsistencies. Why is the one failing when the other is not? Why is the one making incredible progress when the other is merely going through the motions?

It’s like assessing the performance of a football team – the position of the team in their division may not be an accurate reflection of how each member of that team is performing. Great players can play in poor teams; weak players can get by in good teams.

So, in order to proceed with a human genetic appraisal, we would need to firstly, review how we are doing as a species. And secondly, we would need to consider the individual’s contribution to our human position.

Species Assessment

This is the review of how a species is doing as a whole. We need to ask ourselves the following sorts of questions:

How assured is a species of its continued survival?

How do we compare the condition of a species in relation to other species?

Has a species made advances, and, if so, to what extent?

Are current generations living better lives than previous generations?

To what extent does a species feel threatened – by other species or by Nature itself?

On average, is a species living longer than it used to do?

A brief overview would suggest that humanity does seem to be in a strong position both in relation to Nature and to our standing with other species. Our existence does not seem to be threatened and our long term survival prospects look good.

Certainly, in comparison to some other species, we would not describe ourselves as being anywhere close to extinction. Many other animals would score much lower than us in their appraisals. For many animals, Nature (and human actions are a force within Nature) threatens their existence. Their on-going survival is at risk; their genes are about to be lost.

Of course, although humanity may score highly on a genetic assessment, meaning that our position may be assured for the moment, it does not mean that we are at the top of the genetic scorecard. There may well be some species (for instance, insects) that in their relationship with their environment rate more highly than us and are therefore better suited for survival.

For humanity, there are occasional, fleeting signs of a vulnerability which might take a number of forms: a pandemic, environmental change, over-population, self-engineered destruction (for example, through nuclear obliteration). But generally, we seem to be reasonably effective at limiting these threats.

The more likely danger, one might speculate, is an increasingly blasé attitude and over-confidence in our human abilities. We may begin to overrate our competences and importance. This may be reflected in a growing failure to recognise and live by our genetic priority – always doing our best for our genes. Too often we can be diverted by other aspects of our life. Consequently, our genes – their welfare and survival – become secondary.

That may create weaknesses in the human edifice; it may give other species the opportunity to make ground upon us, even possibly to overtake us.

Once we have completed our species assessment we can then move on to review the individuals within a species. Our overall species position is based on the cumulative action of each individual and the genetic outcomes each individual achieves, hence the importance of the second aspect of our genetic appraisal.

Individual Assessment

An individual assessment can be applied to all individuals in all species but we will relate it specifically to humans.

Essentially, this assessment asks of us as individuals; are we, through our genetic activity, advancing humanity or dragging our species down? The appraisal’s grading will be based on our choice of genetic partner, our reproductive activity, our parenting skills and the level of bonding we have with our children.

It will ask such questions as:

Have we successfully reproduced?

Have we maximised our reproductive output?

Are our off-spring out-performing us in life (education, career, earnings, lifestyle)?

Physically, are our off-spring in better condition than us (without diseases and disablements)?

How reliant are our off-spring on society for their sustained existence?

Are our off-spring more intelligent than us?

Are our off-spring more attractive than us?

Have our off-spring achieved a higher position or status in society?

Are our off-spring going on to make genetic advances in their choice of partner and reproductive activity?

In genetic terms, success is all about passing on our genes to future generations. That requires quantitative and qualitative considerations in relation to reproduction, but it also requires excellence in the creation and maintenance of an environment that enables those genes to thrive.

And that’s all down to us as individuals. The singular most important force in the survival of our genes is ourselves. It is what we do and the way we do it that determines the extent to which our genes prosper.

That is what our individual genetic assessment seeks to measure.

One of the key questions when considering this appraisal is its timing. When should we make the assessment? There may be some genetic aspects that only reveal themselves later in life, like a proneness to certain illnesses and cancers which can have a foreshortening effect on our lives.

That would suggest, in order to get a conclusive assessment, we should leave the appraisal to as late as possible. However, by leaving it late, although the appraisal becomes more definitive, it also means we can’t do anything about its result. Our genetic die has been cast.

If we were to get a disappointing finding, ideally, we would want to have the opportunity to do something about it – to correct the errors (an unsuitable reproductive partner or behavioural transgressions) we have made. But, by leaving the appraisal so late, we would be unable to do anything to improve on that appraisal outcome.

Appraisals are often considered as development tools. They reveal a person’s learning opportunities. Actions can be identified and implemented. Unfortunately, with a genetic appraisal, those learnings may only be revealed when it is too late to do anything about them.

Of course, appraisals aren’t always popular. They tell us things we don’t want to hear. They pick up on the things that we haven’t done right. People don’t always like this reality check.

Also – inevitably – comparisons would be made. Having established our individual genetic score, we would then consider it in relation to others. Are we a genetic achiever or under-performer? Where do we rank in the genetic league tables? Have we done our genes proud? Have we been a benefit or a liability for our species?

It is for this reason that many people will shy away from such judgemental assessment. Scoring a person’s life can have negative and damaging consequences. It can define a person’s life. And nobody wants to be considered as a failure, a disappointment or a burden.

And yet, the importance of some sort of appraisal cannot be under-estimated. With the ever growing distractions of society and technology, we are increasingly threatened with losing focus on our genetic priority. Other things seem to be taking over our lives.

Having some sort of genetic appraisal may be the corrective measure that is needed.

It may be that by having an awareness of genetic consequence and knowing that our genetic performance will be rated, it might make people more focused on their actions. They might then, as Nature requires, put more effort into trying to enhance their genetic purpose.

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