Is everything preordained?

According to ‘The Science of Fate’ by Cambridge scientist Hannah Critchlow, your future may be more predictable than you think

Everything about you is fated, from your love or hate of garlic, your academic success, your expanding waistline or the cancer that will eventually kill you

Everything is determined by your genes and environment

If you’re fat, that’s not down to your lack of willpower – Hannah says we’re predisposed to overeat for evolutionary reasons when we would guzzle what few calories ever came available – it’s mostly a genetic lottery which determines whether you’re fat or thin – hence, it’s almost impossible for many active fat people to keep a healthy BMI

Environment factors also come into play, examples given being:

  • Kids raised on healthy foods by pious middle-class parents are more likely to eat healthily as adults
  • If mothers eat caraway seeds whilst breast-feeding, their kids will seek out that taste thereafter
  • Kids of parents who starved during WW2 are programmed to hoard calories
  • Mice who are presented with the smell of cherries while simultaneously receiving an electric shock give birth to offspring who are terrified by the smell (vital cruelty to advance science?)

Hence, the idea that we have any conscious control over our lives may be an illusion

Our consciousness is simply superimposed on top of the automatic machinery of our brains – we luxuriate in the illusion of power while unseen subordinates quietly get on with the business of actually running things

Another neuroscientist colleague adds: “I don’t believe in free will – everything is caused by something prior – for example, scientists can forecast the course of human conversations with great accuracy because much of what we say is constrained by our relationship with the person we’re talking to, our background, our social expectations and the rules of language”

Hannah concludes that we’re nothing more than fleshy robots, not least because:

  • There are some genes linked to impulsivity and sensation seeking, even influencing when you will lose your virginity
  • Others which determine whether you will turn out to be liberal, with a greater tolerance for the unknown, or conservative and so more sensitive to perceiving threat

Overall, Hannah says the brain is nothing more than an ‘electro-chemical circuit board’

James Marriott, reviewing Hannah’s book in The Times, admits this view may disturb many who thought they were ‘magnificent, rational beings driven by their indomitable wills’

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