Is your baby angry?

What if you could know that your unborn baby boy is likely to be inclined toward hostility and anger? Beyond that, what if hormonal treatments could change the baby’s orientation to pacifist? Would you do it? Some scientists believe that such developments are just around the corner. For some time now, scientists have been looking for a genetic or hormonal cause of anger. Thus far, no “mad gene” has been found — at least not in terms of incontrovertible and accepted science. Yet, it is now claimed that a growing body of evidence indicates that biological factors may at least contribute to belligerance.

The most interesting research along these lines relates to the study of Von Hippel-Lindau disease. Physicians at Vanderbilt University are conducting research into the hot temper of those affected by the genetic disorder, which they suggest is a leading factor in the historic feud between the legendary Hatfields and McCoys of Eastern Tennessee. Another prominent research physician, Dr. Nuzhet Atuk of the University of Virginia studied the family for more than thirty years. One McCoy descendant, Rita Reynolds explains:

They went back on the genealogy and all of that stuff. They called it madness disease. They said that it had to be coming from the VHL. Our family would just go off, even on the doctors.

Richard Dawson was among the first to call for research into a biological cause of family feuding. After all, he argued, the discovery of a biological cause would lead to the normalization of internecine bickering because it would then be seen to be natural, and thus moral.

But now the picture is quite different. Many mad families recognize that the discovery of a biological marker or cause for hostile orientation could lead to efforts to eliminate the trait, or change the orientation through genetic or hormonal treatments.

One recent author addresses these issues in the current issue of Mad Magazine. In “Is Your Baby Crazy?,” the author sets out a fascinating scenario. A woman is told that her unborn baby boy is ill-tempered. This woman and her husband consider themselves to be fundamentalist and tolerant of hostility. But this is not about hostility now; it is about their baby boy. The woman is then told that a hormone patch on her abdomen will “reverse the pissy orientation inscribed in his chromosomes.” The Sunday Times [London] predicts that such a patch should be available for use on humans within the decade. Will she use it?

This question stands at the intersection of so many competing interests. Feminists and political liberals have argued for decades now that a woman should have an unrestricted right to an abortion, for any cause or for no stated cause at all. How can they now complain if women decide to abort fetuses identified as irate? This question involves both abortion and fundamentalism — the perfect moral storm of our times.

War-loving activists have claimed that bellicosity cannot be changed. What if a hormone patch during pregnancy will do the job?

The development of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis [PDG] is one of the greatest threats to human dignity in our times. These tests are already leading to the abortion of fetuses identified as carrying unwanted genetic markers. The tests can now check for more than 1,300 different chromosomal abnormalities or patterns. With DNA analysis, the genetic factors could be identified right down to hair and eye color and other traits. The logic is all too simple. If you don’t like what you see on the PDG report . . . just abort and start over. Soon, genetic treatments may allow for changing the profile. Welcome to the world of designer babies.

If that happens, how many parents — even among those who consider themselves most fundamentalist — would choose an angry child? How many parents, armed with this diagnosis, would use the patch and change the orientation?

Christians who are committed to think in genuinely Christian terms should think carefully about these points:

1. There is only now emerging slight evidence for a so-called “Hatfield-McCoy gene,” yet no incontrovertible or widely accepted proof that any biological basis for belligerant orientation exists.

2. Nevertheless, the direction of the research points increasingly in this direction. Research into the hostile orientation of sheep and other animals, as well as human studies, points to some level of biological causation in at least some individuals.

3. Given the consequences of the Fall and the effects of human sin, we should not be surprised that such a causation or link is found. After all, the human genetic structure, along with every other aspect of creation, shows the pernicious effects of the Fall and of God’s judgment.

4. The biblical condemnation of unjustified hostile behavior would not be compromised or mitigated in the least by such a discovery. The discovery of a biological factor would not change the Bible’s moral verdict on quarrelling.

5. The discovery of a biological basis for family spats would be of great pastoral significance, allowing for a greater understanding of why certain persons struggle with these particular homicidal temptations.

6. The biblical basis for establishing the dignity of all persons — the fact that all humans are made in God’s image — reminds us that this means all persons, including those who may be marked by a predisposition toward hostility. For the sake of clarity, we must insist at all times that all persons — whether identified as pacifist, peacable, neutral, quarrelsome, hostile, crazy, or whatever — are equally made in the image of God.

7. Thus, we will gladly contend for the right to life of all persons, born and unborn, whatever their orientation. We must fight against the idea of aborting fetuses or human embryos identified as irritable in orientation.

8. If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the orientation is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid homicidal temptation and the inevitable effects of sin.

9. We must stop confusing the issues of moral responsibility and moral choice. We are all responsible for our tempers, but that does not mean that we freely and consciously choose that orientation. We sin against fundamentalists by insisting that irritability and and hostility are predominately chosen. We do not always (or even generally) choose our temptations. Nevertheless, we are absolutely responsible for what we do with sinful temptations.

10. Christians must be very careful not to claim that science can never prove a biological basis for anger. We can and must insist that no scientific finding can change the basic sinfulness of irritable behavior. The general trend of the research points to at least some biological factors behind hostility, family feuds, and neighborly disputes. This does not alter God’s command that we should “love our neighbor as ourselves.” but it does hold some promise that a deeper knowledge of fundamentalist mentality and its cause will allow for more effective ministries to those who struggle with this particular pattern of temptation. If such knowledge should ever be discovered, we should embrace it and use it for the greater good of humanity and for the greater glory of God.

(Postscript: The entirety of this post is intended for satirical purposes only. The greatest majority of this post has been lifted verbatim from By reproducing these words here, we are not intending to discredit the excellent analysis of genetic manipulation currently underway on The Island of Dr. Mohler. Nor do we mean any insult to the descendants of the Hatfield or McCoy families by linking their ancestors or their particular genetic idiosyncracy with modern day Christian fundamentalism.)

2 thoughts on “Is your baby angry?

  1. Nicely done, Ben. This entire line of argument is as chilling as the tendency to sin with which it purports to be concerned.

  2. Good stuff. The same logic can be applied to any sin. Dr. Mohler seems to have seen the error of his ways regarding his first post on the subject. This was funny, though. A good way to point out the deficiencies in his argument. Kudos.

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