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Genetic Determinism

Rainbow in Brasilia 

I was doing a vanity search on my name.  John Matel is not a common name, so most of the people named that that I found are me.  But those who were not were an interesting group. I found a John Matel who is a forester in Texas, a John Matel who is a wildlife biologist in California and a Larry John Matel in Washington State who writes about water quality issues. I don’t know about all the John Matels, but the Larry John Matel is my second or third cousin.  

Rainbow on the lake 

Is it just coincidental that so many of us – all of us actually  that I found still alive and with something on the Internet – are doing something related to forestry or environment.  I know that I am drawing spurious conclusions based on limited evidence, but I am going to do it anyway.

Recent studies on heritability of traits indicate that we not only inherit obvious traits such as height and appearance, but also talents and temperaments.  I doubt there is a “forestry gene” but I imagine that the tendency to seek solidarity in nature is probably a personality trait that could be heritable.  Although it could also be a long-term cultural inculcation.

I know my cousin Larry is the descendent of my grandfather’s brother, Felix. Felix and my grandfather Anton came over on the same boat from Poland sometime in the late 19th Century. I also met a cousin in Poland, called Henrich Matel who was descent of a third brother, who stayed in Europe. Henrich told me that his side of the family was very fond of booze, which was pretty much the same as my side. Who knows what other cultural traits and ingrained habits they brought in their baggage. In my generation, we largely conquered the boozing problem, but I notice that my kids have some traits that I recognized in my parents, ones that I do not believe I have. Yet I may have/probably did pass those traits on to them. I have noticed in other relatives that some of the grandchildren resemble and have traits of grandparents they never knew.  

There are transmission mechanisms that transcends time and space. Like my rainbows in the pictures, you can see the end but never get there. How many generations ago did a trait arise?  I can understand how different circumstances could make traits useful, wasteful or even pernicious.  I think of heroes like Davy Crockett or Wyatt Erp.  Imagine guys like that today. Fearless, strong, but never holds a job for very long, likes to wander around and is quick to take action, sometimes violent action. We love "brave, courageous and bold" in theory and in movies, but have little use for it in average life today. Now think of the wimpy guy who stayed at home, never made a name for himself and never became king of the wild frontier. He's the guy the firms hire.  He is probably better at math than Wyatt or Davy too.

Anyway, I base my essay on some thin evidence. That is why it is an essay and not science. I do things like this. I wonder if my cousins have the same habits. 

My pictures are rainbows on the drive home. Brasilia gets rain and sun at the same time that produce nice rainbows. 


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Comments

My father, John Matel, also loved to work in the woods. His most favorite leisure time activity on his days off and summer vacations was to tend to the wooded areas of various uncles' and neighbors' river or lake cabin sites.

He would spend countless hours clearing trails, making walking mazes, clearing deadfall, and cutting firewood (while drinking lots of beer)in the poplar, birch, and evergreen tree stands in northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin.

He had quite a "leave the place better than you found it" ethic that made quite an impression on me.

I would like to share more of my thoughts with you on the issue of genetic determinism in that as the father of three children, one adopted, one step child, and one child fathered by me I can see that the "folds of the brain tissue" are most likely similar to the genetic makeup of other physical attributes of ones offspring.

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