F.U.D. “Fear, uncertainty and doubt”. It generally refers to a feeling or sense which is driven by exogenous forces. Corporations and movements intent on reinforcing some status quo. But when it comes to personal genomics one issue I’ve noted and observed is spontaneous and endogenous F.U.D. As if humans naturally have an aversion to “playing God.” Usually when I mention personal genomics and there’s skepticism it’s really inchoate. People have a feeling that they should be scared. Their caution tends be really strange, almost passive aggressive. “I don’t know about that…what do you think? It seems like a lot.” When I inquire deeply there’s often irritation, because the feelings are rather unformed. This isn’t like abortion, where most people come to the table with talking points drilled into them by a generation of cultural wars.
But to me the most surprising thing has been the fact that this tendency manifests even in people who know genetics. People for whom genetics is their “bread & butter.” Usually I can reason with these people to offer up a cogent and explicit argument against personal genomics (they exist, though I disagree with them), but it’s often like pulling teeth. The feeling is prior. It reminds me of David Hume’s general observation of the subservience of reason to passions. More specifically, Adolf Hitler looms large in so many genetic domains. But like animal rights, vegetarianism, and anti-smoking, I suspect the Nazi taint will eventually be marginalized by clear and present rationales in the case of personal genomics and applied biological science more generally.
Image credit: German Federal Archives