Stuttering Gene Myth

The myth that genes control biology

According to cell biologist Dr Bruce Lipton the idea that genes control biology has never been proved. In 1990 H.F. Nijhout produced a paper that dispelled the theory. The paper was called ‘Metaphors and the Role of Genes and Development’. Nijhout argues that the supposition of genes controlling biology has been repeated so many times that we forget it has never been substantiated. Nijhout goes on to say that our society has become hooked on the idea ‘that genetic engineers are the new medical magicians’. We want to believe that we can find a different gene for each kind of disorder, including a a stuttering gene, in the same way that we want to believe that we can create more geniuses like Einstein and Beethoven.

So, how do genes work?

Nijhout summaries the way genes work as follows, “When a gene product is needed, a signal from its environment, not an emergent property of the gene itself, activates expression of that gene.” In other words it’s the environment that activates genes, the genes do not primarily activate themselves.

Bruce Lipton uses a clever analogy to further establish the role of genes in biology. He says that if you are given a set of keys and told that a particular key controls a car – does that key really control the car? If it did control the car it may take it for a ride around town when you aren’t looking, so you would have to keep an eye on it. In truth, the person who turns the key is in control of the car. He states that “Specific genes are correlated with an organism’s behaviour and characteristics. But these genes are not activated until something triggers them.”

The fact that my father stuttered and also his mother has nothing to do with a family stuttering gene that I inherited. Instead, it is because of the environment, and this is an area that is individual to each person – your environment caused you to stutter not your stuttering gene.