Does genetics disprove reincarnation?

by November 16, 2011

Question: The reincarnation theory claims that we get our characteristics from our own past-lives karma, whereas genetics asserts that we inherit our characteristics from our parents, which is what we actually observe in the many physical resemblances among parents and offspring. Don’t these observations disprove the reincarnation theory?

Answer: No, they don’t. The reincarnation theory doesn’t claim to contradict or substitute genetics; it supplements genetics and explains many observations that genetics leaves unanswered.

Genetics holds that we inherit our characteristics from our parents. While the observation of parent-offspring physical resemblances may confirm genetics, many other observations question the completeness of genetic explanations. Here are a few of them:

  1. Why do children born in the same family have moral and mental characteristics that differ from each other and also from their parents and even grandparents? For example, why does a child turn out to be an introvert although all other family members are extroverts?
  2. Why do twins who are born and bred in similar conditions often have significantly dissimilar behavioural and personality traits? Their genetic inheritance is near-identical, yet their natures are sometimes widely different. For example, one twin becomes a starry-eyed artist who doesn’t care much for money, whereas the other twin becomes a shrewd businessperson who doesn’t care much for art. Why the difference?
  3. Why don’t the children of geniuses become geniuses themselves? Often musical maestros can’t make their children into outstanding musicians just by begetting them or even by extensively training them. Why?
  4. How do children of mediocre parents become geniuses? Many genius artists were born in families that had no above-average artistic talent for several preceding generations, yet they had an inborn talent. Where did their talent come from?

What explanation can genetics provide for the above observations – except for pushing them under the carpet by calling them “anomalies”? But the genetic carpet has too many concealed lumps to be overlooked; these observations demand an additional explanation. That additional explanation is provided by reincarnation.

The Bhagavad-gita (15.8) explains that the souls who transmigrate from one body to the next carry with them their conceptions of life, which can be correlated with the mental and moral characteristics. When children are born from parents, their physical bodies come from their parents and so they resemble their parents’ physically, whereas their mental and moral characteristics come from their own past lives and so these characteristics differ from their parents’. Applying the Gita understanding to geniuses, those souls who have in earlier lives cultivated the self-conceptions of being artists carry to their next bodies that conception along with its associated talents – and so appear precociously talented.

Thus, the reincarnation theory doesn’t contradict genetics, but supplements it by explaining much that genetics can’t explain.

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