Whether biology is destiny is entirely a product of the biological condition being discussed. Sadly, a genetic predisposition to develop a serious life-threatening illness can dictate destiny. Diseases with a genetic component, like cystic fibrosis, breast and colon cancer, autism, Down Syndrome, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease, and many others can certainly prove determinative of how an individual’s life will or may progress with respect to their health. A genetic predisposition is just that: a predisposition; it does not mean that someone carrying the gene will definitely develop the sickness. In many cases, however, there is a very high level of certainty that the disease will strike. The recent announcement by actress and activist Angelina Jolie that she had a preventive mastectomy performed because of concerns about her genetic link to breast cancer was an indication of how some women respond to the prospects of developing that life-threatening disease. [“Angelina Jolie Undergoes Double Mastectomy,” CNN May 16, 2013]
Even if one carries the genetic disorder, it does not mean that the disease will develop, or that, if it does, there is no course of treatment that can improve the quality of life or extend a life that is certain to end prematurely. As Jolie demonstrated by her decision to have preventive surgery, there are courses of action that can prevent or forestall the development of an illness. Lifestyle changes, including dietary habits and avoidance of substances like tobacco and alcohol in addition to a regular exercise regimen can help slow the development of some illnesses by strengthening certain parts of the anatomy and reducing the effects of stress. As noted earlier, whether and to what extent biology is destiny is dependent upon a number of factors. In some cases, it unfortunately is the case.