Miscellaneous Musings of Luke Shors

“Where the telescope ends the microscope begins, and who can say which has the wider vision?” - Victor Hugo


Insanity is hereditary: you get it from your kids

Updated: Feb 5, 2019

There was a coffee shop (or was it a bar?) that I remember going to in college. In the bathroom was a collection of clever graffiti scrawled on the wall. Nothing too profane (per my admittedly questionable recall) but lots of pithy expressions. I remember one quote I found funny written in neat print, "Insanity is hereditary: you get it from your kids". I didn't have kids at the time but it still struck me as funny because: A) Heredity doesn't work like that - you would get insanity from your parents - and B) It sounds pretty plausible until you pause and bring your knowledge of genetics to the subject. The juxtaposition between A&B strikes me as its likely source of mirth although when you diagram mirth it tends to dissipate fast.

But with epigenetic ideas in the picture, do we need to rethink whether this statement is simply false? Could, in fact, dormant insanity (putting aside any Foucaultian critique of the notion) acted on by an environmental trigger (kids) lead to some sort of encoded/ hormonal/ neural cascade that leads to insanity in behavior? And could I then be said to inherit that from my kids? Could that patten, an environmental trigger introduced by kids on parents be repeated across generations? Could subsequent children borne to a parent already triggered through an earlier child inherit that insanity through epigenetic silencing/activation of gene sequences?

I don’t mean to be anti-kid here. By this reasoning one could also inherit joy from children (and in fact I think one does). I am merely making the point that inheritance may not simply be just what one gets from one's ancestors.


About Me

"Not all those who wander are lost" - JRR Tolkinn

I think of myself (as well as aspire to be) a curious person. Curious in a book store, but also curious exploring a new city or meeting a new person. Curious in planned and unplanned moments. In an era where knowledge about the world is both vast and deep, curiosity occasionally strikes me as anathema to expertise. Or, more accurately, if you are curious, best to be curious about some very specific topic. But so far at least, that does not seem to be my path. My professional work is orientated towards start ups as well as international development.

In 2019 I decided to make a more concerted effort to write - hence this site. My blog focuses on science and technology, health research and education. My fiction is of the speculative variety - Science fiction that uses scientific ideas to explore human experiences. Thanks for reading!

People Walking


University of Iowa, BA Philosophy (2000)

Johns Hopkins, MPH (2005)

Johns Hopkins, MBA (2005)

Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ed.D. (2017)


©2018 by Dr. Luke Shors