[OUTLOOK]Embracing our flaws

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[OUTLOOK]Embracing our flaws

In statistics, the normal distribution curve is a graph resembling a bell in which frequency peaks around the mean and declines toward both ends. Such a distribution pattern can be found in many natural phenomena. Eugenicists attempted to artificially cut off the lower end of the normal distribution curve but failed. Even if the lower end is severed temporarily, nature has a tendency to return to the original normal distribution form as time goes by. The entities falling into the lower end already have weak sustainability physiologically and socially. Moreover, the constituents of the lower end are latent in the genes of the majority, and therefore, the entities belonging to the lower end continue to be born from the majority.
If organisms have a flawless process of procreation ― in other words, if no mutation or deformity occurs ― will it make the world a utopia? While mutants and deformed entities generally fall into the lower group in the graph, they are the elements that make the tails on both ends of the normal distribution curve. Rarely, mutation or unique modification gives birth to an entity in the higher end and provides a chance of improvement. In some cases, entities in the lower end can benefit from their inferior traits. For example, some entities cannot function well at normal temperatures but are more suited for a certain lower temperature.
When the temperature unexpectedly drops and most entities die out, the “inadequate” entities will make a major contribution to the survival of the organism. If mutated or deformed entities have potential merits, they might serve as insurance for unexpected situations. While it might seem a waste of money to pay an insurance premium for a possible future disaster, having insurance coverage is an important factor protecting companies and individuals. Similarly, mutations and deformations might look like nature’s errors, but they are actually the insurance for organisms as a whole.
Even if some entities fall into the lower end physiologically and socially, that does not mean that their lives are lower. Entities suffering from disabilities they were born with or that they obtained in early years tend to have a higher happiness index than expected. In the case of people, when those with disabilities get over the frustration they experience in the course of forming their identities, the guilt of their parents and the conflicts with those around them, they come closer to the essence of life and source of happiness and become more grateful and composed, despite their physical and social challenges. The theory gets more convincing as we compare the happiness index of the handicapped with that of the so-called elite of society, especially those who grew up in well-to-do families.
In historical retrospect, groups that pursued excessive elitism and perfectionism and attempted to artificially weed out the lower end could create an outstanding system and attained glorious development temporarily. However, they could not be more prosperous than the groups that embraced diversity. By looking at those falling into the two ends of the normal distribution curve, most members of society embrace diversity, have flexible thinking, realize their shortcomings and learn to be modest.
Companies pursue flawlessness for their products. However, that pursuit should not lead to inflexible, constrained thinking and organizational culture. The Creator gave up flawlessness for the development and survival of the biological world. Only then, does the world become perfect. Fortunately, mankind displayed the wisdom to embrace the resulting diversity. If the Creator gave up pursuing flawlessness for us, it would be going against the order of nature if we expect flawlessness from one another.

* The writer is the dean of the Medicine College of Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Wang Kyu-chang
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