-9

I am seeking additional supporting canon evidence for the idea that within the Potterverse, it would be potentially possible to use magic to genetically engineer/enhance witches/wizards to have superior magical ability. Related to that is the question/idea. What same evidence might support the idea that muggles could eventually learn to use genetic engineering to introduce 'magic genes" into the mugggle gene pool, thus making magic accessible to the general population? If members prefer I can break this into two separate stack questions.

Evidence I believe which already support either/both of these scenarios include:

Magical abilities appear to be genetically inherited

  • We see numerous references to families in which magic appears pretty much to appear every generation.
  • The term "pureblood" is used to denote where such abilities are almost guaranteed.
  • Within wizarding families Only rare recessives (a.k.a. squibs) appear to not inherit such abilities.

J.K. Rowling: "Muggle-borns will have a witch or wizard somewhere on their family tree, in some cases many, many generations back. The gene resurfaces in some unexpected places." Harry Potter Wikia

Magical abilities appear to increase as individuals grow, mature and develop them (similar to inherited physical traits such as height/musculature)

"The Goblet of Fire" - page 217: Mad-Eye Moody "Avada Kedavra's a curse that needs a powerful bit of magic behind it -- you could all get your wands out now and point them at me and say the words, and I doubt I'd get as much as a nosebleed."

We have seen the ability for cross-species types of transformation.:

  • Use of polyjuice potion with a cat hair made Hermione a mix of feline and human.
  • Transfiguration is commonplace
  • It is possible that even just temporarily these types of efforts extended down the genetic level in some way beyond just the surface appearance. If so, this would make such activities similar to muggle experiments in genetic splicing using cross-species genes. Too, that if there is a temporary genetic component, it could possibly be made more permanent and/or even inheritable.

Dedicated practitioners willing to commit the use of their own children

  • Draco's father was proud to raise his son to become a Death Eater. It is certainly in the realm of possibility that such parents would consent to efforts to genetically enhance their child's magical ability for a cause.

I also welcome counter-arguments/evidence why it would NOT be possible to do this.

closed as too broad by amflare, K-H-W, Vanguard3000, KorvinStarmast, Bellatrix Mar 25 at 21:53

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    You've used quote blocks extensively, but these seem to be parts of your question, not quotes from elsewhere. – Valorum Jun 4 '16 at 21:16
  • God point. I can tweak these to make them stand out better rather than using the quote box. – beichst Jun 4 '16 at 21:23
  • None of these arguments suggest genetic engineering. I doubt the WW is even aware of what a gene is. Within the HP universe, magical abilities correlate pretty strongly with mental force of will and concentration, as we see with Neville's rapid growth following the Azkaban breakout - the genetic component probably simply allows for magic, not regulate its strength. – Akshat Mahajan Jun 4 '16 at 21:29
  • While magic seems to be inherited, there's no special evidence that it's genetic. It may be the equivalent of an STD that the child acquires at birth or trait that the child receives via prions – Valorum Jun 4 '16 at 21:33
  • @AkshatMahajan. I agree the mental force of will and concentration certainly could have influence on how strong of magic is performed. In fact, that is a good counter to the idea that one could modify the gene set to improve it. But, Rowling herself has indicated the genetic nature of magic. Hence, why not the possibility of genetic manipulation to try to enhance it? Muggle history is filled with dicators looking for ways to "improve the race". What is to prevent a WW megalomaniac from taking a page from muggle history to get an edge? – beichst Jun 4 '16 at 21:36
7

Not much

  • Magical abilities appear to be genetically inherited

    Well, they are certainly inherited. Rowling has called it a "gene," but given that she is not a scientist (or mathematician), she may be using the term in the colloquial sense of "something that is inherited," rather than "a distinct sequence of nucleotides forming part of a chromosome, the order of which determines the order of monomers in a polypeptide or nucleic acid molecule which a cell (or virus) may synthesize."

  • Magical abilities appear to increase as individuals grow, mature and develop them

    They don't really, any more than knowledge of algebra increases with age, or one's skill at driving. Rather, it takes time to learn any skill, and the older people get, the more cumulative time they have devoted to learning magic. Further, basic intellectual abilities increase (to a point) with age, and a person is, in a definite biological sense, better at understanding things at 17 than at 11.

    There is no indication that the "power" of a wizard or witch is a function of anything other than how much magic they learned, whether at Hogwarts or after, and their skill in using the magic they already have. Sure, having magic is genetic: that doesn't mean that its strength is. Either you have it or you don't.

    When Crouch-as-Moody says that Avada Kedavra requires a powerful bit of magic behind it, we should not take this in the sense of inherited power. Rather, it refers to intent:

    As Bellatrix tells us:

    'Never used an Unforgivable Curse before, have you, boy?' she yelled. She had abandoned her baby voice now. `You need to mean them, Potter! You need to really want to cause pain—to enjoy it—righteous anger won't hurt me for long - I'll show you how it is done, shall I? I'll give you a lesson -'

    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

  • We have seen the ability for cross-species types of transformation

    Yes, we have. This does not indicate anything about the capabilities of magic, let alone what Voldemort can do with it. Magic is not science. Just because you can turn someone into a cat, doesn't mean you can give them sickle-cell anemia, or trisomy, or make them into a supertaster.

    It is perfectly possible for magical spells to be based on altering large-scale properties of individuals, i.e. "catness," or "Potterness," rather than genetic structures. It may not even be possible to use magic to alter genes arbitrarily. Even if it is, the mere fact that a spell alter genes one way (turn someone into a dog), should not be construed to mean that a witch or wizard with that capability can perform arbitrary gene splicing.

    All of this assumes, of course, that magical inheritance is a "gene" in the scientific sense, which may not be the case.

  • Dedicated practitioners willing to commit the use of their own children

    Yes, Voldemort certainly has those. Of course, this only matters if we assume Voldemort can increase someone's magical ability through gene manipulation, when no evidence in the books indicates that he can.

There are bigger problems not mentioned in any of those points.

For example, the Wizarding World is highly isolated from the Muggle one. The likelihood that they understand genetics at all is very low. This provides more evidence that spells do not work on an understanding of genetics, but rather on different principles altogether. Even a wizard like Arthur Weasley, who desperately wants to understand the Muggle world, doesn't:

“They run off eckeltricity, do they?” he said knowledgeably. “Ah yes, I can see the plugs. I collect plugs,” he added to Uncle Vernon. “And batteries. Got a very large collection of batteries. My wife thinks I’m mad, but there you are.”

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Further, Voldemort disdains anything Muggle. Even if he were to learn about the "Muggle science" concepts of genes, and had the magical power to manipulate it, he might not embrace it, much as Nazi scientists disdained "Jewish science."

"Lord Voldemort liked to collect trophies, and he preferred objects with a powerful magical history. His pride, his belief in his own superiority, his determination to carve for himself a startling place in magical history..."

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

If ever there were a wizard who would not want to combine magic with mundane science, it would be Lord Voldemort.

  • If magical ability isn't inherited on some level then why was Hagrid convinced that Harry would be a thumpin' good one? Just a case of Hagrid being Hagrid? – The Dark Lord Jun 5 '16 at 9:13
  • 1
    @TheDarkLord - Partly, yes. But more lime how someone might imagine that the child of a scientist might make a good scientist. The traits that contribute to success are inherited. – Adamant Jun 5 '16 at 9:15

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.