Can we do a better job than George Lucas did with midichlorians by instead invoking genetics?
As someone who grew up enraptured by the fantasy of the Star Wars universe and its mystical space wizards, there was no greater affront to my sensibilities than when The Phantom Menace introduced the concept of midichlorians. The capacity for an individual to use the Force, this metaphysical power that permeates the cosmos and every living being, felt cheapened by the explanation that it arises from microscopic life-forms that live in the bloodstream and serve as "conductors" of the Force.
Why can't a humanoid serve as its own conductor? What question does the midichlorian truly answer? It doesn't explain the Force - it just passes the buck from "man with magic powers" to "man with blood bacteria that has magic powers." It adds sci-fi gobbledygook for the sole purpose of having a convenient way to quantitatively measure someone's potential with the Force so that everyone can be starstruck over young Anakin. Why can't a Jedi just "sense" how powerful someone's Force potential is, rather than have to measure it via blood test? There's nothing more mystical and imaginative than testing for Force potential the same way you test for diabetes.
But thankfully, The Force Awakens can change everything. In his treatment of Star Trek, J.J. Abrams has shown that he's not afraid to mess with canon, and it has been established that the Expanded Universe (everything in past Star Wars games, novels, TV series, and anything other than the movies) will carry no authoritative weight in Episode 7. So how can the new movie redeem midichlorians?
By not f***ing mentioning them at all.
And while I do believe this is the route Abrams has taken, that doesn't leave us with much room for further discussion. So let's instead ask, "How can we better explain Force powers with science?"
Yes, I am altering the question. Pray I don't alter it any further.
Let's clarify - I would prefer not to explain the fantasy of Star Wars with science, but as a thought experiment, we'll set forth a system that beats midichlorians in explaining the following phenomena, all established in the original trilogy:
- Some people are Force sensitive; others are not
- Force sensitivity can be passed on to offspring
- Force users are rare
- Some people are naturally stronger in the Force than others
These are the same phenomena that midichlorians address, but do so by invoking convoluted symbiosis ideas that raise more questions than they answer. To me, it seems like we can address these points simply through genetics.