Tag Archives: genes

Bouncing off a current in philosophy of biology that wants to make claims about causal contributions

This post bounces off a current in philosophy of biology that wants to make claims about specific causal contributions of different factors, especially with respect to genes and heritability.
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Responding to recurrent claims that science now shows race has a biological basis

This podcast examines several kinds of conceptual problems that have not been addressed by scientists and other commentators who claim, as happens every few years, that science now shows race has a biological basis (mp3 22 mins)
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4/23, 50 Whys to Look for Genes: Pros and Complications (participation is possible by from a distance)

Cambridge Science Festival 2015
50 Whys to Look for Genes: Pros and Complications
7-8.30pm, Thursday April 23, Bldg 1-134 at MIT
Participation is possible by google hangout, at http://bit.ly/CCTEvent . RSVP at sicw@umb.edu will help us plan for this. Continue reading

Whys to look for genes: Pros and complications–A Collaborative Exploration during February

A Collaborative Exploration (CE) in which participants consider what it would mean for the public to be treated as capable of thinking about the complexities that surround the application of genetic knowledge. Continue reading

50 whys to look for genes: 18. Organisms are the survival machines of genes

“They are in you and in me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence… Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines.” Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (1976)

In other words, the genes we have are those that gave our ancestors advantage over competitors in survival and reproduction.  Any gene that does not give an advantage will die out—will not survive.

Complications

As the previous post noted, “parameters, such as the ‘fitness’ of [i.e., the advantage conferred by] genes or genotypes… are difficult or impossible to estimate,” even in well-controlled laboratory populations. Continue reading

What does “Nature-Nurture? No” have to do with feminist nature-nurture issues?

A colleague asked me what does my new book, “Nature-Nurture? No” (http://bit.ly/NNN2014),  have to do with feminist nature-nurture issues? What can we do with my analysis?  This 68-minute video is my first rough take on puzzling over that question: http://youtu.be/1gE9_9W8-zI  Comments welcome.

Nature-Nurture? No (now available)

Almost every day we hear that some trait “has a strong genetic basis” or “of course it is a combination of genes and environment, but the hereditary component is sizeable.”  To say No to Nature-Nurture is to reject this relative weighting of heredity and environment.  This book shows that partitioning the variation observed for any trait into a heritability fraction and other components provides little clear or useful information about the genetic and environmental influences.

A key move this book makes is to distill the issues into eight conceptual and methodological gaps that need attention. Some gaps should be kept open; others should be bridged—or the difficulty of doing so should be conceded. Previous researchers and commentators have either not acknowledged all the gaps, not developed the appropriate responses, or not consistently sustained their responses.  Indeed, despite decades of contributions to nature-nurture debates, some fundamental problems in the relevant sciences have been overlooked.

When all the gaps are given proper attention, the limitations of human heritability studies become clear.  They do not provide a reliable basis for genetic research that seeks to identify the molecular variants associated with trait variation, for assertions that genetic differences in many traits come, over people’s lifetimes, to eclipse environmental differences and that the search for environmental influences and corresponding social policies is unwarranted, or for sociological research that focuses on differences in the experiences of members of the same family.

Saying No is saying Yes to interesting scientific and policy questions about heredity and variation.  To move beyond the gaps is to make space for fresh inquiries in a range of areas: in various sciences, from genetics and molecular biology to epidemiology and agricultural breeding; in history, philosophy, sociology, and politics of the life and social sciences; and in engagement of the public in discussion of developments in science.

Available as paperback through online retailers and as pdf

NNN_digitalcovers-Front

The Pumping Station

Almost every day we hear that some trait “has a strong genetic basis” or “of course it is a combination of genes and environment, but the hereditary component is sizeable.”  To say No to Nature-Nurture is to reject this relative weighting of heredity and environment.  This book shows that partitioning the variation observed for any trait into a heritability fraction and other components provides little clear or useful information about the genetic and environmental influences.

A key move this book makes is to distill the issues into eight conceptual and methodological gaps that need attention. Some gaps should be kept open; others should be bridged—or the difficulty of doing so should be conceded. Previous researchers and commentators have either not acknowledged all the gaps, not developed the appropriate responses, or not consistently sustained their responses.  Indeed, despite decades of contributions to nature-nurture debates, some fundamental problems in the relevant…

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