Tag Archives: genetics

50 whys to look for genes: Pros and complications

Working paper from 2015: Taylor, Peter J., “50 whys to look for genes: Pros and complications” (2015). Working Papers on Science in a Changing World. 12.

“Treating the audience as capable of thinking about the complexities that surround the application of genetic knowledge” was the tagline of a series of daily blog posts made over seven weeks in the fall of 2014, posts that included extended quotes from the recently published Nature-Nurture? No (Taylor 2014). This working paper is a compilation of those posts.

Four steps to interpret and move beyond nature-nurture (for a handbook on environmental studies)

My four steps to interpret and move beyond nature-nurture for the current draft of a 1500-word entry for a handbook on environmental studies: Continue reading

What to do if we think that researchers have overlooked a significant issue for 100 years?

Practice run of a talk to philosophers of biology & biologists, March 2016 Continue reading

The conflation of family and population helps explain why the Nature vs. Nurture formulation persists II (revised)

Revised version

The first installment ended on the following note: Suppose you have many sets of same-sex non-identical twins raised together and many sets of same-sex identical twins raised together and find that the identical twins are on average more similar.  It seems reasonable to conclude that is because they share all their genes whereas the non-identical twins share fewer of their genes.  Reasonable, but not certain, at least not certain that it is only about genes.  After all, the treatment of identical twins could be more similar than the treatment of non-identical twins, even same-sex non-identical twins.  In any case, that conclusion doesn’t say that it’s the same nature—the same genes—or the same nurture that brings about the resemblance from one pair of twins to the next.  Given this possibility of underlying heterogeneity where are you?  What can you do? Continue reading

50 whys to look for genes: 50. Genomics is “promising” in a “high-speed, high-tech, and high-finance world”

As described by Mike Fortun in his 2008 book, Promising Genomics: Iceland and deCODE Genetics in a World of Speculation (Univ. of California Press), a biotech company was given rights to knowledge and its application derived by connecting health data with genomic data for all of Iceland’s citizens. As described in a review of the book, Fortun: Continue reading

50 whys to look for genes: 49. Biotech/Pharma funds it

The 1970s saw researchers in molecular genetics first argue that science progresses when free from outside direction–in the form of government restrictions on genetic engineering–and later argue that science progresses when scientists are free to receive funding (and often direction) from private corporations–including corporations started by academic researchers. In 1980 the Bayl-Dole act in the USA allowed private corporations to profit from commercializing products of research that had been funded by the government. Continue reading

50 whys to look for genes: 48. Build on something people have been doing for thousands of years

The field of genetic engineering remains a heated topic of discussion in today’s society with the advent of gene therapy, stem cell research, cloning, and genetically modified food. [However] this relationship of biotechnology serving social needs began centuries ago… (wikipedia)

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50 whys to look for genes: 47. Revolutionary potential

The once science-fictional idea of “genetic engineering,” with its implications of altering the characteristics of human beings to ward off disease or to create armies of obedient slaves, has taken a long step toward reality in the last two years. (NY Times 1975)

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50 whys to look for genes: 46. Understand sex differences

Most people who identify as men have an X and a Y chromosome, while most people who identify as women have two X chromosomes.  Understanding what genes are on the X versus the Y chromosome and when/how those genes are activated over the life course (beginning prenatally) is a way to examine the basis of sex differences.  Similarly, for the different systems of sex determination across the animal kingdom (wikipedia). Continue reading

50 whys to look for genes: 45. Address rare genetic diseases

According to 2014 Report on the State of the Art of Rare Disease Activities in Europe, rare diseases, defined as affecting 0.5 per 1000 people, are primarily “genetic diseases, the others [including] rare cancers, auto-immune diseases, congenital malformations, toxic and infectious diseases…” If genetic diseases are defined as those that can be associated with point mutations in a gene, deletion of a gene, extra or deleted chromosomes, and repeated sequences (wikipedia), then most genetic diseases fit into the rare genetic disease category (see table of incidence as a fraction of life births). Continue reading