Advances in genetic technology in general and medical genetics in particular will enable us to intervene in the process of human biological development which extends from zygotes and embryos to people. This will allow us to control to a great extent the identities and the length and quality of the lives of people who already exist, as well as those we bring into existence in the near and distant future. Genes and Future People explores two general philosophical questions, one (...) metaphysical, the other moral: (1) How do genes, and different forms of genetic intervention (gene therapy, genetic enhancement, presymptomatic genetic testing of adults, genetic testing of preimplantation embryos), affect the identities of the people who already exist and those we bring into existence? and (2) How do these interventions benefit or harm the people we cause to exist in the near future and those who will exist in the distant future by satisfying or defeating their interest in having reasonably long and disease-free lives? Genes and Future People begins by explaining the connection between genes and disease, placing genetic within a framework of evolutionary biology. It then discusses such topics as how genes and genetic intervention influence personal identity, what genetic testing of individuals and the knowledge resulting from it entails about responsibility to others who may be at risk, as well as how gene therapy and genetic enhancement can affect the identities of people and benefit or harm them. Furthermore, it discusses various moral aspects of cloning human beings and body parts. Finally, it explores the metaphysical and moral implications of genetic manipulation of the mechanisms of aging to extend the human life span.The aim Genes and Future People is to move philosophers, bioethicists, and readers in general to reflect on the extent to which genes determine whether we are healthy or diseased, our identities as persons, the quality of our lives, and our moral obligations to future generations of people. (shrink)
The prevailing concept in modern cognitive neuroscience is that cognitive functions are performed predominantly at the network level, whereas the role of individual neurons is unlikely to extend beyond forming the simple basic elements of these networks. Within this conceptual framework, individuals of outstanding cognitive abilities appear as a result of a favorable configuration of the microarchitecture of the cognitive-implicated networks, whose final formation in ontogenesis may occur in a relatively random way. Here I suggest an alternative concept, which is (...) based on neurological data and on data from human behavioral genetics. I hypothesize that cognitive functions are performed mainly at the intracellular, probably at the molecular level. Central to this hypothesis is the idea that the neurons forming the networks involved in cognitive processes are complex elements whose functions are not limited to generating electrical potentials and releasing neurotransmitters. According to this hypothesis, individuals of outstanding abilities are so due to a lucky combination of specific genes that determine the intrinsic properties of neurons involved in cognitive functions of the brain. (shrink)
This paper outlines a critique of the use of the genetic variance–covariance matrix (G), one of the central concepts in the modern study of natural selection and evolution. Specifically, I argue that for both conceptual and empirical reasons, studies of G cannot be used to elucidate so-called constraints on natural selection, nor can they be employed to detect or to measure past selection in natural populations – contrary to what assumed by most practicing biologists. I suggest that the search for (...) a general solution to the difficult problem of identifying causal structures given observed correlation’s has led evolutionary quantitative geneticists to substitute statistical modeling for the more difficult, but much more valuable, job of teasing apart the many possible causes underlying the action of natural selection. Hence, the entire evolutionary quantitative genetics research program may be in need of a fundamental reconsideration of its goals and how they correspond to the array of mathematical and experimental techniques normally employed by its practitioners. (shrink)
During the last two decades the role of quantitative genetics in evolutionary theory has expanded considerably. Quantitative genetic-based models addressing long term phenotypic evolution, evolution in multiple environments (phenotypic plasticity) and evolution of ontogenies (developmental trajectories) have been proposed. Yet, the mathematical foundations of quantitative genetics were laid with a very different set of problems in mind (mostly the prediction of short term responses to artificial selection), and at a time in which any details of the genetic machinery (...) were virtually unknown. In this paper we discuss what a model is in population biology, and what kind of model we need in order to address the complexities of phenotypic evolution. We review the assumptions of quantitative genetics and its most recent accomplishments, together with the limitations that such assumptions impose on the modelling of some aspects of phenotypic evolution. We also discuss three alternative appr oaches to the theoretical description of evolutionary trajectories (nonlinear dynamics, complexity theory and optimization theory), and their respective advantages and limitations. We conclude by calling for a new theoretical synthesis, including quantitative genetics and not necessarily limited to the other approaches here discussed. (shrink)
The last century saw two great revolutions in genetics the development of classic Mendelian theory and the discovery and investigation of DNA. Each fundamental scientific discovery in turn generated its own distinctive technology. These two case studies, examined in this text, enable the author to conduct a philosophical exploration of the relationship between fundamental scientific discoveries on the one hand, and the technologies that spring from them on the other. As such it is also an exercise in the philosophy (...) of technology. (shrink)
New genetic technologies and their applications in biomedicine have important implications for social identities in contemporary societies. In medicine, new genetics is increasingly important for the identification of health and disease, the imputation of personal and familial risk, and the moral status of those identified as having genetic susceptibility for inherited conditions. There are also consequent transformations in national and ethnic collective identity, and the body and its investigation is potentially transformed by the possibilities of genetic investigations and modifications (...) (including the highly controversial terrains of reproductive technologies and the use of human embryos in biomedical research). The papers in this volume, drawn from an international array of authors, address these issues from a variety of national, disciplinary and empirical standpoints. An informative read for postgraduates and professionals in the fields of sociology, social anthropology, science and technology studies, and environmental studies, the chapters comprise empirically based and theoretically informed discussions of key sociological, anthropological, political and ethical issues. Using the resources of a wide range of social science disciplines to provide a comparative approach to complex issues, this superb collection explores the local and global consequences of the new genetics, and analyzes the social implications of these advances for identity formation in a period of rapid social change. (shrink)
The essays in this collection examine developments in three fundamental biological disciplines--embryology, evolutionary biology, and genetics--in conflict with each other for much of the twentieth century. They consider key methodological problems and the difficulty of overcoming them. Richard Burian interweaves historical appreciation of the settings within which scientists work, substantial knowledge of the biological problems at stake and the methodological and philosophical issues faced in integrating biological knowledge drawn from disparate sources.
Understanding how scientific activities use naming stories to achieve disciplinary status is important not only for insight into the past, but for evaluating current claims that new disciplines are emerging. In order to gain a historical understanding of how new disciplines develop in relation to these baptismal narratives, we compare two recently formed disciplines, systems biology and genomics, with two earlier related life sciences, genetics and molecular biology. These four disciplines span the twentieth century, a period in which the (...) processes of disciplinary demarcation fundamentally changed from those characteristic of the nineteenth century. We outline how the establishment of each discipline relies upon an interplay of factors that include paradigmatic achievements, technological innovation, and social formations. Our focus, however, is the baptism stories that give the new discipline a founding narrative and articulate core problems, general approaches and constitutive methods. The highly plastic process of achieving disciplinary identity is further marked by the openness of disciplinary definition, tension between technological possibilities and the ways in which scientific issues are conceived and approached, synthesis of reductive and integrative strategies, and complex social interactions. The importance – albeit highly variable – of naming stories in these four cases indicates the scope for future studies that focus on failed disciplines or competing names. Further attention to disciplinary histories could, we suggest, give us richer insight into scientific development. (shrink)
Quantitative genetics (QG) analyses variation in traits of humans, other animals, or plants in ways that take account of the genealogical relatedness of the individuals whose traits are observed. “Classical” QG, where the analysis of variation does not involve data on measurable genetic or environmental entities or factors, is reformulated in this article using models that are free of hypothetical, idealized versions of such factors, while still allowing for defined degrees of relatedness among kinds of individuals or “varieties.” The (...) gene - free formulation encompasses situations encountered in human QG as well as in agricultural QG. This formulation is used to describe three standard assumptions involved in classical QG and provide plausible alternatives. Several concerns about the partitioning of trait variation into components and its interpretation, most of which have a long history of debate, are discussed in light of the gene-free formulation and alternative assumptions. That discussion is at a theoretical level, not dependent on empirical data in any particular situation. Additional lines of work to put the gene-free formulation and alternative assumptions into practice and to assess their empirical consequences are noted, but lie beyond the scope of this article. The three standard QG assumptions examined are: (1) partitioning of trait variation into components requires models of hypothetical, idealized genes with simple Mendelian inheritance and direct contributions to the trait; (2) all other things being equal, similarity in traits for relatives is proportional to the fraction shared by the relatives of all the genes that vary in the population (e.g., fraternal or dizygotic twins share half of the variable genes that identical or monozygotic twins share); (3) in analyses of human data, genotype-environment interaction variance (in the classical QG sense) can be discounted. The concerns about the partitioning of trait variation discussed include: the distinction between traits and underlying measurable factors; the possible heterogeneity in factors underlying the development of a trait; the kinds of data needed to estimate key empirical parameters; and interpretations based on contributions of hypothetical genes; as well as, in human studies, the labeling of residual variance as a non-shared environmental effect; and the importance of estimating interaction variance. (shrink)
The use of genetic testing and neuroscientific evidence in legal trials raises several issues. Often their interpretation is controversial: the same evidence can be used to sustain both the prosecution’s and defense’s argument. A recent Italian case confirms such concerns and stresses other relevant related questions.
Watson and Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA led to developments that transformed many biological sciences. But what were the relevant developments and how did they transform biology? Much of the philosophical discussion concerning this question can be organized around two opposing views: theoretical reductionism and layer-cake antireductionism. Theoretical reductionist and their anti-reductionist foes hold two assumptions in common. First, both hold that biological knowledge is structured like a layer cake, with some biological sciences, such as molecular biology cast (...) at lower levels of organization, and others, such as classical genetics, cast at higher levels. Second, both assume that scientific knowledge is structured by theory and that the productivity of scientific research depends on whether the underlying theory identifies the fundamentals upon which the phenomena to be explained and investigated depend. In the first part of this paper, I challenge these assumptions. In the second part, I show how recasting the basic theory of classical genetics made it possible to retool the methodologies of genetics. It was the investigative power of these retooled methodologies, and not the explanatory power of a gene-based theory, that transformed biology. (shrink)
We present a reconstruction of so-called classical, formal or Mendelian genetics using a notation which we believe is more legible than that of earlier accounts, and lends itself easily to computer implementation, for instance in PROLOG. By drawing from, and emending, earlier work of Balzer and Dawe (1986,1997), the present account presents the three most important lines of development of classical genetics: the so-called Mendel's laws, linkage genetics and gene mapping, in the form of a theory-net. This (...) shows that the set theoretic representation format used in the structuralist approach to the philosophy of science also applies to the domain of genetic theories. There construction is intended to lend more clarity to theme thodological, philosophical and didactical discussions of the foundations of genetics, and on the other hand to defend a formally, logically minded view of theories which seems to have become contested through the work of Feyerabend, Kuhn and Kitcher. (shrink)
Evolutionary biology is a field currently animated by much discussion concerning its conceptual foundations. On the one hand, we have supporters of a classical view of evolutionary theory, whose backbone is provided by population genetics and the so-called Modern Synthesis (MS). On the other hand, a number of researchers are calling for an Extended Synthe- sis (ES) that takes seriously both the limitations of the MS (such as its inability to incorporate developmental biology) and recent empirical and theoretical research (...) on issues such as evolvability, modularity, and self-organization. In this article, I engage in an in-depth commentary of an influential paper by population geneticist Michael Lynch, which I take to be the best defense of the MS-population genetics position published so far. I show why I think that Lynch’s arguments are wanting and propose a modification of evolutionary theory that retains but greatly expands on population genetics. (shrink)
Population genetics attempts to measure the influence of the causes of evolution, viz., mutation, migration, natural selection, and random genetic drift, by understanding the way those causes change the genetics of populations. But how does it accomplish this goal? After a short introduction, we begin in section (2) with a brief historical outline of the origins of population genetics. In section (3), we sketch the model theoretic structure of population genetics, providing the flavor of the ways (...) in which population genetics theory might be understood as incorporating causes. In sections (4) and (5) we discuss two specific problems concerning the relationship between population genetics and evolutionary causes, viz., the problem of conceptually distinguishing natural selection from random genetic drift, and the problem of interpreting fitness. In section (6), we briefly discuss the methodology and key epistemological problems faced by population geneticists in uncovering the causes of evolution. Section (7) of the essay contains concluding remarks. (shrink)
Ernst Mayr has criticised the methodology of population genetics for being essentialist: interested only in “types” as opposed to individuals. In fact, he goes so far as to claim that “he who does not understand the uniqueness of individuals is unable to understand the working of natural selection” (1982, 47). This is a strong claim indeed especially since many responsible for the development of population genetics (especially Fisher, Haldane, and Wright) were avid Darwinians. In order to unravel this (...) apparent incompatibility I want to examine the possible sources and implications of essentialism in this context and show why the kind of mathematical analysis found in Fisher's work is better seen as responsible for extending the theory of natural selection to a broader context rather than inhibiting its applicability. (shrink)
For elite athletes seeking a winning advantage, manipulation of their own genetic code has become a realistic possibility. In Genetic Technology and Sport, experts from sports science, genetics, philosophy, ethics, and international sports administration describe the potential applications of the new technology and debate the questions surrounding its use.
Although the ability to perform gene therapy in human germ-line cells is still hypothetical, the rate of progress in molecular and cell biology suggests that it will only be a matter of time before reliable clinical techniques will be within reach. Three sets of arguments are commonly advanced against developing those techniques, respectively pointing to the clinical risks, social dangers and better alternatives. In this paper we analyze those arguments from the perspective of the client-centered ethos that traditionally governs practice (...) in medical genetics. This perspective clarifies the merits of these arguments for geneticists, and suggests useful new directions for the professional discussion of germ-line gene therapy. It suggests, for example, that the much discussed prospect of germ-line therapy in human pre-embryos may always be more problematic for medical genetics than adult germ-line interventions, even though the latter faces greater technical difficulties. (shrink)
This paper considers the relevance of human genetics as a case study through which links between bioethics and sport ethics have developed. Initially, it discusses the science of gene-doping and the ethics of policy-making in relation to future technologies, suggesting that the gene-doping example can elucidate concerns about the ethics of sport and human enhancement more generally. Subsequently, the conceptual overlap between sport and bioethics is explored in the context of discussions about doping. From here, the paper investigates the (...) ethics of gene-doping, arguing that a straightforward mapping of medical ethics onto sport ethics is not justified. In conclusion, it argues that gene-doping is consistent with a broader ethics of enhancement within elite sports. Moreover, the increased legitimacy of lifestyle medicine in society is likely to reduce the relevance of an anti-doping programme that is concerned with protecting the integrity of an alleged natural athlete. (shrink)
The recent literature in philosophy of biology has drawn attention to the different sorts of explanations proffered in the biological sciences—we have molecular, biomedical, and evolutionary explanations. Do these explanations all have a common structure or relation that they seek to capture? This paper will answer in the negative. I defend a pluralistic and pragmatic approach to explanation. Using examples from classical population genetics, I argue that formal demonstrations, and even strictly “mathematical truths,” may serve as explanatory in different (...) historical contexts. (shrink)
I criticize some arguments against the causal interpretability of population genetics put forward by Denis Walsh (, ). In particular, I seek to undermine the contention that population genetics exhibits frame of reference relativity or subjectivity with respect to its formal representations. I also show that classical population genetics does not fall foul of some criteria for causal representation put forward by James Woodward (), although those criteria do undermine some causalist stances. 1 Introduction2 Modularity3 The Crucially (...) Important Point4 The Gillespie Case: Density-Dependent Selection5 Conclusion. (shrink)
In 1966, Richard Levins argued that there are different strategies in model building in population biology. In this paper, I reply to Orzack and Sober's (1993) critiques of Levins and argue that his views on modeling strategies apply also in the context of evolutionary genetics. In particular, I argue that there are different ways in which models are used to ask and answer questions about the dynamics of evolutionary change, prospectively and retrospectively, in classical versus molecular evolutionary genetics. (...) Further, I argue that robustness analysis is a tool for, if not confirmation, then something near enough, in this discipline. (shrink)
A precise formulation of the structure of modern evolutionary theory has proved elusive. In this paper, I introduce and develop a formal approach to the structure of population genetics, evolutionary theory's most developed sub-theory. Under the semantic approach, used as a framework in this paper, presenting a theory consists in presenting a related family of models. I offer general guidelines and examples for the classification of population genetics models; the defining features of the models are taken to be (...) their state spaces, parameters, and laws. The suggestions regarding the various aspects of the characterization of population genetics models provide an outline for further detailed research. (shrink)
The status of population genetics has become hotly debated among biologists and philosophers of biology. Many seem to view population genetics as relatively unchanged since the Modern Synthesis and have argued that subjects such as development were left out of the Synthesis. Some have called for an extended evolutionary synthesis or for recognizing the insignificance of population genetics. Yet others such as Michael Lynch have defended population genetics, declaring "nothing in evolution makes sense except in the (...) light of population genetics" (a twist on Dobzhansky's famous slogan that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution"). Missing from this discussion is the use of population genetics to shed light on ecology and vice versa, beginning in the 1940s and continuing until the present day. I highlight some of that history through an overview of traditions such as ecological genetics and population biology, followed by a slightly more in-depth look at a contemporary study of the endangered California Tiger Salamander. I argue that population genetics is a powerful and useful tool that continues to be used and modified, even if it isn't required for all evolutionary explanations or doesn't incorporate all the causal factors of evolution. (shrink)
A belief common among philosophers and biologists alike is that Mendelian genetics has been or is in the process of being reduced to molecular genetics, in the sense of formal theory reduction current in the literature. The purpose of this paper is to show that there are numerous empirical and conceptual difficulties which stand in the way of establishing a systematic inferential relation between Mendelian and molecular genetics. These difficulties, however, have little to do with the traditional (...) objections which have been raised to reduction. (shrink)
In a recent article, “Wayward Modeling: Population Genetics and Natural Selection,” Bruce Glymour claims that population genetics is burdened by serious predictive and explanatory inadequacies and that the theory itself is to blame. Because Glymour overlooks a variety of formal modeling techniques in population genetics, his arguments do not quite undermine a major scientific theory. However, his arguments are extremely valuable as they provide definitive proof that those who would deploy classical population genetics over natural systems (...) must do so with careful attention to interactions between individual population members and environmental causes. Glymour’s arguments have deep implications for causation in classical population genetics. (shrink)
Traditional, quantitative behavioral geneticists and developmental psychobiologists such as Gilbert Gottlieb have long debated what it would take to create a truly developmental behavioral genetics. These disputes have proven so intractable that disputants have repeatedly suggested that the problem rests on their opponents' conceptual confusion; whilst others have argued that the intractability results from the non-scientific, political motivations of their opponents. The authors provide a different explanation of the intractability of these debates. They show that the disputants have competing (...) interpretations of the concepts of reaction norm, genotype-environment interaction, and gene. The common thread that underlies each of these disagreements, the authors argue, is the relevance of potential variation that is not manifest in any actual population to the understanding of development. (shrink)
The history of genetics offers abundant material for the study of the influence of social factors in the development of science. Several of these factors are listed and briefly touched upon. Especial attention is paid to the interference of political power in the business of science, exemplified and analyzed in the tragic case of the Lysenko affair, which lead to the death of the best geneticists of Russia and the destruction of a whole and fruitful scientific community.
In his important paper "1953 and All That: A Tale of Two Sciences" (1984), Philip Kitcher defends biological antireductionism, arguing that the division of biology into subfields such as classical and molecular genetics is "not simply... a temporary feature of our science stemming from our cognitive imperfections but [is] the reflection of levels of organization in nature" (p. 371). In a recent discussion of Kitcher's views, Alexander Rosenberg has argued, first, that Kitcher has shown that the reduction of classical (...) to molecular genetics is impossible only because of our intellectual limitations and, second, that this kind of antireductionism supports an instrumentalist approach to biological theory. I argue that both of Rosenberg's claims should be rejected despite the fact that Kitcher misdiagnoses the central reason for the failure of reduction. (shrink)
The study of mental illness by the methods of molecular genetics is still in its infancy, but the use of genetic markers in psychiatry may potentially lead to a Virchowian revolution in the conception of mental illness. Genetic markers may define novel clusters of patients having diverse clinical presentations but sharing a common genetic and mechanistic basis. Such clusters may differ radically from the conventional classification schemes of psychiatric illness. However, the reduction of even relatively simple Mendelian phenomena to (...) molecular genetics has been shown to be a surprisingly complex and problematic enterprise. Mental illnesses exist at many levels of including social, environmental, and developmental interactions. Reductionistic shifts in the classification of such a disease entity will have to address the interlevel dynamics that take place within the structure of theories of mental illness. The question of how molecular analysis of psychiatric disease will impact on the structure of existing theories and classification systems is the central topic of this paper. Keywords: disease, philosophy of biology, psychiatry, reductionism CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Taking reduction in the traditional deductive sense, the programmatic claim that most of genetics can be reduced by molecular genetics is defended as feasible and significant. Arguments by Ruse and Hull that either the relationship is replacement or at best a weaker form of reduction are shown to rest on a mixture of historical and logical confusions about the nature of the theories involved.
The concept of âgeneticizationâ has been introduced in the scholarly literature to describe the various interlocking and imperceptible mechanisms of interaction between medicine, genetics, society and culture. It is argued that Western culture currently is deeply involved in a process of geneticization. This process implies a redefinition of individuals in terms of DNA codes, a new language to describe and interpret human life and behavior in a genomic vocabulary of codes, blueprints, traits, dispositions, genetic mapping, and a gentechnological approach (...) to disease, health and the body. This article analyses the thesis of âgeneticizationâ. Explaining the implications of the thesis, and discussing the critical refutations, it is argued that âgeneticizationâ primarily is a heuristic tool that can help to re-focus the moral debate on the implications of new genetic knowledge towards interpersonal relations, the power of medicine, the cultural context and social constraints, rather than emphasizing issues as personal autonomy and individual rights. (shrink)
This paper uses Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory to develop tools for analyzing interdisciplinary scientific fields. Interdisciplinary fields are scientific spaces where no single form of scientific capital has a monopoly and therefore multiple forms of scientific capital constitute the structures and stakes of scientific competition. Scientists compete to accumulate and define forms of scientific capital and also to set the rates of exchange between them. The paper illustrates this framework by applying it to the interdisciplinary field of behavior genetics. (...) Most behavior geneticists envision their participation in the field as a means to compete for scientific capital in other fields. However, the scientific capital of behavior genetics has different values for scientists attempting to deploy it in different neighboring fields. These values depend on situations in each field and the ways behavior genetics mediates relationships among them. The pattern of relationships of exchange helps explain the social hierarchy and several features of knowledge production within behavior genetics. (shrink)
At this point in time, it is hard to say which consequences for the concept of mental illness result from modern genetics. Current research projects are trying to find significant statistical correlations between the diagnosis of a disease and a gene locus or an endophenotype. Up until now, there has not been any identification of alleles or mutations causing mental illness. In the meantime, the relations between the genetic basis and the disease are given the term genetic vulnerability as (...) a placeholder; this concept simplifies the complex relations between the DNA and even the simplest cell functions observed in modern genetics. According to complex gene models like the systemic theory of DNA, it will not be possible to identify the genetic factors without a precise knowledge of the factors which modulate the gene expression. The significance of genetics as part of the concept of mental illness will not be able to be defined without further progress in developmental biology and psychology. Currently, psychological theory fails to acknowledge the complexity of the relationship between the DNA and the environment. Some starting points from which to develop such an understanding can be received from developmental studies and studies of the psychophylogenesis . An interdisciplinary concept of the biological basis of the psyche is needed. (shrink)
A recent literature review of commentaries and ‘state of the art’ articles from researchers in psychiatric genetics (PMG) offers a consensus about progress in the science of genetics, disappointments in the discovery of new and effective treatments, and a general optimism about the future of the field. I argue that optimism for the field of psychiatric molecular genetics (PMG) is overwrought, and consider progress in the field in reference to a sample estimate of US National Institute of (...) Mental Health funding for this paradigm for the years 2008 and 2009. I conclude that the amounts of financial investment in PMG is questionable from an ethical perspective, given other research and clinical needs in the USA. (shrink)
Despite a long tradition of research in applied genetics, particularly in agricultural research, in Italy the transition to the new knowledges and techniques of molecular biology was long and difficult. Political and financial constraints made academic institutions very slow to grasp the importance of molecular approaches to biology and medicine. In fact, the main studies concerning problems of molecular biology took place inside non-academic institutions. We reconstruct the complex paths leading to the birth of the International Laboratory of (...) class='Hi'>Genetics and Biophysics (LIGB) in Naples, and describe its work and activities in the period in which it was directed by its creator, Adriano Buzzati-Traverso, between 1962 and 1969. The origins of the LIGB are inextricably bound to the growth of biophysical research at the University of Pavia and at the Higher Health Institute in Rome. For a short period, with the aid provided by Italian and European physicists to biological research on the effects of nuclear radiation, LIGB became a focal point in European molecular biology. In 1968 the scientific and educational activities of the LIGB dramatically fell victim to the contradictions of the Italian academic and scientific system, and to the political climate which emerged in Italy at the time. (shrink)
From a twenty-first century partnership between bioethics and neuroscience, the modern field of neuroethics is emerging, and technologies enabling functional neuroimaging with unprecedented sensitivity have brought new ethical, social and legal issues to the forefront. Some issues, akin to those surrounding modern genetics, raise critical questions regarding prediction of disease, privacy and identity. However, with new and still-evolving insights into our neurobiology and previously unquantifiable features of profoundly personal behaviors such as social attitude, value and moral agency, the difficulty (...) of carefully and properly interpreting the relationship between brain findings and our own self-concept is unprecedented. Therefore, while the ethics of genetics provides a legitimate starting point - even a backbone - for tackling ethical issues in neuroimaging, they do not suffice. Drawing on recent neuroimaging findings and their plausible real-world applications, we argue that interpretation of neuroimaging data is a key epistemological and ethical challenge. This challenge is two-fold. First, at the scientific level, the sheer complexity of neuroscience research poses challenges for integration of knowledge and meaningful interpretation of data. Second, at the social and cultural level, we find that interpretations of imaging studies are bound by cultural and anthropological frameworks. In particular, the introduction of concepts of self and personhood in neuroimaging illustrates the interaction of interpretation levels and is a major reason why ethical reflection on genetics will only partially help settle neuroethical issues. Indeed, ethical interpretation of such findings will necessitate not only traditional bioethical input but also a wider perspective on the construction of scientific knowledge. (shrink)
The applicability of Nagel's concept of theory reduction, and related concepts of reduction, to the reduction of genetics to molecular biology is examined using the lactose operon in Escherichia coli as an example. Geneticists have produced the complete nucleotide sequence of two of the genes which compose this operon. If any example of reduction in genetics should fit Nagel's analysis, the lactose operon should. Nevertheless, Nagel's formal conditions of theory reduction are inapplicable in this case. Instead, it is (...) argued that genetics has been partially reduced to molecular biology in the sense of token-token reduction. (shrink)
Since the introduction of mathematical population genetics, its machinery has shaped our fundamental understanding of natural selection. Selection is taken to occur when differential fitnesses produce differential rates of reproductive success, where fitnesses are understood as parameters in a population genetics model. To understand selection is to understand what these parameter values measure and how differences in them lead to frequency changes. I argue that this traditional view is mistaken. The descriptions of natural selection rendered by population (...) class='Hi'>genetics models are in general neither predictive nor explanatory and introduce avoidable conceptual confusions. I conclude that a correct understanding of natural selection requires explicitly causal models of reproductive success. *Received May 2006; revised December 2006. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Kansas State University, 201 Dickens Hall, Manhattan, KS 66506; e‐mail: email@example.com . (shrink)
The beanbag genetics controversy can be traced from the dispute between Fisher and Wright, through Mayr''s influential promotion of the issue, to the contemporary units of selection debate. It centers on the claim that genic models of natural selection break down in the face of epistatic interactions among genes during phenotypic development. This claim is explored from both a conceptual and a quantitative point of view, and is shown to be defective on both counts.Firstly, an analysis of the controversy''s (...) theoretical origins demonstrates that this claim derives from a misinterpretation of the conceptual foundations of Fisher''s genetical theory of natural selection, and confounds his fundamentally different concepts of the average excess and average effect of a gene. Secondly, an extension of the genic approach is proposed which models the dynamics of selection among epistatically interacting complexes of many genes. Paradoxically, this preliminary, but fundamentally genic model provides quantitative support for some controversial qualitative claims regarding the evolutionary consequences of strong gene interactions made by opponents of genic selectionism, including Mayr''s theory of peripartric speciation. These findings foster hope that the proposed approach may eventually nudge the beanbag controversy out of its conceptual trenches into a more empirically oriented dialogue. (shrink)
Examples of reduction outside of physics typically concern in principle possibilities; e.g., if we had a decent psychological theory of human behavior, we could reduce it to neurophysiology once we know more. However, in one instance, a reduction is actually well underway – the reduction of Mendelian genetics to molecular biology. Empirical and conceptual difficulties in setting out this reduction have led certain philosophers to modify the traditional logical empiricist analysis of theory reduction, first, to allow for necessary corrections (...) and, second, to introduce a temporal dimension [reduction, genetics, theory, logical empiricism]. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
In this paper we will examine some ethical aspects of the role that computers and computing increasingly play in new genetics. Our claim is that there is no new genetics without computer science. Computer science is important for the new genetics on two levels:(1) from a theoretical perspective, and (2) from the point of view of geneticists practice. With respect to (1), the new genetics is fully impregnate with concepts that are basic for computer science. Regarding (...) (2), recent developments in the Human Genome Project (HGP) have shown that computers shape the practices of molecular genetics; an important example is the Shotgun Method's contribution to accelerating the mapping of the human genome. A new challenge to the HGP is provided by the Open Source Philosophy (I computer science), which is another way computer technologies now influence the shaping of public policy debates involving genomics. (shrink)
In this paper I provide a novel argument against the claim that classical genetics is being reduced to molecular genetics. Specifically, I demonstrate that reductionists must subscribe to the unargued and problematic thesis that molecular genetics is 'independent' of classical genetics. I also argue that several standard antireductionist positions can be faulted for unnecessarily conceding the Independence Thesis to the reductionists. In place of a 'tale of two sciences', I offer a 'heroic' stance that denies classical (...)genetics is being reduced, yet sees classical and molecular genetics as fundamentally unified. (shrink)
Bioconservative commentators argue that parents should not take steps to modify the genetics of their children even in the name of enhancement because of the damage they predict for values, identities and relationships. Some commentators have even said that adults should not modify themselves through genetic interventions. One commentator worries that genetic modifications chosen by adults for themselves will undermine moral agency, lead to less valuable experiences and fracture people's sense of self. These worries are not justified, however, since (...) the effects of modification will not undo moral agency as such. Adults can still have valuable experiences, even if some prior choices no longer seem meaningful. Changes at the genetic level will not always, either, alienate people from their own sense of self. On the contrary, genetic modifications can help amplify choice, enrich lives and consolidate identities. Ultimately, there is no moral requirement that people value their contingent genetic endowment to the exclusion of changes important to them in their future genetic identities. Through weighing risks and benefits, adults also have the power to consent to—and assume the risks of—genetic modifications for themselves in a way not possible in prenatal genetic interventions. (shrink)
Scientific anomalies are observations and facts that contradict current scientific theories and they are instrumental in scientific theory change. Philosophers of science have approached scientific theory change from different perspectives as Darden (Theory change in science: Strategies from Mendelian genetics, 1991) observes: Lakatos (In: Lakatos, Musgrave (eds) Criticism and the growth of knowledge, 1970) approaches it as a progressive “research programmes” consisting of incremental improvements (“monster barring” in Lakatos, Proofs and refutations: The logic of mathematical discovery, 1976), Kuhn (The (...) structure of scientific revolutions, 1996) observes that changes in “paradigms” are instigated by a crisis from some anomaly, and Hanson (In: Feigl, Maxwell (eds) Current issues in the philosophy of science, 1961) proposes that discovery does not begin with hypothesis but with some “problematic phenomena requiring explanation”. Even though anomalies are important in all of these approaches to scientific theory change, there have been only few investigations into the specific role anomalies play in scientific theory change. Furthermore, much of these approaches focus on the theories themselves and not on how the scientists and their experiments bring about scientific change (Gooding, Experiment and the making of meaning: Human agency in scientific observation and experiment, 1990). To address these issues, this paper approaches scientific anomaly resolution from a meaning construction point of view. Conceptual integration theory (Fauconnier and Turner, Cogn Sci 22:133–187, 1996; The way we think: Conceptual blending and mind’s hidden complexities, 2002) from cognitive linguistics describes how one constructs meaning from various stimuli, such as text and diagrams, through conceptual integration or blending. The conceptual integration networks that describe the conceptual integration process characterize cognition that occurs unconsciously during meaning construction. These same networks are used to describe some of the cognition while resolving an anomaly in molecular genetics called RNA interference (RNAi) in a case study. The RNAi case study is a cognitive-historical reconstruction (Nersessian, In: Giere (ed) Cognitive models of science, 1992) that reconstructs how the RNAi anomaly was resolved. This reconstruction traces four relevant molecular genetics publications in describing the cognition necessary in accounting for how RNAi was resolved through strategies (Darden 1991), abductive reasoning (Peirce, In: Hartshorne, Weiss (eds) Collected papers, 1958), and experimental reasoning (Gooding 1990). The results of the case study show that experiments play a crucial role in formulating an explanation of the RNAi anomaly and the integration networks describe the experiments’ role. Furthermore, these results suggest that RNAi anomaly resolution is embodied. It is embodied in a sense that cognition described in the cognitive-historical reconstruction is experientially based. (shrink)
are often used loosely – especially in medical contexts. In an attempt to remedy this, these terms are explored from the standpoints of: philosophy of science, medicine, genetics, history of genetics and clinical genetics. A sense for ‘reductionism’ is developed in part by focusing on the related histories of classical genetics and clinical genetics. This done, the dichotomy between holism and reductionism, whether in basic genetics or the genetic counseling situation, loses much of its (...) force. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
The encounter between the Darwinian theory of evolution and Mendelism could be resolved only when reductionist tools could be applied to the analysis of complex systems. The instrumental reductionist interpretation of the hereditary basis of continuously varying traits provided mathematical tools which eventually allowed the construction of the Modern Synthesis of the theory of evolution.When genotypic as well as environmental variance allow the isolation of parts of the system, it is possible to apply Mendelian reductionism, that is , to treat (...) the phenotypic trait as if ti causally determined by discrete genes for the trait. howeverm such a beanbag genetics approach obscures the system's eye-view. The concept of heritability, defined as the proportion of the total phenotypic variance due to (additive) hereditary variation, asserts that genetic elements have discrete effects; but by relating to the genotypic variance, it avoids the trap of reffering to genes for characters. (shrink)
Textbook descriptions of the foundations of Genetics give the impression that besides Mendel’s no other research on heredity took place during the nineteenth century. However, the publication of the Origin of Species in 1859, and the criticism that it received, placed the study of heredity at the centre of biological thought. Consequently, Herbert Spencer, Charles Darwin himself, Francis Galton, William Keith Brooks, Carl von Nägeli, August Weismann, and Hugo de Vries attempted to develop theories of heredity under an evolutionary (...) perspective, and they were all influenced by each other in various ways. Nonetheless, only Nägeli became aware of Mendel’s experimental work; it has also been questioned whether Mendel even had the intention to develop a theory of heredity. In this article, a short presentation of these theories is made, based on the original writings. The major aim of this article is to suggest that Mendel was definitely not the only one studying heredity before 1900, if he even did this, as may be inferred by textbooks. Although his work had a major impact after 1900, it had no impact during the latter half of the nineteenth century when an active community of students of heredity emerged. Thus, textbooks should not only present the work of Mendel, but also provide a wider view of the actual history and a depiction of science as a social process. (shrink)
Medical Genetics is a relatively new field of scientific work that involves a lot of enthusiastic professionals, both in routine (clinical) and research (scientific projects). In either field, different geneticists feel different responsibilities for their work, either because they are different people (personal responsibility) or because they have a different rank in the respective departments (professional responsibility). This paper presents the philosophical views of several authors on the sense of responsibility from the Classical times until the present and reveals (...) the practical, daily responsibilities that are met by these professionals, in four areas of responsibility: personal, professional, scientific and sociatal framework. (shrink)
: This paper explores the calibration of laboratory models in population genetics as an experimental strategy for justifying experimental results and claims based upon them following Franklin (1986, 1990) and Rudge (1996, 1998). The analysis provided undermines Coyne et al.'s (1997) critique of Wade and Goodnight's (1991) experimental study of Wright's (1931, 1932) Shifting Balance Theory. The essay concludes by further demonstrating how this analysis bears on Diamond's (1986) claims regarding the weakness of laboratory experiments as evidence, and further (...) how the calibration strategy fits within Lloyd's (1987, 1988) account of the confirmation of ecological and evolutionary models. (shrink)
This paper suggests that many of the pressing dilemmas of bioethics are global and structural in nature. Accordingly, global ethical frameworks are required which recognize the ethically significant factors of all global actors. To this end, ethical frameworks must recognize the rights and interests of both individuals and groups (and the interrelation of these). The paper suggests that the current dominant bioethical framework is inadequate to this task as it is over-individualist and therefore unable to give significant weight to the (...) ethical demands of groups (and by extension communal and public goods). It will explore this theme by considering the inadequacy of informed consent (the ‘global standard’ of bioethics) to address two pressing global bioethical issues: medical tourism and population genetics.Using these examples it will show why consent is inadequate to address all the significant features of these ethical dilemmas. Four key failures will be explored, namely,• That the rights and interests of those related (and therefore affected) are neglected;• That consent fails to take account of the context and commitments of individuals which may constitute inducement and coercion;• That consent alone does not have the ethical weight to negate exploitation or make an unjust action just (‘the fallacy of sufficiency’);• That consent is a single one-off act which is inappropriate for the types of decision being made.It will conclude by suggesting that more appropriate models are emerging, particularly in population genetics, which can supplement consent. (shrink)
Behavioral geneticists sometimes use metaphorsto describe the role of genes in humanbehavior. In this paper, five sample texts areanalyzed: a popular book, a textbook, ascientific review article, and two originalscientific articles representing differentapproaches in behavioral genetics. Metaphorsare found in all the different kinds of sampletexts, not only in the popular book and thetextbook. This suggests that metaphors are usednot only for rhetorical or pedagogical purposesbut play a more fundamental role in scientificunderstanding. In the sample texts, themetaphors tend to be (...) antideterministic, i.e.,they do not imply genetic determinism butstress the interaction of multiple genes andmultiple environmental factors. No conclusioncan be drawn, however, as to whetherantideterminism is representative ofpresent-day behavioral geneticists in general.Certain historically important metaphors thatmay imply genetic determinism are qualified,avoided, or explicitly rejected. There aretensions between some of the metaphors, makingthem difficult to combine. All the metaphorsthat are used appear empirically apt, howeversometimes only with certain qualifications. (shrink)
Philosophers now treat the relationship between classical genetics and molecular biology as a paradigm of nonreduction and this example is playing an increasingly prominent role in debates about the reducibility of theories in other sciences. This paper shows that the anti-reductionist consensus about genetics will not withstand serious scrutiny. In addition to defusing the main anti-reductionist objections, this critical analysis uncovers tell-tale signs of a significant reduction in progress. It also identifies philosophical issues relevant to gaining a better (...) understanding of what is now happening in genetics and of what we might expect to happen in other sciences. (shrink)
In this study we have examined the reception of Mendelism in France from 1900 to 1940, and the place of some of the extra-Mendelian traditions of research that contributed to the development of genetics in France after World War II.
The Committee on Common Problems of Genetics, Paleontology, and Systematics (United States National Research Council) marks part of a critical transition in American evolutionary studies. Launched in 1942 to facilitate cross-training between genetics and paleontology, the Committee was also designed to amplify paleontologist voices in modern studies of evolutionary processes. During coincidental absences of founders George Gaylord Simpson and Theodosius Dobzhansky, an opportunistic Ernst Mayr moved into the project's leadership. Mayr used the opportunity for programmatic reforms he had (...) been pursuing elsewhere for more than a decade. These are evident in the Bulletins he distributed under Committee auspices. In his brief tenure as Committee leader, Mayr gained his first substantial foothold within the coalescing community infrastructure of evolutionary studies. Carrying this momentum forward led Mayr directly into the project to launch the journal Evolution. The sociology of interdisciplinary activity provides useful tools for understanding the Committee's value in the broad sweep of change in evolutionary studies during the synthesis period. (shrink)
This paper explores usage of the concept ofabnormality in medical genetics and proposesdirectives for more careful usage of this concept.The conceptual difficulties are first explored, thena model is developed to assess actual usage, followedby analysis of a sample of genetic textbooks andgenetics literature. It appears that fact andvaluation are often intermingled, that referencestandards used to define 'genetic abnormalities' areoften not clear and that the concept of abnormality isoften used independent of the degree of certainty withwhich the altered genetype develops (...) into a (seriously)harmful phenotype. On the basis of these findings itis argued that more restraint and more careful use ofthe concept of genetic abnormality of medical geneticsis appropriate as well as more agreement on the use ofreference standards. (shrink)
Editorial: genetics, information and identity Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s12394-010-0076-5 Authors Sheelagh McGuinness, Centre for Professional Ethics, Keele University, Room CBC 2.027, Chancellor’s Building, Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, UK Bert-Jaap Koops, Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society, Tilburg University, PO Box 90153, 5000 LE Tilburg, The Netherlands Eva Asscher, Department of Medical Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine, ErasmusMC, PO Box 2040, 3000CA Rotterdam, The Netherlands Journal Identity in the Information Society Online ISSN 1876-0678 Journal Volume Volume 3 (...) Journal Issue Volume 3, Number 3. (shrink)
Recently, Fred Gifford attempted to explicate the meaning of the term genetic as applied to phenotypic traits. He takes as his primary goal the explication of how the term is used and tries to avoid conclusions about how it should be used. He proposes two independent criteria (DF and PI) which together capture much of what biologists mean when they describe traits as genetic. Although Gifford's approach is extremely insightful in many ways, I argue that his analysis is not sufficiently (...) critical concerning the adequacy of common usage.In particular, while DF is a perfectly legitimate and useful measure of heritability in populations, it is not necessarily a genetic one and should not be labeled as such. PI on the other hand, although very intuitive, depends on an extremely problematic distinction between causes and mere conditions (e.g., genes and epigenetic factors). Both criteria will be highly relative and both, via what I term the new problem of genetics, will inspire contradictory analyses based on the same data. (shrink)
Research in behaviour genetics uncovers causes of behaviour at the population level. For inferences about individuals we also need to know how genes and the environment affect phenotypes. Behaviour genetics fosters a biased view of individual behaviour since it identifies the environment with psychosocial factors and disregards ecology.
A general case about the insights and oversights of molecular genetics is argued for by considering two specific cases: the first concerns the bearing of molecular genetics on Mendelian genetics, and the second concerns the bearing of molecular genetics on the replicability of the genetic material. As in the first case, it is argued that Mendel's law of segregation cannot be explained wholly in terms of molecular genetics--the law demands evolutionary scrutiny as well. In the (...) second case, it is argued that an account of the replicability of the genetic material in terms of molecular genetics is not entirely independent of evolutionary considerations, in the sense that it raises further evolutionary questions. The limitations of the molecular-genetic approach in these cases point to the limitations of that approach in general. (shrink)
Within the context of the study of the genetics of language, Chomskian laws of grammar, such as theStructure-dependence Condition and theA over A Condition, may be usefully regarded to have a status similar to that of Mendelian Laws in classical genetics. In both the case of Chomsky's Laws and Mendel's Laws, formal genetic principles are postulated which abstract away from the physical mechanisms involved and in both cases certain apparent counterexamples mirror a more complex underlying genetic organisation.
Current medical genetics research is dominated by a single theory that supports the Human Genome Project rationale. This thesis investigates this and several alternative hypotheses and the ethical context related to their development. Firstly, the hypotheses are discussed in detail followed by a subsection in which research evidence based on each hypothesis is cited. Secondly, these medical genetics hypotheses are situated within the contemporary medical paradigm. To conclude, the thesis examines in depth the ethical and practical implications of (...) medical genetics research. A framework of analysis of scientific responsibility is used to explore these implications. Scientific responsibility, as presented in this thesis, is a process consisting of three steps: (1) scientific discourse; (2) the development of the nature of scientific responsibility; and, (3) effective criticism. Once scientific responsibility is defined, the term is applied specifically to the field of medical genetics research. (shrink)
In this paper I explore the heuristic limits ofhuman genetics, in particular the claim that itis possible to manipulate human germcells in a pre-ordinate way (Gordon, 1999). I arguethat this claim is unrealistic based ongenetic reductionism and a wrong concept ofgenetic diseases.
Lifelines by Steven Rose is supposed to present a new perspective on biology replacing an emphasis on genes with one on organisms. However, much of the book is a highly biased critique of sociobiology and behavior genetics. Some of the flaws in Rose's description and depiction of these fields are presented and refuted. Also, it would appear that these aspects of the book and many others are, in fact, related more to Rose's perennial concern for the ideology, social origins (...) or social consequences of behavioral biology. These concerns are, I believe based, in part, upon Rose's misunderstandings and misinterpretations of genetics, behavior genetics, and sociobiology. (shrink)
The paper suggests an application of the precautionary principle to the use of genetics in psychiatry focusing on scientific uncertainty. Different levels of uncertainty are taken into consideration—from the acknowledgement that the genetic paradigm is only one of the possible ways to explain psychiatric disorders, via the difficulties related to the diagnostic path and genetic methods, to the value of the results of studies carried out in this field. Considering those uncertainties, some measures for the use of genetics (...) in psychiatry are suggested. Some of those measures are related to the conceptual limits of the genetic paradigm; others are related to present knowledge and should be re-evaluated. (shrink)
Abstract This paper is a close textual criticism of Theodosius Dobzhansky's Genetics and the Origin of Species. It argues that the book succeeds as interdisciplinary communication by promoting polysemy. The professional goals of two scientific communities are embedded in the text in such a way that each audience reads the call for co?operative action as implicit support for their own methods.
Genetics was established on a strict particulate conception of heredity. Genetic linkage, the deviation from independent segregation of Mendelian factors, was conceived as a function of the material allocation of the factors to the chromosomes, rather than to the multiple effects (pleiotropy) of discrete factors. Although linkage maps were abstractions they provided strong support for the chromosomal theory of inheritance. Direct Cytogenetic evidence was scarce until X-ray induced major chromosomal rearrangements allowed direct correlation of genetic and cytological rearrangements. Only (...) with the discovery of the polytenic giant chromosomes in Drosophila larvae in the 1930s were the virtual maps backed up by physical maps of the genetic loci. Genetic linkage became a pivotal experimental tool for the examination of the integration of genetic functions in development and in evolution. Genetic mapping has remained a hallmark of genetic analysis. The location of genes in DNA is a modern extension of the notion of genetic linkage. (shrink)
Much of the early history of developmental and physiological genetics in Germany remains to be written. Together with Carl Correns and Richard Goldschmidt, Alfred Kühn occupies a special place in this history. Trained as a zoologist in Freiburg im Breisgau, he set out to integrate physiology, development and genetics in a particular experimental system based on the flour moth Ephestia kühniella Zeller. This paper is meant to reconstruct the crucial steps in the experimental pathway that led Kühn (...) and his collaborators at the University of Göttingen, and later at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes of Biology and Biochemistry in Berlin, to formulate, in their specific way, what later became known as the "one gene-one enzyme hypothesis." Special attention will be given to the interaction of the different parts of Kühn's Ephestia-based project, which were rooted in different research traditions. The paper retraces how, roughly between 1925 and 1945, these elements came to form a mixed experimental setup composed of genetic, embryological, physiological and, finally, biochemical constituents. Accordingly, emphasis is laid on the development of the terminology in which the results were cast, and how it reflected the hybrid state of an experimental system successively acquiring new epistemic layers. (shrink)
The schematic concept of levels of causal interaction is applied to the relation between genetics and biology. The strength of classical formal genetics lies in its power to proceed directly from observations on an external phenotype, to inferences concerning the nature and properties of the fundamental genetic factors. Its weakness comes from the fact that by short-circuiting the causal chain leading from genotype to phenotype, it creates a divorce between genetics and biology. It is argued that in (...) order to reestablish an articulation of genetics and the biology of whole organisms, it will be necessary to study in detail the entire causal chain leading from a difference in a genetic factor to a difference in a corresponding phenotypic character. This proposal is illustrated by a consideration of multifactorial diseases, which appear to be due to strong interactions between a moderate number of distinct loci; the frequency of abnormal alleles at any given locus may be surprisingly high. (shrink)
We explore the distinctive characteristics of Mexico's society, politics and history that impacted the establishment of genetics in Mexico, as a new disciplinary field that began in the early 20th century and was consolidated and institutionalized in the second half. We identify about three stages in the institutionalization of genetics in Mexico. The first stage can be characterized by Edmundo Taboada, who was the leader of a research program initiated during the Cárdenas government (1934-1940), which was primarily directed (...) towards improving the condition of small Mexican farmers. Taboada is the first Mexican post-graduate investigator in phytotechnology and phytopathology, trained at Cornell University and the University of Minnesota, in 1932 and 1933, respectively. He was the first investigator to teach plant genetics at the National School of Agriculture and wrote the first textbook of general genetics, Genetics Notes, in 1938. Taboada's most important single genetics contribution was the production of "stabilized" corn varieties. The extensive exile of Spanish intellectuals to Mexico, after the end of Spain's Civil War (1936-1939), had a major influence in Mexican science and characterizes the second stage. The three main personalities contributing to Mexican genetics are Federico Bonet de Marco and Bibiano Fernández Osorio Tafall, at the National School of Biological Sciences, and José Luis de la Loma y Oteyza, at the Chapingo Agriculture School. The main contribution of the Spanish exiles to the introduction of genetics in Mexico concerned teaching. They introduced in several universities genetics as a distinctive discipline within the biology curriculum and wrote genetics text books and manuals. The third stage is identified with Alfonso León de Garay, who founded the Genetics and Radiobiology Program in 1960 within the National Commission of Nuclear Energy, which had been founded in 1956. The Genetics and Radiobiology Program rapidly became a disciplinary program, for it embraced research, teaching, and training of academics and technicians. The Mexican Genetics Society, created by de Garay in 1966, and the development of strains and cultures for genetics research were important activities. One of de Garay's key requirements was the compulsory training of the Program's scientists for at least one or two years in the best universities of the United States and Europe. De Garay's role in the development of Mexican genetics was fundamental. His broad vision encompassed the practice of genetics in all its manifestations. (shrink)
The vast network of Drosophila geneticists spawned by Thomas Hunt Morgan's fly room in the early 20th century has justifiably received a significant amount of scholarly attention. However, most accounts of the history of Drosophila genetics focus heavily on the "boss and the boys," rather than the many other laboratory groups which also included large numbers of women. Using demographic information extracted from the Drosophila Information Service directories from 1934 to 1970, we offer a profile of the gendered division (...) of labor within Drosophila genetics in the United States during the middle decades of the 20th century. Our analysis of the gendered division of labor supports a reconsideration of laboratory practices as different forms of work. (shrink)
I analyze Ojibway objections to genomics and genetics research on wild rice. Although key academic and industry participants in this research have dismissed their objections out of hand, my analysis supports the conclusion that the objections merit serious consideration, even by those who do not share the Ojibway’s religious beliefs.
A Foucauldian assessment of the common presumption that genetic information is potent and thus oppressive demonstrates that the concern may be misplaced. Foucault's concept of technologies of self reveals that genetic power originates not only from the potency of genetic information but from the penchant of individuals to victimize themselves in the name of optimal health, enhanced intelligence, perfect babies, or would-be immortality. Rather than seeking liberation from the power of the new genetics, Foucault's reinterpretation of the ancient understanding (...) of concern for the self offers the possibility to avoid control by the scientific discourse. His ethical response calls for resistance rather than opposition and places responsibility for resistance in the hands of the subject. Characteristically, he avoids a generalizable form of morality but clarifies that resistance includes acknowledging the human appetite for perfection and subordinating science to ethical and aesthetic matters. (shrink)
The mutation-selection hypothesis may extend to understanding normal personality variation. Traits such as emotional stability, agreeableness, and conscientiousness figure strongly in mate selection and show evidence of non-additive genetic variance. They are linked with reproductively relevant outcomes, including longevity, resource acquisition, and mating success. Evolved difference-detection adaptations may function to spurn individuals whose high mutation load signals a burdensome relationship load. (Published Online November 9 2006).
This paper probes the implications of a genetic basis for sexual orientation for traditional branches of Judaism, which are struggling with how accepting to be of noncelibate gays and lesbians in their communities. The paper looks at the current attitudes toward homosexuality across the different branches of Judaism; social and cultural factors that work against acceptance; attitudes toward science in Jewish culture; and the likelihood that scientific evidence that sexual orientation is at least partly genetically determined will influence Jewish scholars' (...) and leaders' thinking on this issue. (shrink)
“ The Origins of Genome Architecture ” by Michael Lynch (2007) may not immediately sound like a book that someone interested in the philosophy of biology would grab off the shelf. But there are three important reasons why you should read this book. Firstly, if you want to understand biological evolution, you should have at least a passing familiarity with evolutionary change at the level of the genome. This is not to say that everyone interested in evolution should be a (...) geneticist or a bioinformatician, but that a working knowledge of genetic change is an essential part of the intellectual toolkit of modern evolutionary biology, even if your primary focus is the evolution of behaviour or the diversity of communities. Secondly, this book provides excellent examples of another important tool in the biologist’s intellectual toolkit, but one that is rarely explained or illustrated to such an extent: null (or neutral) models. The role null models play in testing hypotheses in evolution is a central focus of this book. Thirdly, as an accomplished work of advocacy for a strictly microevolutionary view of evolution, this book provides grist for the mill for the important debate about whether population genetic processes are the sine qua non of evolutionary explanations. (shrink)
: he commercialization of biotechnology, especially research and development by transnational pharmaceutical companies, is already excessive and is increasingly dangerous to distributive justice, human rights, and access of marginal populations to basic human goods. Focusing on gene patenting, this article employs the work of Margaret Jane Radin and others to argue that gene patenting ought to be more highly regulated and that it ought to be regulated with international participation and in view of concerns about solidarity and the common good. (...) The mode of argument called for on this issue is more pragmatic than logical, emphasizing persuasion based on evidence about the reality and effects of control of genetic research by profit-driven biotech companies. (shrink)
: During the nearly 10 years since its introduction, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) has been used predominantly to avoid giving birth to a child with identified genetic disease. Recently, PGD was used by a couple not only to test IVF-created embryos for genetic disease, but also to test for a nondisease trait related to immune compatibility with a child in the family in need of an hematopoetic stem cell transplant. This article describes the case, raises some ethical and policy issues, (...) highlights gaps in U.S. policy, and finally makes some recommendations for addressing advancing genetic and reproductive technologies. (shrink)
Genetic testing in the workplace is a technology both full of promise and fraught with ethical peril. Though not yet common, it is likely to become increasingly so. We survey the key arguments in favour of such testing, along with the most significant ethical worries. We further propose a set of pragmatic criteria, which, if met, would make it permissible for employers to offer (but not to require) workplace genetic testing.
What will the demands of distributive justice be in the postgenetic revolutionary world? Will genetic inheritance be regarded as socially distributed goods? This may seem a more reasonable position to assert as biotechnology progresses further toward human genetic manipulation.
The role genetic inheritance plays in the way human beings look and behave is a question about the biology of human sexual reproduction, one that scientists connected with the Human Genome Project dashed to answer before the close of the 20th century. This is also a question about politics, and, it turns out poetry, because, as the example of Lucretius shows, poetry is an ancient tool for the popularization of science. "Popularization" is a good word for successful efforts to communicate (...) elite science to non-scientists in non-technical languages and media. According to prominent sociobiologist E.O. Wilson, "sexual dominance is a human universal." He meant, of course that men dominate women. Like sociobiology, gene science is freighted with politics, including gender politics. Scientists have gender perspectives that may color what they "see" in nature. As the late Susan Okin Miller suggested in an unpublished paper tracing the detrimental impact of Aristotle's teleology on western thought, scientists accustomed to thinking that men naturally dominate women, might interpret genetic discoveries accordingly. Biologists have good, scientific reasons to fight the effects of bias. One must be critical of how scientists and popularizers of science, like Genome author Matt Ridley, frame truth and theory. Ridley's "battle of the sexes" metaphor and others have a doubtful place in serious explanations of science. (shrink)
The structure of our ethical experience depends, crucially, on a fundamental distinction between what we are responsible for doing or deciding and what is given to us. As such, the boundary between chance and choice is the spine of our conventional morality, and any serious shift in that boundary is thoroughly dislocating. Against this background, I analyze the way in which techniques of prenatal genetic diagnosis (PGD) pose such a fundamental challenge to our conventional ideas of justice and moral responsibility. (...) After a short description of the situation, I first examine the influential luck egalitarian theory of justice, which is based on the distinction between choice and luck or, more specifically, between option luck and brute luck, and the way in which it would approach PGD (section II), followed by an analysis of the conceptual incoherencies (in section III) and moral problems (in section IV) that come with such an approach. Put shortly, the case of PGD shows that the luck egalitarian approach fails to express equal respect for the individual choices of people. The paradox of the matter is that by overemphasizing the fact of choice as such, without regard for the social framework in which they are being made, or for the fundamental and existential nature of particular choices—like choosing to have children and not to undergo PGD or not to abort a handicapped fetus—such choices actually become impossible. (shrink)
Certain correspondences appear between the classifications and between the classes of various entities at molecular genetic level: types of fundamental correspondences between classifications and between classes of normal entities, on the one hand, and of mutant entities on the other hand; ranks of correspondences between classifications and between classes of entities. The concept of universality of the genetic code was reformulated on the basis of the above correspondences.
It is unclear what we should make of a policy designed to eradicate' genetically based handicap, and in particular whether it constitutes discrimination against people with a genetic handicap. After brief reference to the legal position, four arguments are examined which purport to justify differential treatment of handicapped lives either before conception or before birth: the argument from genetic error', the argument from parental responsibility, the argument from social consequences and the argument from impersonal harm. Weaknesses are detected in each (...) of these arguments, and the conclusion is drawn that, although differential treatment of handicapped lives is sometimes justified, there are some circumstances in which it does amount to discrimination. (shrink)
Taiwan has a population of 23 million, of which some 500,000 are Aborigines. Recent conflicts over a national biobank as part of Taiwan's biotechnological industrial development, genetic research on Aboriginal origins, and commercialization of research findings involving Aborigines have raised a number of important ethical conflicts. These ethical conflicts involve on one hand, the importance of researchers' duties, and on the other hand, Aboriginal rights. This paper will go in three steps. First, this paper describes the three cases of ethical (...) violations of Aboriginal rights committed by Taiwanese researchers in the course of their scientific duties. After having given an account of ethical conflicts between research duties and Aboriginal rights, the paper addresses larger ethical issues underlying this Taiwanese research context. Finally, the paper considers if stronger ethical regulation could reconcile Aboriginal rights and research duties. (shrink)
: This essay distinguishes between two kinds of group harms: harms to individuals in virtue of their membership in groups and harms to "structured" groups that have a continuing existence, an organization, and interests of their own. Genetic research creates risks of causing both kinds of group harms, and engagement with the groups at risk can help to mitigate those harms. The two kinds of group harms call for different kinds of group engagement.
Machine generated contents note: 1. Seven ways of making people better; 2. Rational approaches to the genetic challenge; 3. The best babies and parental responsibility; 4. Deaf embryos, morality, and the law; 5. Saviour siblings and treating people as a means; 6. Reproductive cloning and designing human beings; 7. Embryonic stem cells, vulnerability, and sanctity; 8. Gene therapies, hopes, and fears; 9. Considerable life extension and the meaning of life; 10. Taking the genetic challenge rationally.
This paper considers the revolutionary developments occurring in the field of genetic mapping and the genetic identification of disease propensities. These breakthroughs are discussed relative to the ethical and economic implications for the insurance industry. Individual's privacy rights and rights to employment must be weighed against the insurers desire for better estimates of future loss costs associated with health, life and other insurances. These are in turn related to the fundamental conception of insurance as a financial intermediary versus insurance as (...) a vehicle for social policy. (shrink)
This paper provides part of an analysis of the use of the Maori term whakapapa in a study designed to test the compatibility and commensurability of views of members of the indigenous culture of New Zealand with other views of genetic technologies extant in the country. It is concerned with the narrow sense of whakapapa as denoting biological ancestry, leaving the wider sense of whakapapa as denoting cultural identity for discussion elsewhere. The phenomenon of genetic curiosity is employed to facilitate (...) this comparison. Four levels of curiosity are identified, in the Maori data, which penetrate more or less deeply into the psyche of individuals, affecting their health and wellbeing. These phenomena are compared with non-Maori experiences and considerable commonalities are discovered together with a point of marked difference. The results raise important questions for the ethical application of genetic technologies. (shrink)