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{bio,medical} informatics

Friday, May 03, 2002

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find related articles. powered by google. Wired News Genetic Fate Is in Venter's Hands

"Coming from a man whose life revolves around the study of genes, this might sound surprising: People are not the sum total of their genes.

But J. Craig Venter, former president of Celera Genomics and genome mapper extraordinaire, wants the American public to know that genes are not fate and he's launched a nonprofit organization to prove it. "

redux [05.28.00]
find related articles. powered by google. Washington Post When Genes Tell the Story

"Suddenly, I'm picturing a new conclusion to "Casablanca," in which Rick walks up to the teary-faced Ilsa as she's about to board the plane with her husband and says: "I was gonna tell you that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. But then I saw your BRCA-1 code. Baby, you're staring at the c-stuff. Let's just stay here and party to the bitter end."

"In the Brave New World ahead, are we (and the characters who reflect us) going to run dry of choice? Are we doomed to a movie-viewing future of genetically savvy detectives who catch their man armed with a genetoscope? I mean, what if Jack Nicholson were to turn his back on Faye Dunaway in "Chinatown" because, well, he'd already checked out that family incest history at the GenBank file at the National Institutes of Health."

redux [08.10.00]
find related articles. powered by google. BBC Genius of genes

"US researchers believe they have identified the parts of the human genome involved in developing a person's intelligence.

This means scientists could soon test the potential intelligence of new-born babies."

The results are due out next year, but the BBC Newsnight programme has learned that key differences have been found. In other words, the scientists are homing in on the genes for genius."

redux [08.10.00]
find related articles. powered by google. UniSci Book Cites Dangers Of Misunderstanding Human Genetics

"Kaplan examines the roles genetic explanations for these types of differences play in our culture -- and how science has been used inappropriately to "medicalize" problems that should be more properly addressed as complex social issues.

Kaplan explores six specific areas -- intelligence (IQ), criminality and violence, homosexuality, depression, obesity, and the centrality of genetics in defining parenthood."

"... an emphasis on the biochemical and the genetic share the property that they make the condition out to be internal to the patient. Once a genetic explanation is offered, and any plausible sounding pathway proposed, the opportunities for claiming that there are other ways of approaching the problem are radically curtailed."

The problem becomes entirely that of personal biochemistry: the danger is in adopting easy solutions without looking at other reasons for the problem -- and without questioning the framework in which certain temperaments or sexual orientations become defined as problems."

redux [08.31.00]
find related articles. powered by google. The New England Journal Of Medicine The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, and Environment

"In Lewontin's triple helix, the genes are placed in their natural context, where history and geography shape the nature of organisms and the genes they contain. His differences with the most modern of molecular and cellular biologists are irreconcilable and reflect the ever-widening gulf between biologists who have an affinity for what goes on outside the laboratory and those for whom the differences between individuals and between species represent "an annoyance [to be] ignored whenever possible." In many laboratories, organisms are now studied under conditions in which genetic variation is eliminated and the environment held constant. It is only under these special conditions, where neither variation nor natural selection is tolerated, that the triple helix collapses into the double helix and genes appear to be paramount."

find related articles. powered by google. The Edge Getting Human Nature Right

"The 'implication' that seems to worry people most of all is so-called 'genetic determinism'. It's the notion that, if human nature was shaped by evolution, then it's fixed and so we're simply stuck with it — there's nothing we can do about it. We can never change the world to be the way we want, we can never institute fairer societies; policy-making and politics are pointless.

Now, that's a complete misunderstanding. It doesn't distinguish between human nature — our evolved psychology — and the behavior that results from it. Certainly, human nature is fixed. It's universal and unchanging — common to every baby that's born, down through the history of our species. But human behavior — which is generated by that nature — is endlessly variable and diverse. After all, fixed rules can give rise to an inexhaustible range of outcomes. Natural selection equipped us with the fixed rules — the rules that constitute our human nature. And it designed those rules to generate behavior that's sensitive to the environment. So, the answer to 'genetic determinism' is simple. If you want to change behavior, just change the environment. And, of course, to know which changes would be appropriate and effective, you have to know those Darwinian rules. You need only to understand human nature, not to change it."

redux [05.15.00]
find related articles. powered by google. The New York Times On Human Nature, Genetics and the Evolution of Culture
[requires 'free' registration]

"Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich, a professor of biology and population studies at Stanford University, believes in evolution — or, more precisely, in evolutions. He believes in Darwinian evolution, of course, and the premise that life evolves through genetic mutations coupled with the crucible of natural selection.

But more important, he believes in the power of cultural evolution — all the nongenetic changes that human societies and individuals undergo, from decade to decade and moment to moment, including changes in language, technology, ethics, behavior, alliances, enmities, schemes and visions."

"A main theme of the book was to emphasize the gigantic role that cultural evolution plays in making individuals different, and in making groups different. I'm hoping to counter a view that I'm afraid is all too common among the American public, that all of our behavior is controlled by our genes, and that there are genes that code for aggressiveness, acquisitiveness and so on.

The truth is, You can never remove culture from the mix."

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Bioinformatics will be at the core of biology in the 21st century. In fields ranging from structural biology to genomics to biomedical imaging, ready access to data and analytical tools are fundamentally changing the way investigators in the life sciences conduct research and approach problems. Complex, computationally intensive biological problems are now being addressed and promise to significantly advance our understanding of biology and medicine. No biological discipline will be unaffected by these technological breakthroughs.


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