The Mermaid's Tale
Ken Weiss, Anne Buchanan and Holly Dunsworth blog about human genetics, the genetics of development, epidemiology, paleoanthropology, philosophy of science, academia, and more.
The Mermaid's Tale's Latest Posts
Who, me? I don't believe in single-gene causation! (or do I?). Part III. Probabilistic multifactor causation--what do we mean?
In the first two posts in this series we've discussed the notion of single-gene causation. We don't mean the usual issues about genetic determinism per se, which is often a discussion about deeper beliefs rather than a biological one. We are asking what it means biologically to say gene X causes disease Y. Is it ever right to use such language? Is it closer to right in some cases than others?As we've tried to show, even those cases that are considered 'single gene' […]
Who, me? I don't believe in single-gene causation! (or do I?). Part II. Probabilistic causation--what do we mean?
Yesterday we discussed notions of determinism and complex causation, and the denial that every self-respecting scientists tries to make that s/he doesn't believe in deterministic causation. They don't 'believe' it because, in fact, most of the time and with some possible exceptions in the physical sciences, determinism is at best inaccurate and to an unknown extent. Knowing a putatively causal factor doesn't lead to anything close to perfectly accurate prediction (in biology). […]
We were told in no uncertain terms the other day that no one believes in single gene causation anymore. Genetic determinism is passé, and everyone knows that most traits are complex, caused by multiple genes, gene x environment interaction, or if they're really sophisticated, epigenetics or the microbiome. But is this the view that investigators actually follow? That's not so clear.We all throw around the word 'complex' as if we actually believe it and perhaps even understand […]
The microbiome hits the big time A piece by food writer/journalist Michael Pollan, "Some of My Best Friends Are Germs", was the cover story of the New York Times magazine on Sunday. Pollan says the interest he developed in fermented foods while he was writing his latest book -- beer, kimchi, cheeses -- naturally led into an interest in the fermentation that goes on in our large intestines with the help of resident microbes, and this led him to think generally about the interaction […]
Years and years: but who's counting?Breaking news! As reported by the BBC ("Retirement Harmful to Health"): "...the chances of becoming ill appear to increase with the length of time spent in retirement." Even more astonishing, the effect is the same for men and women. The study, published by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a think tank, found that retirement results in a "drastic decline in health" in the medium and long term.The IEA said the study suggests […]
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