Thursday, August 10, 2006

Why bioethics is never going to be able to please everyone

This story is creating quite the storm in a teacup if you listen to the Reader's Views (NZ Herald's woeful attempt at building a news community).
I'm not sure most of those people actually read the article and just skimmed the title before firing off an email.
Let's look at this quote by Dr Lea:
"There are lots of lifestyle, upbringing-related exposures that could be relevant here so, obviously, the gene won't automatically make you a criminal."
yet Mr Moore feels that Dr Lea has wandered off on a tangent, an unscientific tangent at that:
I think what many 'professionals' in this or any field is that we break things down for purposes of human understanding. Scientific theory is to continue to test and keep trying to prove something until it's proven otherwise. Doing a 'study' to try to confirm a supposition is altogether another thing and should not be considered 'scientific' in the least. As many readers have already responded you could have applied this so-called study across any other group. I suspect that this 'article' was more of a way to draw response than anything.
The errors in Mr Moore's understanding of the scientific method are best left for another time.
Mr Merlin (now there's a name i could go places with) impresses us with his understanding of genetics, places a lot of weight on a reporting typo (and yes, it's easy to get sloppy in your language and swap 'the gene that is the template for the protein xyz' and 'the xyz gene', hardly a hanging offence) and then goes and says:
Thirdly, and more worryingly, we don't need yet another shonky excuse for any group or individual's violence and aggression. That simply makes it harder for those of us working to reduce these problems.
I mean, good grief. We've had a Royal Commission, we're growing bucket loads of GM stuff around the world, we're curing babies of horrendous diseases (e.g. that horrible bubble boy one) and lot's of smart dedicated people are trying to figure out what genes do and how we can understand them.
In case no-one's pointed this out to you 'your genes, ultimately, make you... you. you are not a predetermined wind-up toy. think identical twins, not carbon copies. they are a big body-building blueprint. Some of the blueprint is not negotiable, other parts will be turned on/off depending on your immediate environment and over time, changes in your genes will be passed on to your kids'.
All this guy is saying is that if you have lots of this gene expressed, you have a higher chance of some sort of behaviour - imagine increasing a 1/1000 chance to something like 5/1000. It's not racist, it's a (possibly) observable truth.
I'm not terribly thrilled about male pattern baldness but it's hardly a racist issue.
I'll leave the last word to Mr Humphrey who gets my 'reasonable comment of the week' award:
What is weird is that most people begin to rant or rave without even considering if the "warrior gene" claim is true or not. If it is not true, it can be dismissed. If it is true, then we are better informed than we were before.
although i think he's casting the 'we' a little wide...


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