Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Week 4 Prompt 1


Lewontin, a geneticist of large prominence in today’s society, has come to the conclusion that an opinion formed by a common individual is equivalent to that formed by a scientist. His idea is that scientists are just like other human beings, with opinions formed by societal conditioning and personal experience. Science as a whole has become a “social institution”. However, after taking into consideration articles from multiple genetic journals, it is clear to me that science is based upon not a single idea, but a combination of previous ideas. Hence a new theory, or an original invention is just derivatives of prior knowledge. Thus science is not the invention of new ideas, but the extension of existing theories to construct a more advanced understanding of science and the world around us.
So if science is the advancement of existing knowledge, it is important to focus upon the origins of the initial ideas that are the foundation of the modern technologies and practices we observe today. Like Lewontin mentions in his initial chapter “science…, is a supremely social institution, reflecting and reinforcing the dominant values and views of society at each historical epoch.” (Lewontin) The initial ideas for the modern theories we have today stem from a “direct translation of social experience”.
Hence it is important to consider the idea that race, gender, culture, and socioeconomic status affects the way each scientist thinks and forms ideas. This is the focal point of Lewontin’s work. “Genes make individuals, individuals have particular preferences and behaviors, the collection of preferences and behaviors makes a culture, and so genes make culture.” This culture is what allows new ideas in science to be formed. Lewontin focuses upon the emphasis of the DNA and its relation with new scientific discoveries, because it every aspect of what makes a human, human boils down to the DNA. The nucleotides are the building blocks of scientific discovery. Once we uncover the mysteries surrounding the DNA, science and more specifically genetics will be as advanced as ever.
Lewontin’s ideas can be connected to multiple different research projects being conducted today. In one study, the cockroach Nauphoeta cinerea is used to study the power of genetics on social dominance. This study on social dominance allows scientists to highlight the effects of natural selection and the importance of genetics in the creation of a hierarchy. The whole study demonstrates that even insects, as small as their societies are influenced by their surroundings.  By studying the relationship between the genes of the insects to their socially conditioned behavior, sciences will be able to realize the importance genetics plays in all roles of nature and understand how prominent this scientific field is.
The study goes through multiple rounds of hypotheses, experimentations and failures before reaching a conclusion. Hence science is a long stretch of trial and errors, that pursuits for a pattern in the physical and social world around us. According to Lewontin, it is initiated at the smallest unit (DNA) and builds up to the more complex aspects of the environment. Science as such, is not just any opinion or idea though of by an individual but is a theory that can be tested multiple times and yield the same result every time.
Scientists are human like the rest of society and prone to the same prejudices and societal  necessities. Even though Lewontin was not straightforward with this thought, it almost seems as if he states that that the innovativeness of scientific research and acquisition of scientific knowledge might consequently be no different and as equally consistent as any other group of ideas. However the problem is that, to conducive such an assumption, we would have to ignore all those facets of the scientific striving that as a matter of do differentiate it from other types and foundations of belief creation.

Undeniably, if the reliability of the scientific search for information relied solely upon the knowledge and neutrality of the persons involved in it, science would not advance. It would remain an elite close minded subject that would come to a stand still in terms of advancement. Contrary to what Lewontin states the scientific opinion varies greatly from that of a normal opinion. It is this difference that allows for testing of theories and advancements in the scientific world.
In conclusion, science is not a bombardment of completely new ideas, but the reincarnation of previous ideas in a new form. Lewontin clearly emphasizes the importance of a solid foundation. The idea that genes could change the way we think about science is perplexing but also understandable. It is the small things that make way for larger discoveries. Lewontin has clearly prove his intelligence with this one small idea. DNA is the future of all things science.


Lewontin, R.C. "Biology as Ideology: The doctrine of DNA ." Lewontin, R.C. Biology as Ideology: The doctrine of DNA . New York : Harper Perennial, 1991. 9.
Moore, Allen J., Haynes Kenneth F and Patricia J. Moore. "The Evolution of Interacting Phenotypes: Genetics and Evolution of Social Dominance." The American Naturalist (2002).

1 comment:

  1. The first couple paragraphs are basically generalizations. Where is your argument, the one thing you want to prove to a skeptical reader? Some of the generalizations themselves might be relevant, but they don’t serve any purpose, at least not yet.

    In your 3rd paragraph, there’s some fuzziness - you are quoting a moment in Lewontin where he is *attacking* a point of view, but it seems like you think he holds that point of view (even though you generally seem to get the point that the sees scientific institutions as being socially embedded).

    The 4th paragraph gives me great hope. You don’t summarize the article as well as you could, but it seems like a great choice - examining work that his been done on the genetic basis of cockroach societies is not only very interesting (at least to me) but deeply relevant to Lewontin.

    I don’t really follow what you’re trying to do with the following paragraphs, especially after you repeat the point that Lewontin would point out that something about how the article starts out on the smallest level (of DNA). The idea of science as being all new inventions vs. incremental advances isn’t terribly interesting - I mean, who really thinks it’s all new? That seems like a straw man argument.

    This is an essay where you try to do too much all at the same time. All you’re trying to do is argue for an idea. You picked an interesting essay on cockroach societies. The simple approach here would have gone like this.

    1. Summarize the article briefly
    2. Explain how Lewontin might interpret it, and why
    3. Should how that interpretation is valuable/interesting/important. What do we gain from applying Lewontin to the article?
    4. Make sure that your *introduction* expresses what you actually ended up expressing.

    Explaining how Lewontin might interpret some aspect of your article is difficult, but it could begin with some pretty simple things. Here, you just go in complex circles without ever really getting started.


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