Friday, October 24, 2014

Lewontin Article Essay 2

For years now humans have been grasping at straws to demonstrate the connection between genetics and everything little thing that makes us human, from intelligence to disease. Thus The Human Genome Project was created. The project was completed in April of 2003 and was predicted to have a large impact on the way we look at the human species. And I would agree, there are changes however I have not experienced the large impact that it has had on the human race. There are still incurable genetic diseases and there is still no way to properly identify the causes of intelligence. For the billions of dollars invested into this project, it did not rise up to its expectations. Genetics is overestimated due to social and political needs and assumptions.
Cornelius A. Rietveld published an article in Science magazine highlighting his finds on the connection between intelligence and genetics. Rietvald used the International Standard Classification of Education to measure the level of education obtained. He found that 3 gene variants present in the human body each caused a 0.02 % deviation in intelligence each. Overall these three gene variants contributed a 2% change to the overall digression in educational accomplishment.
Nevertheless, Lewontin, the realistic pessimist, unwaveringly highlights that such experiments lead to scientific advances on paper, but to fail to produce an operative effect in the real world.  Rietveld’s study focuses upon a mere 2 % of factors that affect intelligence. The other 98%, (factors not even remotely connected to genetics) were effectively looked over.
This is as misleading of a scientific discovery as found anywhere else in the scientific community.  The question that then begs to be asked is, why? Why did a mass of scientists agree to emphasize the almost insignificant 0.02 % and completely disregard the other 98%? The simplified version, would be that the authors being geneticists, want to emphasize the importance of their careers. Because honestly where would their careers be if genetic differences were not related to human advancement and well –being?  However the comprehensive answer is more substantial than petty conflicts of interest and hence significantly more fascinating. The extensive elucidation, stems from the fact that Science would allow such an article to be circulated in their magazine. The conclusion of the article, is so far-fetched, that it leads me to believe that there are other social organizations that grip the scientific community. These organizations must be commanding enough to coerce such a prominent scientific journal to publish a misrepresented study.  The only social organization which would have such power over such a large institution would be the government. The government funds projects like these to draw attention away from the lacking educational system and any other flaws within the country and pull the attention towards a more scientific reason, thus throwing the blame onto something less tangible. Genetics as a whole “is meant to legitimate the structures of inequality in our society by putting a biological gloss on them…” (Lewontin 37)However genetics and the research surrounding can only explain a small part of what makes a person themselves. And hence genetics as a field of study is overestimated. “to be genetic is not to be unchangeable.” (Lewontin 35)
Lewontin states that science in general is molded and directed by societal and political necessities and expectations. "No prominent molecular biologist of my acquaintance is without a financial stake in the biotechnology business. As a result, serious conflicts of interest have emerged in universities and in government service" (Lewontin 74)The social needs of the geneticists in the article mimic the behavior of the researchers on The Human Genome project, and result in the over-qualification of the entire research project.  Money has been funneled into this project and genetic research in general, even after the myriad of evidence against all major assumptions of said study. “The cost of sequencing the human genome is estimated optimistically at 300 million dollars”(Lewontin 73) and yet even after the completion of this project gene variants for some of the most common diseases have not been identified.  There have been modest discoveries made by genetic research, however the results don’t nearly pay off the amount of money and effort that went into this research. Proof for genetic causations has unceasingly and inflexibly denied appearance. Exceptions have been discovered, like BRCA1 but like mentioned before, the costs outweigh the profits. “These projects are, in fact administrative and financial organizations rather that research projects”(Lewontin 61)
Returning to the original point, for common mental and physical diseases and conditions no detailed explanation has been discovered in terms of relations to genetics. In fact evidence provided by genetic research demonstrates the idea that non-genetic factors are the major risk factors for such diseases pushing the importance of genetics to a minor level. For human characteristics like behavior and intelligence the lack of positive correlation between genetics and human traits becomes even more ostensible.  Subsequently, an exceedingly substantial scientific justification is essential to clarify why huge quantities of taxpayer cash has financed human genetic research even through the extensive negative results.

In conclusion the social and political aspects of the modern world hold science captive. Just like an organism cannot exist without the environment it creates, science cannot exist without the social and political aspects that it governs. A large percentage of the world’s standard failure to deal with social and environmental difficulties stem from the overestimation on genetic experimentation and explanation. In the end DNA does not determine the fate of the human race. It is the world that humans have created that lead us to the comprehension of our race and our inevitable future.

Lewontin, Richard C. Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA. New York, NY: HarperPerennial, 1992. Print.
Rietveld, Cornelius A. and Sarah E. Medland. "GWAS of 126,559 Individuals Identifies Genetic Variants Associated with Educational Attainment." Science (2013 ).

1 comment:

  1. You needed a more focused argument in your introduction. It reads like an attempt to summarize some of Lewontin's findings, but focusing on now instead of twenty years ago. You want a much narrower focus in a short essay.

    Throughout this essay, you generalizes too quickly and easily, rather than focusing on the task at hand. You and I may both easily believe that the motives of the authors of this paper are much like the motivies Lewontin ascribes to researchers on intelligence in general, and you do show a reasonable understanding of Lewontin's text. But I would have liked to see mroe analysis of your chosen article.

    How to do this? I can only speculate, without having read the article. Where I would likely start, though, is by asking some basic questions about credibility. When IQ tests are really problematic, how can we realistically be confident that we are measuring "intelligence" precisely enough to measure it in .02% deviations.

    Lewontin would doubtless question whether "general" intelligence exists in the first place. But even if it does, can we really measure it so precisely?

    I do see improvement in your use of Lewontin, but you need to focus on the basics a little more. Remember that you are making an argument, and in this case you were making an argument about an article using Lewontin - not just presenting a bunch of information from Lewontin, which is what you come dangerously close to doing.


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