Culture Genetics

Amazing science news: Genes have been proven not to exist.

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You. Courtesy: National Human Genome Research Institute

Specifically, the “genes” that make someone a bad driver or unfaithful spouse do not exist. Geneticist Steve Jones points out that we are just not finding the genes headline writers need.

2011 being the centenary of the death of Darwin’s cousin eugenicist Francis Galton (one consequence of Darwinism as a public religion is the innumerable saints’ days), British geneticist Steve Jones tackles the unlovely subject of “The man who drew up the ‘ugly map’ of Britain”* (BBC News , 16 June 2011), offering some interesting comments, especially on the role of popular media in creating an impression of genetic determinism which he says, folks, just ain’t there:

We know of more than 50 different genes associated with height.

That has not percolated into the public mind, as the Google search for “scientists find the gene for” shows. The three letter word for – the gene FOR something – is the most dangerous word in genetics. As Galton did not realise and as headline writers still do not, it is almost entirely ambiguous.

Yet far more people read headlines about the gay gene, the fat gene, and the “vote conservative” gene than read genetics papers. 

A few months ago, the press reported with impressive unanimity that “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is genetic”. To the rolling of publicists’ drums (and geneticists’ eyes) came the news that some children behave outrageously because they inherit damaged DNA.

The Daily Mail came out with a hand-wringing piece entitled “Are some children just born bad?”, which claimed “previous thinking was flawed and that some children, through no fault of the parents, are simply bad seeds”.

That’s an outrageous statement. Geneticists need to remind the public how little the word “genetic” actually means. One gene can do very different things, and the same thing can be under the influence of many genes – and nurture nearly always gets a look-in.

He goes on to note that, contrary to the breathless hype, geneticists are not finding the “genes” that control everything.

UD’s friends suggest that the people who used to believe “it’s in the stars” now think “it’s in the genes,” and those people are just as wisely governed as ever.

On the other hand, if you know someone who really needs a genes r’ us fix:

“friends” genes (Wrong friends? Can’t do nuthin’ ‘bout it. It’s in the genes!)

“bad driver” genes (“He can’t help that middle finger. It’s in his genes.”)

fat gene (“That banana split, it’s in your genes, you know”)

infidelity gene (“I told you. He is just a tomcat. It’s genetic.”)

gay gene (“It’s got nothing to do with what he prefers. It’s in his GENES!”)

Unruly Friday niter: * Yeah, the ugliest women lived in Aberdeen, according to Galton’s state-of-the-art, uber-science survey. Do you really hafta be Sigmund Freud to guess how that got started … ?

This just in: Science has now confirmed the existence of the “Headline Writing Gene.” It is one of the key Hoax genes.

6 Replies to “Amazing science news: Genes have been proven not to exist.

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    That banana split, it’s in your genes, you know

    Why did you have to say banana split?

    Now I have to go get one.

    It would never have occurred to me, but now…

    Is there a “don’t know when to shut up” gene?

  2. 2
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    This is one of the reasons evolutionary biology is so widely misunderstood.

  3. 3
    markf says:

    Most “Darwinists”, indeed most scientists, would agree with this OP. Journalists (particularly those on the Daily Mail) are a poor source of information about science. Ben Goldacre has a great piece about the quality of reporting on health issues today.

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    This is one of the reasons evolutionary biology is so widely misunderstood.

    Crickets chirping over at PZ Myers’ blog, and Jerry Coyne’s blog, and the NCSE web site…

    Attack ID less, educate the press more.

  5. 5
    Mung says:

    Dear Darwinists,

    You have only yourselves to blame.

    You are the ones who have encouraged this sort of “science” reporting for decades.

    p.s. Whining about it here at UD isn’t likely to garner much sympathy. Why not write a letter to the author or their editor.

    Post the letter here.

  6. 6
    News says:

    Mung is right. Put a polite comment in the combox at the paper next time a completely ridiculous “in yr genes” story slides through on greased skis.

    It’s especially helpful if you have some background in genetics.

    If not, draw on your life experience of beating various problems. For example: Genes don’t make you fat. Too much food makes you fat. Cut down the food and the genes are helpless. Don’t cut down the food, and …

    Do feel free to post whatever reasonable thing you say here.

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