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Genes are more like a river than a string of beads…


That’s the impression one gets from a recent article suggesting caution about DNA mapping and “it’s in my genes” in general:

File:DNA simple.svg

In 2002, a woman named Lydia Fairchild applied for enforcement of child support when she separated from the father of her two children. The state of Washington required genetic testing to confirm his paternity. The tests showed he was indeed the father. But they also showed that Fairchild was not the mother…

Fairchild is known as a chimera. She developed inside her mother alongside a fraternal twin. That twin embryo died in the womb, but not before exchanging cells with Fairchild. Now her body was made up of two populations of cells, each of which multiplied and developed into different tissues. In Fairchild’s case, her blood arose from one population, while her eggs arose from another.

Women can also become chimeras with their own children. During pregnancy, fetuses can shed cells that then circulate throughout a woman’s body. In some cases they linger on after birth. They can then develop into muscle, breast tissue, and even neurons.Carl Zimmer, “Seven Big Misconceptions About Heredity” at Skeptical Inquirer

So we may not even have only one genome. Apart from genome mapping, who would know? It doesn’t seem to affect the sense of singular and unique identity.

Readers, if you went through a Darwinian biology curriculum in school, do you think it would have sounded quite the same way if this kind of thing were generally known?

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See also: So it’s come to this… Turmoil over what genes really do


There’s a gene for that… or is there?

News, I’m pretty sure that the river analogy for genes originates from the 1995 book “River Out of Eden” - by Richard Dawkins: “To be good at surviving, a gene must be good at working together with the other genes in the same species - the same river. To survive in the long run, a gene must be a good companion. It must do well in the company of, or against the background of, the other genes in the same river.” “I have spoken of a river of genes, but we could equally well speak of a band of good companions marching through geological time. All the genes of one breeding population are, in the long run, companions of each other.” Dawkins thought of the analogy because genes all work together to form a single organism - like a river (and can also “branch”, forming new rivers, akin to speciation). Yet, you seemed to think that this analogy was un-Darwinian, or at least contrary to what has been taught by Darwinians: “if you went through a Darwinian biology curriculum in school, do you think it would have sounded quite the same way if this kind of thing were generally known?” And so I was wondering if you got the analogy from Dawkins (which seemed unlikely), or, if not, where you had seen it (or maybe you thought of it). goodusername
goodusername at 1, not sure. Is it already taken? One can always write another title. News
Curious, where did you get the title for the OP? goodusername

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