Two recent studies are now calling current methods into question:
A key breakthrough was the recent development of genome-wide association studies (GWAS, commonly pronounced “gee-wahs”). The genetics of simple traits can often be deduced from pedigrees, and people have been using that approach for millennia to selectively breed vegetables that taste better and cows that produce more milk. But many traits are not the result of a handful of genes that have clear, strong effects; rather, they are the product of tens of thousands of weaker genetic signals, often found in noncoding DNA. When it comes to those kinds of features — the ones that scientists are most interested in, from height, to blood pressure, to predispositions for schizophrenia — a problem arises. Although environmental factors can be controlled in agricultural settings so as not to confound the search for genetic influences, it’s not so straightforward to extricate the two in humans.
Jordana Cepelewicz, “New Turmoil Over Predicting the Effects of Genes” at Quanta
Fixes were tried and some hoped to “probe how natural selection might have led to observed differences in height (and other traits) among populations” (= bolster Darwinism). However:
But now, two results published last month have cast doubt on those findings, and have illustrated that problems with interpretations of GWAS results are far more pervasive than anyone realized. The work has implications for how scientists think about the interactions between genetic and environmental effects. It also “raise[s] the ghosts of the possibility that we overestimate … how important genetics is in contributing to differences between people,” said Rasmus Nielsen, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley. Jordana Cepelewicz, “New Turmoil Over Predicting the Effects of Genes” at Quanta
Well, if genetics isn’t that important, what is heredity? Maybe epigenetics and horizontal gene transfer also shape the lives we live and live among. So then Darwinism is right but unimportant. It explains some things, not most things.
Hat tip: Philip Cunningham
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See also: Narwhal Thriving Despite Low Genetic Diversity
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