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Still Chasing Ghosts: A New Genetic Methodology Will Not Find the “Missing Heritability”

September 19, 2013 Commentaries, Health 26 Comments
Search for the missing heritability

By Evan Charney, Duke Institute for Brain Science, Duke University

One of the hopes and promises of the Human Genome Sequencing Project was that it would revolutionize the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of most human disorders. It would do this by uncovering the supposed “genetic bases” of human behavior. With a few exceptions, however, the search for common gene variants -“polymorphisms” – associated with common diseases has borne little fruit. And when such associations have been found the polymorphisms seem to have little predictive value and do little to advance our understanding of the causes of disease. In a 2012 study, for example, researchers found that incorporating genetic information did not improve doctors’ ability to predict disease risk for breast cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis [1]. … Continue Reading

Science and Social Control: Political Paralysis and the Genetics Agenda

NIH_1crop2

By Jonathan Latham, PhD (Originally posted July 31st and lost after a DDOS (electronic) attack).

Variations in individual “educational attainment” (essentially, whether students complete high school or college) cannot be attributed to inherited genetic differences. That is the finding of a new study reported in Science magazine (Rietveld et al. 2013). According to this research, fully 98% of all variation in educational attainment is accounted for by factors other than a person’s simple genetic makeup.

This implies that essentially all of student success is a consequence of potentially alterable social or environmental factors. This is an important and perhaps surprising observation, of high interest to parents, teachers, and policymakers alike; but it did not make the headlines.

The likely reason is that the authors of the study failed to mention the 98% figure in the title or the summary abstract. Nor was it mentioned in the accompanying press release. … Continue Reading

Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA

May 13, 2012 Health, Reviews Comments Off on Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA
Biology as Ideology

Book Author: Richard Lewontin

Reviewed by: Jonathan Latham (The Bioscience Resource Project)

Biologists know that complex traits are typically associated with genetic variation between individuals. Nevertheless, if we hear on the news that obesity, antisocial behaviour or some other disorder has a strong genetic component, we are likely to attach special significance to this ‘fact’. We may be less likely to attribute social factors as a cause and we may be more likely to accept a technological or pharmaceutical solution as a remedy. The disorder may also acquire a credibility and a sense of inevitability that it previously lacked. The reasoning that leads to these conclusions has a certain logic, after all we investigate causes primarily so that we can find remedies, but nevertheless we need to be careful that our thinking is well-founded.

… Continue Reading

‘Phantom Heritability’ Indicates Poor Predictive Value of Gene Tests

DNA Sequencing Machines

Helen Wallace, GeneWatch UK (photo credit: jurvetson)

Last week, a paper on “phantom heritability” was published by a research group led by Eric Lander, one of the leading contributors to understanding the implications of the Human Genome Project (HGP) for common, complex diseases such as heart disease and cancer (1). The paper has created excitement amongst scientists who have been critical of the claims made for the likely impacts of the HGP on health and medicine. This is not because the paper makes a startling new discovery, but because it is an important step towards recognition of these long standing criticisms. … Continue Reading

The Great DNA Data Deficit: Are Genes for Disease a Mirage?

Are Genes for Disease a Mirage?

Jonathan Latham, PhD and Allison Wilson, PhD

Just before his appointment as head of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), Francis Collins, the most prominent medical geneticist of our time, had his own genome scanned for disease susceptibility genes. He had decided, so he said, that the technology of personalised genomics was finally mature enough to yield meaningful results. Indeed, the outcome of his scan inspired The Language of Life, his recent book which urges every individual to do the same and secure their place on the personalised genomics bandwagon.

… Continue Reading

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Commentaries

Why the Food Movement is Unstoppable

jose bove, farmer and activist

by Jonathan Latham, PhD In 1381, for the first and only time, the dreaded Tower of London was captured from the King of England. The forces that seized it did not belong to a foreign power; nor were they rebellious workers – they were peasants who went on to behead …

How the GE Food Venture Has Been Chronically Dependent on Deception

Food and Drug Administration, Maryland

by Steven M. Druker, J.D. Although it purports to be based on solid science and the open flow of information on which science depends, the massive venture to reconfigure the genetic core of the world’s food supply has substantially relied on the propagation of falsehoods. Its advancement and very survival …

Millions Spent, No One Served: Who Is to Blame for the Failure of GMO Golden Rice?

Rice Farming

by Angelika Hilbeck and Hans Herren The recent Nobel laureates’ letter accusing Greenpeace of a “crime against humanity” for opposing genetically modified (GMO) golden rice reveals a deep division not only between civil societies and some science circles but also within the science community – a division in the visions …

Cashing in on Cellulosic Ethanol: Subsidy Loophole Set to Rescue Corn Biofuel Profits

Ohio corn field

by Almuth Ernsting Subsidies intended for next-generation cellulosic ethanol production are to be applied to a trivial improvement to corn ethanol refining technologies. Since cellulosic ethanol qualifies for much higher subsidies, this will significantly increase corn refinery profits and boost the demand for corn but will do nothing to combat …

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Reviews

Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA

Poison Spring Evaggelos Valllianatos

Book Author: Evaggelos Vallianatos with McKay Jenkins Reviewed by: Carol Van Strum “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts,” Richard Feynman famously declared in 1966. Ever quick to challenge accepted wisdom, he distinguished the laudable ignorance of science, forever seeking unattainable certainties, from the dangerous ignorance of experts …

The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food

The Real Cost of Fracking book cover

Book Authors: Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald Reviewed by Allison Wilson (The Bioscience Resource Project) The first researchers to systematically document ill health in livestock, pets, and people living near fracking drill sites were Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald. Bamberger, a veterinarian, and Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at …

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