Tag: natural selection

Bioethics News

Human genetic architecture, mapped for the first time, shows objective sexual differences

Men and women is not just a social construct as affirm gender ideology. This work provides evidences of the sex-differential transcriptome and its importance to human entire body and physiology. Around 6,500 genes with activity that was biased toward one sex or the other in at least one tissue.

Shmuel Pietrokovski and Moran Gershoni, both researchers in the Molecular Genetics Department at the Weizmann Institute of Sciences, have revealed that close to 6,500 protein-coding human genes react differently in males and females (BMC, 6 – 1 – 2017, see HERE).

This finding is contrary to gender ideology, which considers that the difference between men and women is a social and/or cultural fact, i.e., a construct, rather than something biological or natural (see HERE). In a recent article, the scientists said that, in order identify the thousands of genes, they turned to the GTex project, a very large study of human gene expression in which numerous organs and tissues of the body had been examined in more than 550550 adult donors

Human sex genetic architecture differences were mapped

According to the authors, “that project enabled, for the first time, the comprehensive mapping of the human sex-differential genetic architecture”.

The researchers examined close to 20,000 protein-coding genes, classifying them by sex and searching for differences in expression in each tissue.

The eventually identified “around 6,500 genes with activity that was biased toward one sex or the other in at least one tissue”.

In the same manner, many genes that are associated with sexually dimorphic traits might undergo differential selection, which will likely impact reproduction, evolution, and even speciation events.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Memo To White Nationalists From A Geneticist: Why White Purity Is A Terrible Idea

On
August 14th, UCLA researchers Aaron Panofsky and Joan Donovan presented
findings of their study,  “When Genetics Challenges a Racist’s Identity: Genetic
Ancestry Testing among White Nationalists,”
 at a sociology
conference in Montreal. They’d analyzed 3,070 comments organized into 70
threads publicly posted to the (sometimes difficult to access) “social movement
online community”  Stormfront.

Former
KKK Grand Wizard Don Black launched Stormfront on March 27, 1995. Posts exceed
12 million, ramping up since the 2016 election season. Panofsky and Donovan’s
report has a lot of sociology speak, such as “scholars of whiteness” and
“affiliative self-fashioning,” amid some quite alarming posts – yet also
reveals a sophisticated understanding of genetics from some contributors.

A
WHITE NATIONALIST ONLINE MEET-UP: STORMFRONT

“We are the voice of the new, embattled White minority!”proclaims the
bold, blood-tinged-hued message on the opening page of Stormfront, the “community
of racial realists and idealists.”
 It’s a site for white nationalists,
who are a little less extreme than white supremacists, who want to dominate the
world from their pinnacle of a perceived racial hierarchy. The Stormfronters
seem more concerned with establishing their white purity – defined as “non-Jewish
people of wholly European descent.”

Yet
the lines between white nationalist and supremacist blur, as Stormfront states, “If Blacks or
Mexicans become a majority, then they will not be able to maintain the White
man’s social, cultural and economic systems because they do not have to (sic)
minds needed to do so.”

The
idea of white rights is rather new, catalyzed by the revolts of the truly
marginalized, murdered, abused, ignored, and enslaved.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Memo To White Nationalists From A Geneticist: Why White Purity Is A Terrible Idea

On
August 14th, UCLA researchers Aaron Panofsky and Joan Donovan presented
findings of their study,  “When Genetics Challenges a Racist’s Identity: Genetic
Ancestry Testing among White Nationalists,”
 at a sociology
conference in Montreal. They’d analyzed 3,070 comments organized into 70
threads publicly posted to the (sometimes difficult to access) “social movement
online community”  Stormfront.

Former
KKK Grand Wizard Don Black launched Stormfront on March 27, 1995. Posts exceed
12 million, ramping up since the 2016 election season. Panofsky and Donovan’s
report has a lot of sociology speak, such as “scholars of whiteness” and
“affiliative self-fashioning,” amid some quite alarming posts – yet also
reveals a sophisticated understanding of genetics from some contributors.

A
WHITE NATIONALIST ONLINE MEET-UP: STORMFRONT

“We are the voice of the new, embattled White minority!”proclaims the
bold, blood-tinged-hued message on the opening page of Stormfront, the “community
of racial realists and idealists.”
 It’s a site for white nationalists,
who are a little less extreme than white supremacists, who want to dominate the
world from their pinnacle of a perceived racial hierarchy. The Stormfronters
seem more concerned with establishing their white purity – defined as “non-Jewish
people of wholly European descent.”

Yet
the lines between white nationalist and supremacist blur, as Stormfront states, “If Blacks or
Mexicans become a majority, then they will not be able to maintain the White
man’s social, cultural and economic systems because they do not have to (sic)
minds needed to do so.”

The
idea of white rights is rather new, catalyzed by the revolts of the truly
marginalized, murdered, abused, ignored, and enslaved.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Is It Okay to Say that Research ‘Verges on Scientific Racism’? by Matthew Wolf-Meyer

Last fall, a group of researchers – mostly biological anthropologists and sleep researchers – published a study of three ‘pre-industrial’ communities, one in Latin America, two in Africa, and claimed that based on their data, consolidated nightly sleep is a human norm, inferring that it is the product of natural selection. The media picked up the research findings, and I read write ups of it in a number of outlets, which led me to the original article and sparked conversations with me and other sleep-interested scholars about the validity of the research. A couple of months later, I was asked by the editor of Sleep Health if I would like to respond to the findings of the article (which you can find here), in part because the researchers made an argument against a claim that I have made – corroborating Roger Ekirch – that human sleep has only recently consolidated, largely as a result of industrial capitalism in the 19th century. But I was primarily motivated by the anthropology-informed opportunity to point out that no contemporary society offers us a window to some pre-industrial past or earlier evolutionary moment. To suggest otherwise – and here I’m quoting myself – ‘verges on scientific racism.’

So what was the assumption that the researchers were working off of that would lead them to such a claim and why would I find it controversial? They took a form of social organization – namely hunter-gatherer foraging – as indicating that the people who practice that form of subsistence share qualities with a stage of human history when that social organization was predominant.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Jennifer Greenwood, Becoming Human: The Ontogenesis, Metaphysics, and Expression of Human Emotionality, MIT Press, 2015

Becoming Human by Jennifer Greenwood is one of the most thought-provoking books on emotion and its expression I have read. At its core, it attempts to provide an account of the development of full human emotionality and in so doing argues the emotions are “transcranial.” Emotions are radically realized outside our nervous systems and beyond our skin. As children, we are functionally integrated affectively with our mothers; so much so that in a sense our emotions are not ours alone. Regardless of whether one agrees with her radical claims, it is a must-read for those interested in emotion and expression. In order appreciate the significance of this book, let me sketch its contents and raise a few criticisms.

Many, but certainly not all, psychologists and philosophers assume that there are basic emotions (BEs) and higher-cognitive emotions (HCEs). The former include fear, anger, disgust, happiness, surprise, and sadness; and the later include guilt, shame, and pride amongst others. BEs are thought of as natural kinds involving facial expression, homologous traits shared with non-human primates, specific brain structures, and stereotyped behaviors. HCEs differ in that they often do not have unique physiological profiles, facial expressions, dedicated brain regions, and culturally vary quite a bit. Greenwood argues that there are affective precursors that develop into BEs and HCEs. However, the distinction between BEs and HCEs lulls us into naïve views about nature and nurture, biology and culture. We have not taken their development from childhood as seriously as we should. Both develop through time.

Greenwood has us consider human infants.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

A speed hump on the road to evidence-based bioethics

There have been calls to base bioethics more firmly on empirical analysis “to promote more balanced, and evidence-based, bioethics”. Ideally, this would do away with the need for woolly, unverifiable normative discourse.

However, an article in Royal Society Open Science should make bioethicists think twice about this. Paul Smaldino, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, Merced, and a colleague argue that “In fields such as psychology, neuroscience and medicine, practices that increase false discoveries remain not only common, but normative”. From this shocking assertion he goes on to argue that a natural selection leads not to truth, but to bad science.

some of the most powerful incentives in contemporary science actively encourage, reward and propagate poor research methods and abuse of statistical procedures. We term this process the natural selection of bad science to indicate that it requires no conscious strategizing nor cheating on the part of researchers. Instead, it arises from the positive selection of methods and habits that lead to publication.

His hypothesis backs up what other critics of research have been saying for decades: that confidence in the scientific method has to be tempered by an awareness of human fallibility.

Jobs in science are scarece and attractive. So scientists looking for positions or promotion tend to create studies with low statistical power but flashy results which make them stand out:

In the years between 1974 and 2014, the frequency of the words ‘innovative’, ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘novel’ in PubMed abstracts increased by 2500% or more. As it is unlikely that individual scientists have really become 25 times more innovative in the past 40 years, one can only conclude that this language evolution reflects a response to increasing pressures for novelty, and more generally to stand out from the crowd.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

We’re all Gonna Die… Eventually

It might just be a product of the turnover of people with whom I have much professional contact, but I’ve not heard as much about human enhancement in the past couple of years as I had in, say, 2010.  In particular, there seems to be less being said about radical life extension.  Remember Aubrey de Grey and his “seven deadly things“?  The idea there was that senescence was attributable to seven basic processes; those basic processes are all perfectly scrutable and comprehensible biological mechanisms.  Therefore, the argument went, if we just put the time and effort into finding a way to slow, halt, or reverse them, we could slow, halt, or reverse aging.  Bingo.  Preventing senescence would also ensure maximum robustness, so accidents and illnesses would be less likely to kill us.  To all intents and purposes, we’d be immortal.  Some enterprising people of an actuarial mindset even had a go at predicting how long an immortal life would be.  Eventually, you’ll be hit by a bus.  But you might have centuries of life to live before that.

Dead easy.

I was always a bit suspicious of that.  The idea that death provides meaning to life is utterly unconvincing; but the idea that more life is always a good thing is unconvincing, too.  What are you going to do with it?  In essence, it’s one thing to feel miffed that one isn’t going to have the time and ability to do all the things that one wants to do: life is a necessary criterion for any good. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Is Happiness the Greatest Good?

STUDENT VOICES

By Christopher S. Kovel, M.A.

One of the primary goals for studying ethics (or creating ethical systems) is to find normative ways to live one’s life that would bring about greatest amount of the good. The “good,” dating back at least to Plato, has been consistently talked about in terms of maximizing “happiness” (or subjective well-being).

The creation of large scale social orders is often viewed as one of the most important ethical developments in history. After farming emancipated our ancestors from the living in the state of nature, sedentary social life swept through the world. The advent of agriculture combined with more cohesive social institutions allowed large groups of people to live and work together and created the modern world.

The industrial revolution and rise of liberalism endowed people with unprecedented amounts of freedom and autonomy over the course of their lives. Classical liberal thinking argues that this type of society best maximizes collective happiness by giving people the freedom to pursue their interests and chase after their deepest desires.

One theory, recently developed by the historian of science Yuval Noah Harari, challenges the common conception about happiness. In his book Sapiens, Harari, and others, upset this notion by extending Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection to the human mind and argue that the brain is not well-adapted to be and stay happy in the modern world[1].  According to Harari, “the transition first to agriculture and then to industry [may have] condemned us to living unnatural lives that cannot give full expression to our inherent inclinations and instincts and therefore cannot satisfy our deepest yearnings.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals – August 2016 by Anna Zogas

Here are some of the articles published in the journals in August 2016. This post includes the abstracts from a special issue of Anthropology & Medicine, “Medical Pluralism and Beyond.” Enjoy!

American Ethnologist

The postneoliberal fabulation of power: On statecraft, precarious infrastructures, and public mobilization in Brazil
João Biehl

In Brazil’s hybrid government of social protection and market expansion, there is under way a fabulation of power, which ultimately serves to “de-poor” people seeking care, working infrastructures, and justice while also shoring up state politics as usual. This process became evident through the failure of a collaborative research project that I coordinated on right-to-health litigation. In rethinking that failure as an experiment in public ethnography, I draw on core disagreements with public officials over the interpretation of our findings from a legal database. Analyzing these disagreements provides an entry point into the mechanisms of veridiction and falsification at work in Brazil, whose government sees itself as providing public goods beyond the minimum neoliberal state. Countering state mythology, public ethnography thus illuminates the improvised quality of postneoliberal democratic institutions and opens up new avenues for theorizing power and the political field.

Royal pharmaceuticals: Bioprospecting, rights, and traditional authority in South Africa
Christopher Morris

The translation of international biogenetic resource rights to a former apartheid homeland is fostering business partnerships between South African traditional leaders and multinational pharmaceutical companies. In the case of one contentious resource, these partnerships are entrenching, and in some instances expanding, apartheid-associated boundaries and configurations of power. The state and corporate task of producing communities amenable to biodiversity commercialization and conservation is entangled with segregationist laws and spatial planning.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Summer Reading Suggestions from Scientists: Shirley Tilghman

 

Non-Science Selection:

Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer. In his brilliant debut novel, this American writer, who was born in Vietnam, uses the end and aftermath of the Vietnam War as a dramatic backdrop to explore the nature of identity and conflicts of loyalty, The anonymous narrator is a jumble of identities—the son of a Vietnamese woman and a French priest; a Communist working undercover as an aide to a South Vietnamese general; and a blood brother of both a C.I.A. assassin and a Vietcong leader. He believes in the revolution, but is haunted when he is required to murder in its name, and, ultimately, is abandoned by its leaders.

The narrative begins with a vivid portrayal of the last days of the fall of Saigon, as the narrator works feverishly to extract himself, his general and family off the rooftop of the American embassy. They ultimately land in California, where the general immediately begins to plot his return to Saigon. The narrator is hired to advise a filmmaker (referred to only as “the auteur,” but clearly meant to be Francis Ford Coppola) on a film about the war. The narrator believes he has been hired to give an authentic voice to the Vietnamese, whose sufferings and struggle have largely been untold in the West, but he fails in tragicomic fashion. In the end, the narrator is torn in two by his competing loyalties to politics and friendship. This is a deeply moving story of a young man in search of meaning in his life.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.