Saturday, November 13, 2010

New Scientist Snippet.

A gene linked with sociality and novelty-seeking may make people more liberal in outlook, but only if they had plenty of friends during adolescence. The gene, DRD4-7R makes a dopamine receptor and was identified from DNA samples and a survey of 2547 adolescents.

It’s this kind of dross in New Scientist that sets my teeth gnashing. Admittedly it was taken from ‘The Journal of Politics’ and is little but a snippet, but that it appears in NS tells you something about the underlying mind set.

The words ‘linked with’ immediately remind me of the now famous words of Al Gore in his film when he informed us that ice core data shows a ‘correlation’ between CO2 rises and temperature rises, and then neglected to mention that the ice cores showed CO2 rising approximately 800 years after the temperature rise. How, precisely, is a gene that makes a dopamine receptor ‘linked with sociality and novelty-seeking’?

The next weasel word is ‘may’, as this gene ‘may make people more liberal in outlook’. Now what definition of 'liberal' are we talking about: the adjective in the dictionary, or espousing present day liberal views and politics, which tend to bear no relation to the aforementioned adjective? What exactly is being said here?

Then we get the bit about the necessity for having friends in adolescence for this gene to express its liberalism. Of course the implication here is that if you are ‘liberal’ you are probably sociable, novelty-seeking and not a Billy-no-mates. If you’re not ‘liberal’ you’re probably a sad fuck who had no friends when you were younger.

All this comes from a survey and DNA sampling of 2574 adolescents. So, how many of these adolescents did not have this gene? How many of them really ‘fessed up to having no friends? How did you establish any link at all between this particular scrap of DNA and the traits mentioned? And since when did opinion become science? Karl Popper must be revolving in his grave.


Jacques Hughes said...

Response from a sciency guy follows.
I despise these 'links' mainly due to the fact that the whole nature/nurture debate has been settled, yet these morons still try to make excuses and say 'it's all in the genes' when it clearly isn't.

It's 50/50 at best, and unless it's a dire health related issue like cystic fibrosis, most genetic predispositions can be countered. These so-called links are just that-links. Not proof.

Further, to politicise genetics is just asking for trouble. Like saying we can cure addictions/homosexuality/violence because we found a gene for it. It's not true.

I don't necessarily agree 100% with your politics Neal, but I do agree with most of what you say. I think we've all gone beyond the left/right wing ideals and we're now working on pragmatism, the only way forward.

Love your work and long may you prosper :) Keep on going with the non-writing updates, I find them fascinating, especially the raki and cigar-making anecdotes.


Neal Asher said...

I'm neither left nor right, Jacques. The two real poles now are authoritarianism and libertarianism (though of course libertarians are depicted as something other than anti big government).

Yes, dodgy ground bringing that sort of crap into genetics. I wonder how a 'survey' like this in the Caribbean would go down if those reporting it said gene SLC24A5 was linked to a propensity for smoking ganja.

Graeme said...

I find the whole wishy washy non committal nature of articles like this offensive. They have an engaging tagline and then paragraphs of wafty twaddle as padding. You learn nothing new, nothing of any value, but what you have done is paid the cover price.

It's everywhere in the media. Were I paranoid I'd say it's all a plot to keep people unsettled. Were I not paranoid, I'd say there are some really grasping twats trying to hold onto non jobs in the sector, just ensuring that there is something in between the adverts.