Tagged genomics

Craig Venter’s “Creation”

It’s not creation, but it’s a technical achievement full of promise.

To say that Craig Venter’s latest contribution is garnering hype would be one of the understatements of the year.  The paper, whose title begins “Creation of a Bacterial Cell…” was published in the print version of Science on July 2—Daniel Gibson was the first of many authors, Venter the last—but it had already appeared online on May 20 and generated a lot of comment, not least of all by Venter himself. Read more

The “New Biology” and “The Self”

A couple of weeks ago I posted some musings about “the self” in anticipation of being on a panel with Steven Pinker (author of The Blank Slate and The Stuff of Thought) and Noga Arikha (author of Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours) at Tufts University. The panel, convened by Jonathan Wilson, was titled “The New Biology and the Self,” and what follows was my contribution. The graduate student referred to is Monica Chau of Emory University.

I told a very smart neurobiology graduate student named Monica yesterday that I’d been asked to speak on “The New Biology and the Self.” She said, “What’s the new biology?” I said, “I don’t know, but that’s the least of my problems. What’s the self?” Read more

Genes, Memes, and the Mess of Cultural Evolution

Next to the Genome, Culture is a Mess, and Its Evolution a Much Harder Puzzle

Okay, so what are memes? This is a term invented 30 years ago by Richard Dawkins, to try to find an equivalent for genes in cultural evolution. The term is now in general usage among those who study cultural evolution, and it has a certain usefulness.

However, it’s a mess compared to the concept of gene. A gene is Read more

Jim’s Genome, and Yours

Welcome to the Age of Personal Genomics

I had a celebrity sighting in mid-town Manhattan a few weeks ago. It was unmistakable: the unkempt sparse white hair, the glasses slipping a bit on the nose, the eyes intense in conversation, the head leaning into the world—this was James Watson, who 55 years ago, with the late Francis Crick, played around with some cardboard cutouts representing nucleic acids and (with some help from Rosie Franklin’s X-rays) built the strange spiral that changed the world.

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