Welcome to the Genomics Forum blog

Based at The University of Edinburgh, the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum is part of the ESRC Genomics Network and pioneers new ways to promote and communicate social research on the contemporary life sciences.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Traverse Bar Thursday 30th June 2pm

Activity…all of this activity…on and on we go, trying to engage in good faith with all that we encounter…and what does it mean? What is it for? Where do we search for meaning to our lives? And why do we do that at all? Is that search built into us? What do we mean by that? Is it soul, God? Is it something that evolved in us, this consciousness lark? And if it is, is it adaptive? (That is it, does it work for us? And if it HAS been working for us so far, do our CO2 emmissions mean it's not going to be party time much longer?)

Not every capacity we evolve is good for us…We evolved the predisposition for cancer and heart disease as well as the capacity to run, jump and enjoy chocolate…

(We must have done…where does it come from otherwise?)

We, like every other phenotype on earth, are evolution making the optimal (naturally selected) use of available materials. The genome…which is nothing more than the sum of our stringy chromosomes considered holitically…is the bit we inherit directly from our parents…and it defines our limits and capacities.


Well, there are genetic fundamentalists as well as religious ones…but most of the things I’ve been reading of late would say “Probably not”

There is also memory…and cultural memory…

Mind you, some people put “cultural evolution” right alongside the physical…

Hum hum hum

Some people (I’m not one of them) have even created a unit of cultural inheritance and learned characteristics and abilities…Memes they call them…

Which is a metaphor that makes a similar sounding word to “genes” as far as I can make out…and not much else.

Whatever the metaphors, we are, a fair chunk of us anyway, defined by our inheritance…

So what about free will and all that?

Again, fundamentalists of all stripes don’t believe in any such thing…or rather, the religious fundamentalists argue that only God is truly free, while genetic fundamentalists argue that our bodies and the lives we live inside them are incidental to the immortal and invisible will to duplicate of our God like genomes…

I get the increasing sense the deeper I plunge into all this that there is a big old disconnect between how professionals in the gene trade think, and how the rest of us struggle to keep up.

I’ve no idea how I’m doing in bridging this gap…and would like to talk about it to the two constituencies of which I am professionally now a part….

One is theatre and scribbling folk who like to think about science, the other is science folk…who like to scribble...or read what other folk scribble

These conversations are the point of my being here.

If you fancy joining in…I’m starting a gene therapy group meeting on the last Thursday of every month in the Traverse bar. First one as above

I’ll bring along some stuff I’ve been reading…and just throw it in the mix…elicit some responses from whoever turns up…some of which I want to publish online via the Human Genre Project…the neat science and poetry website started by Ken MacLeod, my illustrious predecessor and science fiction novelist.

We can talk about science fiction too, if you like. Sometimes…and increasingly at the moment…I think it’s the only genre of modern writing that’s about what’s really going on.

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