Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

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Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby ShawnMiller » Mon Sep 07, 2015 11:40 am

(A printer-friendly version of this document is available.)

Directions: Answer four of the five questions below. Each answer should be about 300-400 words. Answer all parts of each question. The questions are principally about the course readings, rather than lectures or discussions. So stick close to the readings.

Due Date: Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m. This is a hard deadline, i.e., work submitted after 7 a.m. will receive a grade of 0.

Where to submit: Turn in your Take-Home Final on this forum, just as you would a regular forum post. Please make sure to note the number of the question you are answering next to your actual answer.

Working in Groups: You can collaborate with others in groups of up to four members. You can even turn in identical answers. However, every group member must still turn in his or her own Take-home Final, and you must list who the members of your group were on your final.

Good luck!




1. Elliott Sober writes:

"Models of transmission systems [such as those of Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman and of Boyd and Richerson] describe the quantitative consequences of systems of cultural influence. Social scientists inevitably make qualitative assumptions about the consequences of these systems. If it could be shown that these qualitative assumptions were wrong in important cases, and that these mistakes actually undermine the plausibility of various historical explanations, that would be a reason for social scientists to take a greater interest in these models of cultural evolution. But if the qualitative assumptions turn out to be correct, it is perhaps understandable that historians should not accord much importance to these investigations." (p. 33)


Explain this passage. What is an example of a qualitative assumption that a social scientist might make? Why does Sober think that finding out that such assumptions are wrong gives social scientists reason to adopt models of cultural evolution? What desirable feature do such models have that make them useful in such situations? Do you find Sober's view plausible? Why or why not?




2. James Griesemer writes:

"Acceptance of the causal structure of Wilson's diagram or its modern molecular counterpart has spread widely and influenced the thinking of most biologists. Because of its simplicity and portability, Wilson's diagram is likely to exert strong social influence through its representation of our deepest understanding of biological causation and the need to simplify when biologists interpret their work for the public. Weismannism is entrenched in our thought in part because its diagrammatic representation is clear, simple, easily expressed, and portable. But Weismann's original argument, using diagrams to illustrate ideas previously formulated has been inverted. Now we use language to formulate a theory on the basis of the abstraction previously expressed visually in Wilson's diagram. Because the diagram Wilson produced is wrong, its entrenchment in biological thinking has led to strange contortions as developmental biologists try to express what is wrong with Weismannism while relying on the very causal framework it expresses." (p. 80-81)


Explain what this passage means and the role it plays in Griesemer's overall argument. Then argue how we might understand the entrenchment of "clear, simple, easily expressed, and portable" representations -- in this case a style of causal diagram -- in terms of cultural replicators. Does this analysis support or undermine Tim Lewen's contention that "cultural units are not replicators"?




3. Elisabeth Lloyd is interested in how normality is defined through the establishment of "socially negotiated standards," observing that "[w]hat is abnormal under the biochemical model is not necessarily abnormal under a medical model" (p. 106, 109). She argues that there "is a tempting and widespread error in reasoning which is exacerbated by the slippage back and forth between distinct biological meanings of 'normal'" (p. 111).

Altruism -- self-sacrificial behavior -- has long presented a puzzle for "purely biological models" of evolution, according to Sober, but the "prospects for altruism to evolve are enhanced when culture is included in the model" (p. 30)

Using the ideas Lloyd develops to explain how health can't be defined purely objectively or scientifically, analyze the concept of altruism as it functions in models of genetic evolution and of cultural evolution. Explain how the term can have distinct meanings in the two different contexts. (Answering this question probably requires explaining some of the details of Lloyd's argument and explaining why altruism is so biologically mysterious.)




4. Roberta Millstein argues:

"There really is something biologically new about GMOs. [...] The techniques of genetic engineering are different from selection or hybridization. [...] The worry of using distantly related genes -- resulting in changes of a larger magnitude than would be likely to occur in nature or by most other methods -- is how they will behave in a very different genetic context given that genes can affect the expression of other genes in unpredictable ways."


In the CRISPR article:

"CRISPR's ability to precisely edit existing DNA sequences makes for more-accurate modifications [to crops -- and avoids the issue of mixing DNA from different species --] but it also makes it more difficult for regulators and farmers to identify a modified organism once it has been released. “With gene editing, there's no longer the ability to really track engineered products,” says Jennifer Kuzma [...]. “It will be hard to detect whether something has been mutated conventionally or genetically engineered.”


The definition of the cautionary principle:

"The principle that the introduction of a new product or process whose ultimate effects are disputed or unknown should be resisted."


Is Millstein convincing or correct that GMOs are biologically new? Are genetic "changes of a larger magnitude than would be likely to occur in nature" enough to establish that GMOs are novel? Does the cautionary principle provide any guidance about how to choose between conventional GMOs and CRISPR-style GMOs given the "ultimate effects" hinted at in the passages above? Support your answer.




5. James Greisemer writes about the Human Genome Initiative:

"While genetic research advances by dividing the world into simple systems and complex environments, social problems are not solved merely by the control and manipulation of such isolated systems. One must take into account, explicitly or implicitly, both system and context; and molecular biologists have not the expertise, nor should they have the authority, to impose their beliefs and assumptions about context in a social evaluation of the HGI." (p. 85)


Explain how Griesemer arrives at this conclusion. Then apply these ideas to the issue of GMOs presented in the Millstein article, analyzing in particular the claims made by some scientists that opposing GMOs -- or even insisting that GMOs be clearly labelled as such -- is anti-science.

twilliams
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Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby twilliams » Mon Sep 07, 2015 9:24 pm

1
In Sober’s article “Models of Cultural Evolution,” Sober explain two different models of cultural evolution that explain two different historical phenomena. The models are quantitative in that they account for numbers of people; one model explains falling birth rates at the same time as falling death rates, and another about number of people assimilating common behaviors such as altruism or selfishness. As such, these models explain consequences of cultural transmission systems, not causes of cultural transmission.

Sober suggests that social scientists are primarily concerned with causes of cultural transmission, and therefore would not too concerned with the quantitative models of cultural evolution. Sober suggests that social scientists will make qualitative assumptions about these models to either disregard them or absorb them into their theories of cultural transmission causes.

An example of this can be seen with the Boyd and Richerson study, which investigated why Japanese kamikaze pilots would willingly sacrifice their lives. The social scientists (according to Sober’s argument), would be more interested in the historical explanation of how this concept of “honorable death” can be traced to Japanese history with Samurai; this is supposed to be opposed (or at least considered as a stronger explanation) to the Boyd and Richerson conclusion of how common traits in a population are easily adopted by new members.

Sober argues that if such assumptions are proven right, then such quantitative models of cultural transmission should not be paid too much attention. On the other hand, if the assumptions social scientists make are proven false, this would give credibility to these models of cultural evolution. The reason for this is that they provide hard data to provide explanations to the same types of phenomena. This feature of having actual numbers makes these models of cultural evolution appealing where a historical explanation cannot solve a problem sufficiently.

Sober makes a compelling argument, for it seems neither a historical explanation nor a cultural transmission model are sufficient by themselves in order to fully explain a phenomenon. Referring to the kamikaze example once again, the historical explanation provides background for where these ideas originated from, but it does not provide an explanation for how the idea spread. Likewise, the cultural model explains how the behavior could have spread, but it does not explain an origin.

3
Lloyd argues that health cannot be defined purely in scientific terms, because science only recognizes variations. There is no model in science to state what a healthy human looks like, for no two people are the same. So a generic type of “healthy person” cannot be made, for no one would be able to match it. It is society that creates standards of what variations are accepted as healthy and not healthy, not science. As such, health and normality are socially negotiated standards.

One way that this can be illustrated is through altruism. Altruism is biologically mysterious because it is not intuitive in evolutionary terms. Altruism, by definition, causes an organism to destroy itself, and as such would be considered to be a fitness reducing trait. Because it is a fitness reducing trait, one would think natural selection would have removed this trait, or at least have it exist as an anomaly. However, in certain populations, altruism is a very common trait. Therefore, altruism is difficult to explain in genetic evolutionary terms.

Altruism is very easy to understand in cultural evolutionary terms. Common behavioral traits are more likely to be exhibited amongst a population. Therefore, if most members of a population are altruistic, new members will be more likely to exhibit altruism. One explanation for why a group would want to exist altruistically amongst its members is that it would increase the fitness of the group as a whole.

Thus in one context, on the individual biological level, altruism is seen as something bad, for it is fitness reducing. On the other hand, on the cultural level, altruism can be seen as something good, for it increases the fitness of the group. Depending on how one looks at something, whether something is “good” or “bad” will be dependent on accepted social standards. Science cannot create an objective standard for what is good.

4
Millstein provides a strong argument for how GMOs are biologically new. With the techniques used to make GMOs, it is possible to put DNA from a fish into an orange. As Millstein points out, this is not as alarming as it would seem at first glance, but the point remains that the change occurred is not one that can be seen at the same speed or precision as nature. When this technique is compared with what humans have done previously with selective breeding, it seems rather intuitive that GMOs are something new.

With selective breeding, trait options are limited to what genes are already present in the species available to you. Furthermore, selective breeding is still probability based, as it is unknown if the dominant and/or recessive genes will be passed to offspring. The techniques used to make GMOs offer greater precision. Lastly, it is just obvious you cannot breed a fish with an orange. Of course, what is at topic is not the technique, but GMOs themselves; how “new” a particular GMO is will be dependent on the GMO, particularly with what has been modified. However, since the range of what can be modified is enlarged with the techniques used to make GMOs, it sounds intuitive that it is at least possible to make a GMO that would not probably exist via natural selection.

Whether this makes GMOs a novel concept is impossible to answer objectively, for what makes something novel will differ from person to person. To the pioneers of GMO, they may want to take pride in their work by calling it novel. To those who do not care about GMOs, it may not seem novel. To those who fear GMOs, it may seem novel as justification to embrace the cautionary principle.

The cautionary principle would argue that since GMOs are a new phenomenon whose ultimate effects are unknown, GMOs should be resisted. The reason for this is that not enough research has been done on GMOs to provide a definite conclusion on the safety of GMOs, even according to the researchers. The cautionary principles has two requirements, a new product/technique and unknown effects of the product/technique. GMOs meet both requirements, and therefore the cautionary principle would state to avoid GMOs. Whether or not one should embrace the cautionary principle is another matter entirely.

5
Greisemer identifies two type of biological explanations: proximate and ultimate. Proximate explanations answer mechanical questions, such as how muscles work. Ultimate questions answer why things are the way they are, particularly in evolutionary and historical terms. Greisemer provides a very long and strong argument why one method should not be preferred over another, and that the best explanations are the ones that will consider both methods of thought.

Greisemer points out, however, that genetic research focuses almost exclusively on proximate explanations. The result is a division in biology between systems (which is the focus of proximate explanations) and their contexts (which is the focus of ultimate explanations). However, insofar as proponents of the HGI seek to use genetics in order to solve social problems, this division will leave out the very important component of contexts when geneticists propose solutions. An example that Greisemer offers is how in order to predict the incidents of genetic diseases, mating patterns in a population (which is context-based) must be considered. Since geneticists (according to Greisemer) disregard these important factors, they do not have the authority to impose their beliefs about context in a social situation.

In Millstein’s article about GMOs, Millstein makes a similar argument about how people oppose GMOs are not necessarily anti-science. Scientists that criticize critics of GMOs as being anti-science tend to do so from a viewpoint that values proximate explanations over ultimate explanations. This can be seen because such people argue in favor of GMOs from a molecular standpoint, claiming that there is nothing relatively new about GMOs. Millstein argues that there is an error in the “anti-science” criticism, because some of the critics of GMOs do so from a viewpoint that values ultimate explanations over proximate explanations. Some critics of GMOs are so because of unknown and possible harmful environmental effects GMOs may have, which concerns context. Furthermore, people from this viewpoint tend to see GMOs as something new because of the context of how they are made with genes very distant from their average genome. So rather than being anti-science, these critics are actually just valuing different parts of science more and less than the defenders.

euriekim
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Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby euriekim » Wed Sep 09, 2015 10:44 am

#2. In this passage, James Griesemer discusses how easily a simple and convenient resource will spread throughout the public by bringing up Wilson’s diagram as an example. He states that Wilson’s diagram is likely to wield “strong social influence” due to biologists’ need for simplification and our understanding of biological relationships. Consequently this passage adds onto the main points of his argument about the false conceptions behind biology and the faultiness of biological methods. The problem with simplifying complex material for the public is that they will not receive the entirety of the original resource. Simplifying scientific reports for the public gives the researchers the power to include or exclude certain information from the public. We can personally understand this in a cultural sense. Memes are elements of a culture or behavior that are spread from one person to another, usually through imitation, without involving genetics. When one person imitates another, they might not fully replicate them. Instead they probably will imitate the basics of what they observe. As Tim Lewens states in his article “Cultural Evolution”, “[a] more pressing worry for memetics is that imitation is usually too error-prone to underpin replication.” As more people imitate each other, the less the culture or behavior resembles the original source. But imitation is unavoidable. People will consciously or subconsciously pass on or imitate cultural memes; thus we can understand the entrenchment of “clear, simple, easily expressed, and portable” representations. Humans naturally will look for heuristics and ways to simplify information in order to save time and energy from critical thinking. In my perspective, this passage complements the point about cultural units and replicators that Lewens makes. Both Griesemer and Lewens shine a light on the dangers of simplifying complex ideas into a simple and portable rendition in a scientific and cultural sense, respectively.


#3. In her article, Elisabeth Lloyd states “[w]hat is abnormal under the biochemical model is not necessarily abnormal under a medical model”. We can apply this statement to the topic of altruism within various species. Altruism is defined as behavior that is self-sacrificial. Altruism, despite how incredulous it sounds, is actually quite common throughout the animal kingdom. People may write off altruism as an incredulous attribute since it does not help out the altruistic organism in any way and also since it usually will end up harming the organism instead. From a Darwinian perspective, altruism is biologically puzzling because it’s peculiar that an organism will purposely sacrifice themselves for the wellbeing of other members of their group instead of following the “survival of the fittest” trend. Thus, people may consider altruism as “abnormal” in a genetic sense since altruistic organisms lower their reproductive rate in order to help out other members of their population. We can see this as an example in bee colonies. Only the queen bee of the colony can produce offspring; worker bees can do anything but reproduce. Instead, they maintain the beehive and even forage for their colony. Although altruism isn’t beneficial to the altruistic organism, it is hugely beneficial to the rest of their group as a whole. Thus, altruism being abnormal under a genetic sense is not necessarily abnormal under a population or cultural sense. Altruism helps the group as a whole thrive and increases their odds of surviving by supplying food or shelter to the members of the group that need it or even giving a warning call to the rest of the group if there are predators nearby. Giving a warning call would give away the location of the altruistic organism and thus cause the predators to go after that organism, but it would save the majority of the rest of the group. This act of altruism results in fewer deaths within the population compared to if a warning call had not been given. Therefore altruism is “normal” in a cultural sense because the whole population can continue to flourish and have as many generations as possible.


#4. I agree with Roberta Millstein when she argues that GMOs are biologically new in her article, because GMOs today are more unnatural than they were in the past. In the past, humans genetically modified an organism by undergoing selective or artificial selection. They bred certain animals or plants in order to get the traits that they wanted. Today, GMOs are much more complicated and invasive. Nowadays, GMOs are the products of genetic engineering—where a scientist extracts the DNA of one organism and implants it into another for the latter to receive the former’s traits. I would establish that GMOs are novel due to the fact that they wouldn’t occur naturally in nature. For example there isn’t a way that a fish’s DNA would end up in an apple’s DNA naturally, but it is now a possibility due to genetic engineering. However, this leads to an issue with the cautionary principle. The cautionary principle dictates that we should proceed with caution when the ultimate effects of introducing a new process or organism are indefinite. I feel like conventional GMOs have less of an uncertainty of their ultimate effects due to the fact that they could occur naturally and since they are bred with similar species. On the other hand, the ultimate effects of CRISPR-style GMOs are wild cards. Altering a certain trait of an organism through genetic engineering, that is deemed as maladaptive to humans, may affect other organisms that depend on the trait. For example, altering a flower’s genes in order to change the frequency or time period of their blooming period may be beneficial for humans to be able to buy flowers outside of their normal blooming period, but it would harm insects and the plant itself by disrupting pollination or causing a temporal isolation between the insects. Therefore, like Millstein, I believe that we should proceed in caution and utilize the cautionary principle when tinkering with genetically engineered GMOs.


#5. In his article, James Griesemer writes about the immense amount of power molecular biologists have and argues that they shouldn’t have the authority to push their beliefs about the Human Genome Initiative onto the public. Griesemer arrives at this conclusion by pointing out that molecular technologists will jump to conclusions without considering every detail of the matter; thus they could unnecessarily yet easily cause a frenzy among the public. Most, if not all, of the nonscientist population of the public will put all of their trust into the decisions of scientists simply due to the fact that they endured extra years of education. The public would eagerly listen to or follow the belief and assumptions of scientists, which is why Griesemer expresses his agitation with scientists undeservingly holding that much power in their hands. We could relate this to the topic of GMOs and labeling foods in Roberta Millstein’s article. Food labels already subconsciously control our decisions on whether or not we should buy certain foods. People buy “gluten-free” foods because they believe that they are healthier. The same reasoning goes with people who avoid buying foods that contain high fructose corn syrup or trans fats. Adding GMO labels to foods would have the same effect, which is why scientists would consider even labeling GMOs as anti-science. As Millstein said in her article, adding a fish gene to a tomato has an “ick-factor” and would cause a knee-jerk reaction among everyday consumers if there were a label stating that regardless even if the tomato was safe to consume. The general public applies a heuristic to correlate all doctors and scientists as smart and as trustworthy. That is why so many people attentively follow the advice of people like Dr. Oz or Dr. Phil. People have put so much of their faith into them that Dr. Oz has to tell his audience to be careful of scammers that claim that he endorses a faulty product after each show. This is one of the main points of Griesemer’s article; scientists should not impose their beliefs onto the public because they will put their faith into them and blindly believe every word that they say without looking further into the details.

sarahsilverman
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Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby sarahsilverman » Fri Sep 11, 2015 6:49 pm

2. Griesemer is claiming here that Wilson’s abstraction of Weismannism (which contained significant errors) took root in the discipline of biology because of its elegance and simplicity. In spite of the diagram’s distortion of Weismann’s theory, it has become so entrenched in biological thought that it persists even as new developmental research undermines it. The continuity of the germ cells and discontinuity of the body cells gave rise to the “central dogma” of biology (the unidirectional flow of information from DNA to RNA to protein). Wilson’s diagram is an example of the oversimplification and ignorance of context that Griesemer sees in molecular biologists. His main argument is that allowing molecular biologists to determine the social risks and impacts of the HGI is dangerous, because such scientists have a history of ignoring the social consequences of their discoveries. Like Wilson’s diagram, these errors persist in their disciplines, and are difficult to excise once entrenched, because their basic assumptions wind up in new scientific theories and models.
Wilson’s diagram could be called a “cultural replicator” in that its basic assumptions (unidirectional flow of genetic information) persisted in further scientific theories, and that it persisted even when its limitations became clear. Lewen argues that cultural units must replicate themselves exactly to be considered cultural replicators or “memes.” By that definition, Wilson’s diagram could not necessarily be considered a meme, as it is rarely discussed in introductory biology courses in its original form. Perhaps this is actually because of the modern understanding that it is flawed. However, biologists who acknowledge its flaws have not done the work to amend every other biological theory that is based on the assumptions of the diagram. It is likely to deeply entrenched in the discipline to do so. Wilson’s diagram may not be a meme, but it is certainly some other type of cultural replicator, because its ideas have spread throughout many areas of biology (likely as a result of its clear visual presentation). If Lewen’s definition of replication (making an exact copy) is accepted, than a unit such as this diagram is not a replicator. If there is a broader definition of replication, where the underlying concept of some unit is perpetuated, than Wilson’s diagram is one.

3. Altruism is a puzzling biological phenomenon, when fitness is defined as reproductive success, because time spent helping others could better be spent helping ones-self. Regarding the concept of biological “normality,” Lloyd argues that the categories of normal and abnormal are socially defined, both in the biochemical sense and the medical sense. For example, people with homosexual orientations were previously classified as “abnormal” or “not properly functioning” and are now (mostly) considered to be “normal.” Lloyd further undermines the normal/abnormal binary by showing the biochemical abnormality may not impact functioning at all (having the gene for a disease is not sufficient to develop it). We classify individuals as “normal” or “abnormal” based on two types of criteria: biochemical (genes) and medical (bodily function). These two categories are not necessarily separate ones, as there is constant feedback between the two. Altruism, examined from a purely biological perspective, might be considered “abnormal”. If one’s primary goal is to survive and reproduce, it makes little sense to help other. One subtype of altruism may be considered “normal” from a biological perspective, which is kin selection. To the extent that fitness is predicated on the perpetuation of one’s genes, the act of helping individuals related to you serves that end.
In terms of cultural evolution, altruism might be considered “normal.” Cultural traits, according to Sober, have higher fitness when they are more common. In situations where people tend toward altruism over selfishness on average, altruism actually becomes the fitter trait. The presence of altruism in a group in the first place can be explained by the fact that groups containing altruists tend to go extinct less frequently. While altruistic individuals may not do as well as selfish individuals in their own group, the group does better compared to groups of all selfish individuals. As Lloyd argues about biochemical and functional norms, there is constant feedback between individual fitness and group fitness, and so altruism is difficult to label as normal or abnormal. Its benefit or harm is highly context and scale dependent.

4. Milstein’s argument that GMOs are biologically new is convincing because she is just drawing her argument from a plan reading of the facts about the technology. Genes from distantly related species can be inserted into one another’s genomes in a way that was never previously possible. Her contention that genetic modifications of this magnitude have the potential to cause unknown downstream effects is enough to treat them with caution, specifically because they are so unpredictable. Millstein seems to advocate for the cautionary principle in the form of a rule: “Everything is novel until proven familiar.” A GMO is not necessarily comparable to a conventional organism just because they both have genomes made up of DNA. By this rule, GMOs are certainly novel, and thus a preponderance of evidence is needed to prove that they are like conventional organisms in every respect. Millstein argues that such evidence is not yet available, particularly with regard to compound and downstream effects.
Given that conventional GMOs and CRISPR-style GMOs are both novel technologies, without the necessary evidentiary support to prove that they are safe or innocuous, it does not seem that the cautionary principle would offer any guidance as to how to choose between them. According to Millstein, the possible ultimate effects of GMOs are gene flow from GMOs to other organisms, leading to the disruption of ecosystems. The potential ultimate effects of CRISPR GMOs are even more poorly understood. The article addresses not even actual ultimate effects, but a barrier to observing them (CRISPR GMOs cannot be tracked). Based on these uncertainties, it does not seem like either type of GMO should be chosen based on the cautionary principle. We should resist both types. Though the downstream effects of CRISPR GMOs are slightly more uncertain, that is not a sufficient reason for using regular GMOs, as the cautionary principle does not require us to pick the better of two bad options.
5. Griesemer arrives at this conclusion (that molecular biologist are not equipped to evaluate the social implications of the HGI) after reviewing several examples of how biologists have oversimplified biological systems and their social impacts in the past. The first example he addresses is Wilson’s distortion of Weismann’s theory of the continuity of the germ plasm and the discontinuity of the body cells. Wilson’s cause and effect diagram mistakenly considered germ cells to analogous to the germ plasm (DNA), and thus perpetuated a model where there is no feedback between body cells and the hereditary material. Though Weismann himself seemed to be aware of the role of body cells in perpetuating genetic material, Wilson’s oversimplified diagram gave rise to Crick’s “central dogma,” which is both accepted in the general community of biologists, but frequently undermined in scientific findings. Though Griesemer does not address the “social” consequences of this historical error, he does indicate that this should be a cautionary tale of allowing specialized scientists to solidify global models in biology. The author also addresses the mistake of the eugenicists, who believed that diseases could be bred out of the population without understanding the role of recessive alleles in disease persistence. Because of these historical errors, Griesemer argues for outside review of the potential social impacts of the HGI, because specialized biologists have ignored broader context of biological findings in the past, with serious consequences.
Millstein makes a related argument about the need for outside oversight in the production of GMOs. After explaining how there is not necessarily scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs, particularly because of the unknown compound environmental effects of these organisms, she argues that proof of GMOs’ safety in “perfect” circumstances is not enough. Millstein criticizes the scientists who claim that GMO technologies are fundamentally safe, but that their applications re sometimes unsafe by arguing that “technology is never deployed in a context free situation.” She would likely agree with Griesemer that the scientists who discover and develop technologies are often blind to their broader implications, and that outside oversight of these technologies is advisable and necessary.

SamGarcia25
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Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby SamGarcia25 » Fri Sep 11, 2015 8:38 pm

2. The complete and original interpretation of an idea was lost during the transmission from scientist to scientist. This was due to an imperfect imitation of the idea stemming from simplification of a diagram. Specifically, Wilson’s simplification of Weismann’s diagram to make it more comprehensible for the public resulted in an incomplete replication of Weismann’s ideas. People prefer simplicity in explanations, and so Wilson’s diagram acquired widespread acceptance among the scientific community. This led scientists to disregard Weismannism while accepting Wilson’s representation, although both are intertwined. Griesemer argues this is where science has made a mistake; the acceptance of one view without incorporating the other has created an incomplete picture of the idea that was meant to be represented. This imperfect replication of Weismann’s diagram consequentially resulted in the “strange contortions” developmental biologists are experiencing and the false conception that one type of explanation is enough to convey biological causation.
Explaining how we might understand the entrenchment of “clear, simple, easily expressed, and portable” representations in terms of cultural replicators, ideas are not like genes where an exact copy can be passed from one person to another. Because the transmission of ideas from person to person is error-prone, simplicity is thought to be preferred for reducing this chance of error. Ironically, the simplification of a complex idea to reduce the error of misinterpretation has resulted in greater error anyway. In this situation with Weismann’s diagram and Wilson’s simplification of it, Griesemer argues this was in fact the case, and it has created confusion among scientists on how to go about explaining biological causation. This supports the thought that cultural transmission of ideas should not be explained the way genetic information is passed on because information may be missing or conveyed incorrectly. With what was mentioned above, it can be inferred that this analysis does support Tim Lewen’s claim that cultural units are not replicators.

3. Altruism has two completely different interpretations for survival when looked at from a biological model of evolution and a cultural model of evolution. According to the purely biological perspective, altruism is a mystery because the characteristic does not enhance fitness and the chances of survival, yet the trait persists in the population and is passed on from generation to generation. From an evolutionary stance, selfishness in terms of looking after yourself, offspring, and immediate family is the priority and favorable characteristic for making sure the genes are passed on successfully. Fitness is said to be reduced when worries about friends, and non-family within a community are taken into consideration; there is less focus on your own offspring and greater chances they will not obtain optimal fitness and maximal survivability. Sharing resources with others and unnecessary expenditure would all reduce fitness; there is no apparent benefit from altruism. Sober points this out, but transitions to say that when the cultural model is taken into consideration, studies have shown groups of people who are altruistic had greater fitness and chances of survival than a group of selfish individuals. Perhaps when a group cooperates and equally sacrifices or contributes, synergy occurs and the whole is more powerful than the sum of their individual parts. Altruistic individuals who venture on their own were found to be less fit than a selfish individual who lives or travels alone, so maybe this is in fact the case. The point being that genetics alone would not be enough to explain the phenomenon of altruism as explained above, but by including the cultural model a complete picture can be formed to explain it. Perhaps altruism is not a genetic trait, but a cultural one spread through the interaction of people. Whether a person is born with a disposition to acquiring the trait may depend on environment or the exchange of ideas after coming into contact with an altruistic person. Not culture alone or genetics alone could supply a satisfactory response.

4. Roberta Millstein’s point that genetically modified organisms are biologically new is not convincing enough with her claim that interactions of distantly related genes will enact some changes that will be larger in magnitude than what could occur in nature; it seems more like an exaggeration. She claims that the unknown consequences of gene interactions would cause these things to happen, but her own point is contradictory to what she previously stated. How could she be sure such disastrous things may occur when scientists are still unraveling the complexity of gene interactions? The CRISPR article by Heidi Ledford mentions one of the ecologists interviewed as saying about CRISPR gene-drives, “It’s so scary…but when you give it more thought and weight it against the environmental changes that we have already made and continue to make, it would be a drop in the ocean” (Ledford, 2015, p. 24). This is by no means justification to conduct reckless experiments on nature, but it normalizes the conversation by including a more scientific perspective and realistic expectation. In addition, the promising precision of the developing CRISPR intends to resolve the issue of mixing DNA from different species, erasing the major concern Millstein had. This provides an example of guidance for the cautionary principle to choose between conventional GMOs and CRISPR-style GMOs; the latter minimizes the unknown dangers that would lead scientists to reject the idea of using them commercially. One of her concerns is GMO labeling to discern genetically modified foods from non-genetically modified foods, but if losing the ability to distinguish conventionally mutated crops and genetically engineered crops after CRISPR is more developed and precise, would it still be a concern to her if the conventional and engineered resembled those already found in stores or in nature? It seems her problem resides in the fact that genetically modified foods are still too noticeably different genetically from conventional foods.

5. Griesemer expresses his concern for allowing molecular geneticists to make social and ethical decisions pertaining to the Human Genome Initiative by pointing out the flaws in molecular geneticists’ reductionist way of thinking. The complexity of genetics calls for the breaking down of such complex biological topics of interest into simple observable systems that may be examined as no more than a collection of parts without greater meaning. Although this reductionism may ease the difficulty of genetic research, Griesemer argues that the environmental aspect of biology, meaning the effects on a population level, are not taken into consideration and this creates an incomplete thought process lacking perspective. The scientists Millstein mentions in her article that claim those who desire GMO labeling are anti-science may be lacking this needed perspective. Their train of thought is on a different set of tracks, if you will. According to Griesemer, this is partly the reason he believes molecular geneticists should not be in charge of making these types of social decisions. He adds that both “proximate” and “ultimate” explanations are needed to begin attempts at answering the complex social issues arising from the Human Genome Initiative, and sadly these molecular biologists lack insight and cling to only one type of explanation. From the train analogy, the separate tracks of ideas need to eventually converge for beginning in the right direction with HGI. Millstein remarks that this issue of GMO labeling involves values that should not be neglected and also includes a choice for the public which deals with the issue of rights. According to Millstein, because this involves the issue of rights, the discussion and decision pertaining to GMO labeling falls outside the realm of science and should become subjected to political debate. In a parallel to Griesemer’s point and a playful stab at the anti-science statement, the molecular biologist in this GMO labeling situation is considered no better at making the decision than a non-molecular biologist.

eridolfi
Posts: 25
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 1:07 pm

Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby eridolfi » Fri Sep 11, 2015 9:09 pm

Elizabeth Ridolfi
Gisele
Diane
Lauren



#4
Millstein is convincing, but not totally correct in GMOs being biologically new. Selection and hybridization occur in nature with various degrees of frequency. Especially in the case of hybridization, even if a viable offspring is produced, this individual’s fitness is generally lower as it either cannot reproduce or will die before it can. While this doesn’t limit the frequency of hybrids, it controls the surviving number. There are even prezygotic barriers as well such as anatomy incompatibility, gametes not fusing differences in mating or breeding practices and others. While hybrids do occur in nature with varying degrees of success, they are only in like species and under special circumstances. As such, it would be highly unlikely that a tomato and a fish would mate and produce a viable offspring so in GMOs of this type, there is something biologically new. The caveat to this statement is that many forms of live share common genes to begin with, even things that are very different. For example, humans share a gene with flies that controls body segmentation. Does that mean this gene is different because it is present in two different organisms? This makes Millstein’s statement slightly less convincing as given that genes can show up in organisms that are very unrelated. I frame this argument this way because under the precautionary principle, something cannot be called safe until proven safe and in this case something cannot be called new unless it is proven new. Using CRISPR, genes are edited using no new to the organism's genetic material, so while the process is new the material is not, stretching the definition of what it means to be a new organism. Using the precautionary principle becomes much more difficult in this case because the precautionary principle hinges on something being new in the deepest sense of the word and this is debatable in this case as no different genetic material has been added. With traditional GMOs the precautionary principle can be implemented with a bit more ease because, while most organisms share at least a few genes, there are some that are not shared. If one of those was used, there would be no feasible way to know the effects beforehand.

#3
Lloyd rightly points out that depending on what model is being used the definition of “normal, healthy, diseased, and abnormal” will differ essentially. Health can’t be defined using one model because each model gives a different definition of what’s “normal or not”. A biochemical model shows the “proper functioning” of a given gene, but it fails to take into consideration different variation within the organism, because the focus of biochemical model is not in dealing with variation, but in what “events” leads to a disease. But since biochemical model does not take variation into consideration, any variation could be seen as a “disease”. The problem with this model is that not a every variation is a disease, a disease is a disease if it interferes with what’s perceived as a “normal function”. A medical model gives an explanation considering the whole organism; it doesn’t specifically look at a specific gene malfunction. In the case of virus, the medical model considers that even though a cold is a result of a virus, the problem is also the “failure of the immune system to fight the virus invasion effectively” Sober writes. This relates to the concept of altruism because looking at one model may not give us the whole picture of what’s going on. “Purely biological models” would try to give an explanation from the concept of the survival of the fittest, every man for himself type of definition-an inherent selfish inclination. Biological models can’t explain why some people would be inclined to be altruists. Using another model, in this instance, cultural evolution, we see that altruism is not that “abnormal”. With the genetic evolution model, altruism is abnormal but with a cultural evolution, altruism is not abnormal. Using cultural evolution, we see that “within a group, individuals are especially biased towards adopting altruism if most individuals are altruists and towards becoming selfish if most people are selfish”. From this model, we can understand altruism, and we can see why people would decide to be altruists. And this instance, altruism would be classified as “normal”. One model doesn’t give the whole meaning of a concept or a disease. Just like health cannot be defined using one model, “the prospects for altruism to evolve are enhanced when culture is included in the model”, Sober writes.
#5:

James Griesemer argues that molecular biology alone is not sufficient to evaluate the Human Genome Initiative’s impact on society; rather, knowledge of the complex environment in which the Human Genome Initiative was introduced is also required to effectively evaluate and predict its significance to society. Citing the example of birth defect rates changing with parental age, Griesemer demonstrates how a molecular-level understanding of a phenomenon is not sufficient to draw conclusions about that phenomenon in a broader societal context. Social problems like disease prevalence depend on a complex whole; simply understanding and knowing how to fix a problem on a genetic or molecular level does not necessarily equate to understanding and being able to resolve that problem for all of society. Griesemer argues that molecular biologists are not experts in sociology and demography, and for this reason do not have the authority to make promises about how the Human Genome Initiative will affect society.
Similarly, Roberta Millstein argues that when evaluating GMOs, both the molecular mechanisms of the technology and the broader context in which it is deployed should be taken into account. Pro-GMO scientists assume that all opposition to GMOs is based on a disbelief or mistrust in the safety of molecular genome editing techniques and construe this opposition as “anti-science.” However, these scientists forget that even if the actual molecular technology is safe and GMOs are not toxic−the evidence for which is still inconclusive−GMO technology still must be evaluated in a broader societal context. As a result, it is possible to oppose GMOs for reasons that have little to do with molecular biotechnology. For example, some individuals might take an anti-GMO stance due to concerns about the environmental impact of GMO usage or the social consequences of GMOs for farmers. As Millstein writes, “Technology is never deployed in a context-free situation.” Scientists would be wrong to accuse all anti-GMO advocates as being “anti-science,” because social, and in particular environmental, costs are very scientific and completely valid reasons to oppose GMO usage.

#2

Griesemer is attempting to traced back the history and the cultural evolution of biological theories. Weismannism was established to give simple visual explanation of the role of genes responsible for development and the causes of heredity. And Wilson reestablished this diagram, further simplifying the complex biological phenomenon. This diagram will more than like to be use to influence general public due to its simplicity and portability. Griesemer is presenting the problem of using reductionist approach to explain such complex nature of human of biology in simple diagram like Wilson is not sufficient enough and distorting the fundamental meaning of biological process. He also pointed out that the diagram Wilson produced was incorrect representation but diagram is very simple and easy to visualize that developmental biologists had been adopting such method while they are trying to demonstrate errors lies in Weismannism.
The history of biological theories are important to understand even though they are not correctly representing today’s biological theories. They are important part of history that show the complexities of biological context and the fundamental basis to improve upon all biological theories in modern biology. The entrenchment of “clear, simple, easily expressed, and portable” representation can be understand as the valuable fundamental basis, from which we can improve upon, in term of cultural replication. The valuable fundamental basis is a cultural units that can be replicated. “Because the diagram Wilson produced is wrong, its entrenchment in biological thinking has led to strange contortion as developmental biologist try to express what is wrong with Weismannism while relying on the very causal framework it expresses” (Griesemer, 1994). This statement proved that the valuable fundamental basis, cultural unit, is a copy of itself. Thus, this analysis supports Tim Lewen’s contention that “cultural units are not replicators.”

tschristoffel
Posts: 20
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Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby tschristoffel » Fri Sep 11, 2015 10:20 pm

2. What Griesemer is referring to in this passage is the corruption of August Weismann’s theory by E.B. Wilson ‘s textbook and subsequent biologists. Weismann was concerned with the transmission of information during cell division and postulated that “the continuity of germ cells from generation to generation is required to explain the phenomena of heredity” (Griesemer 1994, 76). However, when this idea was inserted into textbooks produced by Wilson, one of Weismann’s ideas —the discontinuity of soma cells to other soma cells—was apparently misrepresented as applying to soma-germ causation as well. Weismann’s ideas were summarized by a diagram that implied the lack of a causal pathway from soma cells to germ cells, thereby distorting them. This diagram proved highly influential, and biological work has been done under the assumption of its validity, as opposed to the validity of the actual ideas supported by Weismann. In reality, soma cells, which is representative of the environment, have a degree of causal power over germ cells. The view established by Wilson diagram therefore denies the role of ultimate (“why?”) biology, which focuses on causation due to the environment, in explaining information transmission. Thus, the Weismannism debacle is an example of how the refusal to accept both proximate (“how?”) and ultimate biology is detrimental to science.

The ability of such representations as Wilson’s diagram to spread and become entrenched in biological thought supports the assertion that “cultural units are not replicators.” Although the ability for the diagram to spread so easily through the minds of biologists at first seems to undermine the claim, the fact that it was unable to faithfully represent (“copy”) Weismann’s actual ideas in the first place shows that the stringent definition of “replication” used by Lewens does not always apply. However, this example in a way demonstrates the duality of the replicative nature of cultural units, for the diagrammatic representation was able to accurately spread nonetheless.


3. Elizabeth Lloyd writes that because “abnormality” has many definitions in different scientific contexts, science has failed to define it in an objective way. From the perspective of molecular biology, a gene is abnormal if it deviates from some objective scheme. From the standpoint of proper function, abnormality exists if some object does not fulfill its subjectively-decided “proper function.” This list goes on. Scientists, then tend to slip from one concept to another, and thereby eliminate any notion of consistency.

This problem could also be applied to the concept of altruism. From the standpoint of genetic evolution, altruism is defined as self-sacrificial behavior. Self-sacrificial behavior is accepted to result in the lowering of an individual’s fitness, and could therefore be rendered undesirable from a biological standpoint. However, altruism has been recognized in many species, which presents it as a puzzle to scientists. Elliott Sober seeks to solve this puzzle by introducing a cultural aspect of altruism into the mix, citing research by Boyd and Richerson. Boyd and Richerson suggest that altruism largely exists due to a form of conformist bias. Instead of looking at a population in a given environment, we can look for an individual in a given “microhabitat.” When individuals interact, they move outside their respective microhabitats and therefore feel the need to adopt characteristics of the other through conformist bias, as each are unfamiliar to the other’s microhabitat. Thus if altruism is common, it will be able to overcome the biological demands for selfishness on the basis of its ability to spread culturally, even if selfishness increases the fitness of individuals relative to altruism.

Altruism in the biological sense is thus strictly considered a fitness-lowering behavior, while in the cultural realm it is a behavior that takes into account the needs of other individuals. By Lloyd’s reasoning, this means that altruism, like abnormality, has failed to be consistently and objectively defined by scientists.


4. Millstein is accurate in saying that there is something new about the modern methods of genetic engineering. As she notes, genes from distant lineages are able to be combined with each other, which means there will be a degree of uncertainty as to how they interact with the host genes and the environment. However, it should be noted that this risk is also present in the traditional methods of artificial selection. Dogs, for example, were artificially selected for certain traits. While humans were successful in achieving the traits they so desired, more subtle negative effects were to be found, such as back problems for wiener dogs.

Millstein also states that GMO’s result in "changes of a larger magnitude than would be likely to occur in nature." This statement downplays the element of time involved in genetic change. It is obvious that great changes occur in nature, as most traits we observe came to be by way way of natural selection. Whales, for instance, have a very complicated evolutionary history, adapting to land and then migrating back to the sea. Nature is capable of equal, and quite possibly greater, levels of genetic change than GMO’s. What Millstein might also mean to say is that GMO’s result in greater changes over a certain time period. I agree that this is certainly the case with GMO’s because genetic engineering does not need to wait for a certain mutation or variation to appear in the gene pool. It can also be said that there is an element of “purpose” with respect to GMO’s, which will overcome the dilution of extreme traits by more common traits in the population. If GMO’s can be established as “novel,” it would have to be due to the acceleration of changes, as opposed to simply the magnitude of changes.

If we have to choose between conventional GMO’s and CRISPR-style GMO’s, the cautionary principle would suggest that we keep with convention, as the drawbacks of the conventional system are already known due to its longer history of use. The CRISPR system is relatively new and therefore needs time for scientists to fully understand it. Before scientists begin to widely use the system, they need to fully understand its benefits and drawbacks.


5. Griesemer arrives at this conclusion by referencing cases where scientists came to inaccurate conclusions due to a lack of consideration for context. Earlier in Griesemer’s article, he divides biology into two camps: “why” and “how” biology. He then claims that scientists have a habit of using only one or the other in order to solve scientific issues. This would, in Griesemer’s view, restrict the context of an issue. As an example, Griesemer references the popularity of eugenics in the early 20th century, noting that eugenicists did not take into account the complexity of genes, as illustrated by the existence of recessive traits.

In another example, Griesemer notes that we can see this problem in the Human Genome Initiative, as the benefits of the HGI depend on the availability of other services, such as genetic counseling and abortion, as well as the patterns in migration that will affect a nation’s genetic composition. The context does not even have to come from other molecular biologists, as Griesemer writes:

“Who in the mid-1980s, when the HGI was initiated, would have predicted the fall of the Soviet Union, or the consequent changes in global migration rates and patterns, or the possible increase in the ratio of outbreeding to inbreeding this might cause? How often is migration of peoples considered in arguments for or against the health benefits of HGI?” (85).

The passage above demonstrates that information relating to the HGI could come from other types of scientists.

Griesemer’s gripes can apply to GMO’s as well. Roberta Millstein notes that there are numerous issues with scientists accusing GMO skeptics of being “anti-science”—issues which Griesemer’s ideas would support. Most of the reaction to GMO skeptics seems to be coming from geneticists as well as other scientists and non-scientists who point to a number of studies that fail to show harms attributable to GMO’s. Absent from these responses, however, are economists and policy experts who might predict economic impacts of GMO crops on the agricultural economy, or environmental scientists who point to the harmful effects of GMO’s on the environment.

JustinN
Posts: 17
Joined: Wed Aug 05, 2015 2:17 pm

Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby JustinN » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:05 pm

I worked with Kingsley Gbaidoo

#2
This passage explains that Wilson diagrams create an oversimplified description of how information flows in biology. Because of its simplicity, these explanations are widely used when explaining biological concepts to people with basic knowledge of biology. Through repetitive use, these diagrams have become commonplace in biological discussion and have gained “strong social influence,” (p. 80-81). This becomes a problem because Wilson diagrams lead to the assertion that, “[n]ucleic acids are the only causal agents,” in heredity, which isn’t true (p.80). In reality, “the first germ cells arise as products of somatic differentiation,” despite how germ cells are shown to have a continuous lineage in Wilson diagrams (p.80). Thus Wilson diagrams, in conjunction with Crick’s central dogma, support the idea that DNA, “govern[s] all the significant events in the body” (p.75)
Overall, Griesemer is trying to show that the, “false conception of reproduction as a flow of information,” puts too much power in the hands of “How” biologists that seek to understand the genome as an attempt to understand human nature (p.69). He seeks to show that the HGI cannot be the ultimate solution to our social, biological and health problems, by explaining why scientists generally overvalue the significance of our genes.
In terms of cultural replicators, Wilson diagrams would consider the initial idea as the germ cell line and all alterations to the initial idea as the somatic cells. Using Tim Lewen’s cake example, the initial Victorian cake would be the germ cell line and any other deviation is somatic. This analysis undermines Lewen’s argument against cultural units acting as replicators because it assumes that the original Victorian cake is only replicated if it's reproduced and remains unchanged. This doesn’t work because all forms of the idea can replicate. Others can accurately replicate the cake and continue the lineage, but the variations in the cake recipe can still go on to replicate themselves as their own “germ cell” lineage.
The problem with Lewen’s argument in the terms of Wilson’s diagrams is that it assumes that differentiation in the original idea cannot be replicated due to the assumption that somatic cells never get a chance to replicate.

#3
Lloyd explains that health isn’t an objective state of being, rather “such classifications are inevitably applied by comparing the state of the organism to some ideal,” (p.100). She goes on to make the point that this ideal state isn’t always defined by a point in someone’s life. For example, If someone was born with bad kidneys, their definition of normal wouldn’t be when they felt the strongest but rather an, “abstract notion of ‘proper [function]’” (p.100). In all but the most straight forward cases, creating a classification of what is normal, “involves a series of judgments about the ideal forms of human life,” (p.102). Those judgments consist of two parts: constructing a sense of normality on an, “organismic basis,” and constructing a sense of normality on a set of, “socially negotiated standards,” (p.106). Judging normality in an organismal sense and socially can be seen as judging it in terms of genetic evolution and cultural evolution respectively.
To judge the concept of altruism in terms of genetic evolution, one could look at an example of a group of monkeys feeding in the trees. If there is a snake in the tree, that puts all of the monkeys in potential harm’s way, but if one yells out to warn the others, it takes all the risk by directing the snake’s attention its way. Becoming a target for the snake assures death and effectively lowers its fitness to zero. But if the group of monkeys that survives is comprised of enough family members (ie. At least two brothers or sisters, or at least eight cousins) to carry enough of its genes, the monkey is effectively sacrificing itself to save itself. However, some altruistic behaviors, like homosexuality, require a different angle of explanation.
In the light of genetics, homosexuality doesn’t make sense. Participating in homosexuality reduces the organism’s fitness to zero without benefiting any other organism. However it doesn’t harm the function of the organism in an organismal sense. Any attempt to classify homosexuality as a disease, “depends on whether we think homosexual behavior should count as normal functioning in human beings,” (p.106-107). But if we understand homosexuality in the context of cultural evolution, it begins to make sense. Genetic evolution requires vertical transmission of genes from parents to offspring while cultural evolution allows for oblique transmission to spread ideas.

#4
Millstein is fairly correct in saying that GMO’s are biologically new. GMO’s are new in the sense that scientists are now able to give organisms segments of DNA that it would be nearly impossible to attain through natural and artificial selection. Through conventional methods, if a plant were exposed to relatively low levels of herbicides, breeders could artificially select the plants that best survived the herbicides and cross those breeds in hopes of attaining a fully resistant plant. What is new about GMO technology is that scientists do not wait for the plant to naturally manifest the resistance, but instead transfers the resistant gene directly to the plant. The part about it that is especially new is that scientists can take the gene for herbicide resistance from a distantly related species; like another plant species, a family of fungi, a geographically isolated species of rodents, or bacteria. The part of Millstein’s argument that is convincing is that these transgenes are taken from “very different genetic context,” thus leading to unpredictable effects on expression. It is this ability of GMO technology to create organisms that would be out of our reach that makes it novel.
The cautionary principle tells us that a new product with disputable ultimate effects should be resisted. By this measure we should resist both styles of GMO technology. Conventional GMO technology has passed the short term test, and studies show that they are safe in most cases. However, There are still disputes of how conventional GMO’s effect humans across multiple generations. With the discovery of epigenetics comes a new avenue of questions about GMO’s could affect future generations. We should also be cautious of how to deal with CRISPR-style GMO’s. Organisms edited with the CRISPR system are difficult to identify since they don’t need to include DNA from distant species. The main concern is being able to track CRISPR GMO’s if they escape into the wild or outbreed with wild species. Since their magnitude of change cannot be confidently measured, the CRISPR-Cas9 system should also be resisted.

#5
Griesemer arrives at the conclusion that molecular biologists do not have the qualifications to impose their beliefs onto social evaluation for the HGI because molecular biologists work by dealing with problems out of their context; an approach that ineffective for social issues. Griesemer starts in his article by explaining the distinction between proximate and ultimate biology. Proximate biology seeks to explain how phenomena occur on a mechanistic level while ultimate biology seeks to explain why biological phenomena occur. For example, in the case of explaining the persistence of different blood types: proximate biology would explain that different blood types occur from random mutations appearing in the genes that encode glycolipids and glycoproteins found on the surface of blood cells lead to differences in phenotypes, while ultimate biology would explain that natural variation in blood types confer differential fitness among individuals in a population and the amount of fitness gained is dependent on environmental factors.
Genetics has been successful because of its use of proximate biology in solving problems. Molecular biologists create mechanistic explanations by isolating proximate biology from ultimate biology. Griesemer explains that the mechanistic approach characteristic of molecular biology, “is a tempting model for the treatment of social problems,” given its success in the scientific community (p.72). The problem with proximate explanations in the attempt to solve social problems is in their failure, “to take into account the complexities of their subject and the limitations of their theories,” (p.83). The basis of ignoring the context of the situation to look for a solution creates the problems faced with relying on proximate biology for answers to social problems. Therefore, molecular biologists shouldn’t have the authority to make social claims about the HGI because proximate thinking ignores the ultimate complexities of social problems.
In the GMO debate, declaring opposition to GMO’s as anti-science is another example of proximate biology ignoring the context of the problem. Millstein writes that the issue over labeling GMO’s, “is a question about the public’s right to know and the right to decide what they eat,” rather than an objection to the scientific evidence of GMO safety. By a mechanistic approach, an item should only be labeled if there is something intrinsic to the consumer that is worth noting, like the content of peanuts or milk. In reality, labeling GMO products is about the knowledge of consuming something that goes against their values.

Nancy Galeno
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Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby Nancy Galeno » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:54 pm

Nancy Galeno, Bowen Tan, Franklin Tran, Selestine Mtei

1. The models of transmission systems that are responsible with the spread of cultural traits include; the vertical transmission that involves passing cultural traits from parents to offspring, oblique transmission that involves passing cultural traits from any member of an older generation to a younger generation and horizontal transmission that involves passing traits between members of the same population. These models do explain the cultural evolution that takes place and their resulted consequences. As an example these models are being used to show how back in the days women in Italy used to give birth to five kids and above but after a while that number reduced to two kids only. So with that fact, it does show that it is something that is connected more to cultural evolution. Because once kids are born then that trait of having two kids is passed down to them from their parents, their peers and other members of their society. An example of qualitative assumption that a social scientist might make is that genes form lineages while cultural units do not. Sober thinks that with such an assumption being wrong then culture should be used as a crucial way of explaining cultural evolution compared to using biology to explain biological evolution since cultural changes occur faster.
I do think that Sober’s view is plausible because of the time essence that he pointed out when he said that, “One virtue of these models of cultural evolution is that they place culture and biology into a common framework, so that the relative contributions to an outcome are rendered commensurable. What becomes clear in these models is that in assessing their relative importance of biology and culture, time is of the essence. Culture is often a more powerful determiner of change than biological evolution because cultural changes occur faster” (Sober, pg. 35). Also I would say that memes are easily passed over from one generation to another hence making cultural evolution faster. While biological evolution tends to be slowed by the interruption of crossovers that occurs when genes are passed down from one generation to another.

3. According to Lloyd, “what is abnormal under the biochemical model is not necessarily abnormal under a medical model”. It is possible that something such as a gene may be “abnormal” from a molecular aspect but may not show any effects that are harmful. In other words, should something still be considered “abnormal” if a mutated gene is there but is “silenced”? Some scientists may argue no, and others may argue yes. A molecular model focuses on the organism as a whole rather than on the cellular so under this description the answer would be no because there is nothing changing the proper function of the organism in a way it would need to be treated with medicine. On the other hand, a biochemical model would label a gene variation as an abnormality because it differs from a main scheme. This biochemical model goes with the beliefs that “"there should also be as many hereditary diseases as there are different genes representing abnormal sub- molecular chemical structures." (Temkin, Owsei). This is the type distinctions is what leads to the confusion and error that arises from the biological means of “normal” and “abnormal”. As Lloyd argues, health cannot be defined purely objectively or scientifically. This ties in also the evolutionary standpoint of altruism and how we evolve.

Altruism is so biologically mysterious because there is no one-way to look at it. It requires a mixture of both objective and scientific objectives, and even then there could still be some inconsistencies. As stated, the prospects for altruism are enhanced when culture is included in the model along with the biological model. Altruism in the biological model would function as something that depends on what is best for an organism in their given environment. However, when taking into consideration altruism in the cultural model then there are so many more aspects that come into play such as


4. It is often argued that GMOs frequently occur in correlation with people’s agricultural production activities and artificial selections. From this point of view, in some extent, those gene modified agricultural products are not new. However, the technique used for modern GMOs is substantially different from that in ancient times. It can introduce a foreign gene from a different species into another, which is a more efficient and precise method of gene modification. From the view of the concept and efficacy of modern gene engineering, Millstein's argument is convincing.

Changes of a larger magnitude include indicators such as frequency, efficiency and outcomes. Comparing to other methods, gene engineering method represent the use of distantly related genes. But it is not enough to build up a robust argument due to the results of whether genes are modified. Gene modified occurring naturally or by other methods may cause the same results as gene engineering does. Meanwhile, a relative high frequency of modifying genes doesn’t induce different results from traditional methods necessarily. However, the unpredictable results caused by gene engineering due to quite a different genetic context are considered as a novelty of GMOs. Although it is beyond the former knowledge of modifying genes, the results of genetic expressions are unforeseeable because there might be the same genetic context in a small extent of certain genome. Also, whether it can express certain proteins that scientists target is examined well by a series of researches.

According to the cautionary principle, something which may bring unknown or disrupted ultimate effects should be resisted. CRISPR-style GMOs are modified precisely so that it can be difficult for regulators and farmers to examine. But the strength of CRISPR-style GMOs comparing to conventional GMOs is, it is more accurate which may decrease the risks of mixing DNA from different species. The ultimate effect for CRISPR-style GMOs is to track and examine those products efficiently. In contrast, the conventional GMOs are much easier to detect, though the costs may be expensive. However, the safety of conventional GMOs is full with debates. Due to the guidance of the cautionary principle, both of two kinds of GMOs should be resisted in order to avoid arising food safety and social problems.


5. Griesemer concludes that molecular biologists should not have the authority over social implications for the Human Genome Project because they tend to think in terms of proximate explanations, the mechanistic and causal explanations of science. Griesmer argues that ultimate explanations, the “why” explanations of contextual significance, are also important and that these two explanations are both necessary in solving scientific problems. Griesemer uses the example of Wilson’s diagram in Weismann’s theory to explain the negative impacts of the drift between the ultimate and proximate explanations. Wilson’s diagram was heavily flawed because it attempted to explain the relationship between germ cells and somatic cells using primarily influences from ultimate explanations in evolutionary perspectives. Because it lacked proximate explanation, Wilson’s diagram oversimplified Weismann’s theory and mistook the germ cell for being continuous, not the germ plasma. In the context of the HGI, molecular biologists disregard the ultimate explanations from population biologists and demographics. The social context of the HGI requires knowledge about these subjects and because molecular biologists do not have this expertise, they should not have the authority on the social evaluation over the HGI.

In the GMO controversy, the argument against GMO critics being anti-science is analogous to having a proximate explanation bias and has little concern for the context of the social evaluation of GMOs. Even though GMOs are deemed to be relatively safe, the anti-science claims do not take into account the social context of GMOs. For example, the concern for labelling GMOs is not an issue about the questioning of GMO science but rather having the right to know what one is eating and having the right to decide what to eat. The anti-science claim also does not take into context of other systems such as the possible effects of using distantly related genes in different genetic contexts or the environmental risks of overusing pesticides in GM crops. The anti-science claim also forgets that GM science is not solely aimed towards new knowledge in biotechnology but also the social applications of GMOs that satisfy our values, which Milstein defines to be “making money for biotech corporations and their shareholders, feeding the hungry, developing new and beneficial strains of food for consumers, reducing pesticide and herbicide use to save money and help the environment.” The anti-science claims must take into account these ultimate explanations to have a better social evaluation for GMOs.

Selestine
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 9:15 am

Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby Selestine » Sat Sep 12, 2015 12:08 am

Question 1:
The models of transmission systems that are responsible with the spread of cultural traits include; the vertical transmission that involves passing cultural traits from parents to offspring, oblique transmission that involves passing cultural traits from any member of an older generation to a younger generation and horizontal transmission that involves passing traits between members of the same population. These models do explain the cultural evolution that takes place and their resulted consequences. As an example these models are being used to show how back in the days women in Italy used to give birth to five kids and above but after a while that number reduced to two kids only. So with that fact, it does show that it is something that is connected more to cultural evolution. Because once kids are born then that trait of having two kids is passed down to them from their parents, their peers and other members of their society. An example of qualitative assumption that a social scientist might make is that genes form lineages while cultural units do not. Sober thinks that with such an assumption being wrong then culture should be used as a crucial way of explaining cultural evolution compared to using biology to explain biological evolution since cultural changes occur faster. I do think that Sober’s view is plausible because of the time essence that he pointed out when he said that, “One virtue of these models of cultural evolution is that they place culture and biology into a common framework, so that the relative contributions to an outcome are rendered commensurable. What becomes clear in these models is that in assessing their relative importance of biology and culture, time is of the essence. Culture is often a more powerful determiner of change than biological evolution because cultural changes occur faster” (Sober, pg. 35). Also I would say that memes are easily passed over from one generation to another hence making cultural evolution faster. While biological evolution tends to be slowed by the interruption of crossovers that occurs when genes are passed down from one generation to another.

Question 3:
According to Lloyd, “what is abnormal under the biochemical model is not necessarily abnormal under a medical model”. It is possible that something such as a gene may be “abnormal” from a molecular aspect but may not show any effects that are harmful. In other words, should something still be considered “abnormal” if a mutated gene is there but is “silenced”? Some scientists may argue no, and others may argue yes. A molecular model focuses on the organism as a whole rather than on the cellular so under this description the answer would be no because there is nothing changing the proper function of the organism in a way it would need to be treated with medicine. On the other hand, a biochemical model would label a gene variation as an abnormality because it differs from a main scheme. This biochemical model goes with the beliefs that “"there should also be as many hereditary diseases as there are different genes representing abnormal sub- molecular chemical structures." (Temkin, Owsei). This is the type distinctions is what leads to the confusion and error that arises from the biological means of “normal” and “abnormal”. As Lloyd argues, health cannot be defined purely objectively or scientifically. This ties in also the evolutionary standpoint of altruism and how we evolve.

Altruism is so biologically mysterious because there is no one-way to look at it. It requires a mixture of both objective and scientific objectives, and even then there could still be some inconsistencies. As stated, the prospects for altruism are enhanced when culture is included in the model along with the biological model. Altruism in the biological model would function as something that depends on what is best for an organism in their given environment. However, when taking into consideration altruism in the cultural model then there are so many more aspects that come into play such as the nutrition, social acceptance of behaviors and even the way that they think about what is “normal” and “abnormal”.

Question 4:
It is often argued that GMOs frequently occur in correlation with people’s agricultural production activities and artificial selections. From this point of view, in some extent, those gene modified agricultural products are not new. However, the technique used for modern GMOs is substantially different from that in ancient times. It can introduce a foreign gene from a different species into another, which is a more efficient and precise method of gene modification. From the view of the concept and efficacy of modern gene engineering, Millstein's argument is convincing.

Changes of a larger magnitude include indicators such as frequency, efficiency and outcomes. Comparing to other methods, gene engineering method represent the use of distantly related genes. But it is not enough to build up a robust argument due to the results of whether genes are modified. Gene modified occurring naturally or by other methods may cause the same results as gene engineering does. Meanwhile, a relative high frequency of modifying genes doesn’t induce different results from traditional methods necessarily. However, the unpredictable results caused by gene engineering due to quite a different genetic context are considered as a novelty of GMOs. Although it is beyond the former knowledge of modifying genes, the results of genetic expressions are unforeseeable because there might be the same genetic context in a small extent of certain genome. Also, whether it can express certain proteins that scientists target is examined well by a series of researches.

According to the cautionary principle, something which may bring unknown or disrupted ultimate effects should be resisted. CRISPR-style GMOs are modified precisely so that it can be difficult for regulators and farmers to examine. But the strength of CRISPR-style GMOs comparing to conventional GMOs is, it is more accurate which may decrease the risks of mixing DNA from different species. The ultimate effect for CRISPR-style GMOs is to track and examine those products efficiently. In contrast, the conventional GMOs are much easier to detect, though the costs may be expensive. However, the safety of conventional GMOs is full with debates. Due to the guidance of the cautionary principle, both of two kinds of GMOs should be resisted in order to avoid arising food safety and social problems.

Question 5:
Griesemer concludes that molecular biologists should not have the authority over social implications for the Human Genome Project because they tend to think in terms of proximate explanations, the mechanistic and causal explanations of science. Griesmer argues that ultimate explanations, the “why” explanations of contextual significance, are also important and that these two explanations are both necessary in solving scientific problems. Griesemer uses the example of Wilson’s diagram in Weismann’s theory to explain the negative impacts of the drift between the ultimate and proximate explanations. Wilson’s diagram was heavily flawed because it attempted to explain the relationship between germ cells and somatic cells using primarily influences from ultimate explanations in evolutionary perspectives. Because it lacked proximate explanation, Wilson’s diagram oversimplified Weismann’s theory and mistook the germ cell for being continuous, not the germ plasma. In the context of the HGI, molecular biologists disregard the ultimate explanations from population biologists and demographics. The social context of the HGI requires knowledge about these subjects and because molecular biologists do not have this expertise, they should not have the authority on the social evaluation over the HGI.

In the GMO controversy, the argument against GMO critics being anti-science is analogous to having a proximate explanation bias and has little concern for the context of the social evaluation of GMOs. Even though GMOs are deemed to be relatively safe, the anti-science claims do not take into account the social context of GMOs. For example, the concern for labelling GMOs is not an issue about the questioning of GMO science but rather having the right to know what one is eating and having the right to decide what to eat. The anti-science claim also does not take into context of other systems such as the possible effects of using distantly related genes in different genetic contexts or the environmental risks of overusing pesticides in GM crops. The anti-science claim also forgets that GM science is not solely aimed towards new knowledge in biotechnology but also the social applications of GMOs that satisfy our values, which Milstein defines to be “making money for biotech corporations and their shareholders, feeding the hungry, developing new and beneficial strains of food for consumers, reducing pesticide and herbicide use to save money and help the environment.” The anti-science claims must take into account these ultimate explanations to have a better social evaluation for GMOs.

Group Members:
Franklin Tran
Bowen Tan
Nancy Galeno

fdtran
Posts: 23
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 5:49 pm

Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby fdtran » Sat Sep 12, 2015 12:09 am

Group Members: Franklin Tran, Bowen Tan, Nancy Galeno, Selestine Mtei

1.) The models of transmission systems that are responsible with the spread of cultural traits include; the vertical transmission that involves passing cultural traits from parents to offspring, oblique transmission that involves passing cultural traits from any member of an older generation to a younger generation and horizontal transmission that involves passing traits between members of the same population. These models do explain the cultural evolution that takes place and their resulted consequences. As an example these models are being used to show how back in the days women in Italy used to give birth to five kids and above but after a while that number reduced to two kids only. So with that fact, it does show that it is something that is connected more to cultural evolution. Because once kids are born then that trait of having two kids is passed down to them from their parents, their peers and other members of their society. An example of qualitative assumption that a social scientist might make is that genes form lineages while cultural units do not. Sober thinks that with such an assumption being wrong then culture should be used as a crucial way of explaining cultural evolution compared to using biology to explain biological evolution since cultural changes occur faster. I do think that Sober’s view is plausible because of the time essence that he pointed out when he said that, “One virtue of these models of cultural evolution is that they place culture and biology into a common framework, so that the relative contributions to an outcome are rendered commensurable. What becomes clear in these models is that in assessing their relative importance of biology and culture, time is of the essence. Culture is often a more powerful determiner of change than biological evolution because cultural changes occur faster” (Sober, pg. 35). Also I would say that memes are easily passed over from one generation to another hence making cultural evolution faster. While biological evolution tends to be slowed by the interruption of crossovers that occurs when genes are passed down from one generation to another.

3.)According to Lloyd, “what is abnormal under the biochemical model is not necessarily abnormal under a medical model”. It is possible that something such as a gene may be “abnormal” from a molecular aspect but may not show any effects that are harmful. In other words, should something still be considered “abnormal” if a mutated gene is there but is “silenced”? Some scientists may argue no, and others may argue yes. A molecular model focuses on the organism as a whole rather than on the cellular so under this description the answer would be no because there is nothing changing the proper function of the organism in a way it would need to be treated with medicine. On the other hand, a biochemical model would label a gene variation as an abnormality because it differs from a main scheme. This biochemical model goes with the beliefs that “"there should also be as many hereditary diseases as there are different genes representing abnormal sub- molecular chemical structures." (Temkin, Owsei). This is the type distinctions is what leads to the confusion and error that arises from the biological means of “normal” and “abnormal”. As Lloyd argues, health cannot be defined purely objectively or scientifically. This ties in also the evolutionary standpoint of altruism and how we evolve.

Altruism is so biologically mysterious because there is no one-way to look at it. It requires a mixture of both objective and scientific objectives, and even then there could still be some inconsistencies. As stated, the prospects for altruism are enhanced when culture is included in the model along with the biological model. Altruism in the biological model would function as something that depends on what is best for an organism in their given environment. However, when taking into consideration altruism in the cultural model then there are so many more aspects that come into play such as the nutrition, social acceptance of behaviors and even the way that they think about what is “normal” and “abnormal”.

4.) It is often argued that GMOs frequently occur in correlation with people’s agricultural production activities and artificial selections. From this point of view, in some extent, those gene modified agricultural products are not new. However, the technique used for modern GMOs is substantially different from that in ancient times. It can introduce a foreign gene from a different species into another, which is a more efficient and precise method of gene modification. From the view of the concept and efficacy of modern gene engineering, Millstein's argument is convincing.

Changes of a larger magnitude include indicators such as frequency, efficiency and outcomes. Comparing to other methods, gene engineering method represent the use of distantly related genes. But it is not enough to build up a robust argument due to the results of whether genes are modified. Gene modified occurring naturally or by other methods may cause the same results as gene engineering does. Meanwhile, a relative high frequency of modifying genes doesn’t induce different results from traditional methods necessarily. However, the unpredictable results caused by gene engineering due to quite a different genetic context are considered as a novelty of GMOs. Although it is beyond the former knowledge of modifying genes, the results of genetic expressions are unforeseeable because there might be the same genetic context in a small extent of certain genome. Also, whether it can express certain proteins that scientists target is examined well by a series of researches.

According to the cautionary principle, something which may bring unknown or disrupted ultimate effects should be resisted. CRISPR-style GMOs are modified precisely so that it can be difficult for regulators and farmers to examine. But the strength of CRISPR-style GMOs comparing to conventional GMOs is, it is more accurate which may decrease the risks of mixing DNA from different species. The ultimate effect for CRISPR-style GMOs is to track and examine those products efficiently. In contrast, the conventional GMOs are much easier to detect, though the costs may be expensive. However, the safety of conventional GMOs is full with debates. Due to the guidance of the cautionary principle, both kinds of GMOs should be resisted in order to avoid arising food safety and social problems.

5.)Griesemer concludes that molecular biologists should not have the authority over social implications for the Human Genome Project because they tend to think in terms of proximate explanations, the mechanistic and causal explanations of science. Griesmer argues that ultimate explanations, the “why” explanations of contextual significance, are also important and that these two explanations are both necessary in solving scientific problems. Griesemer uses the example of Wilson’s diagram in Weismann’s theory to explain the negative impacts of the drift between the ultimate and proximate explanations. Wilson’s diagram was heavily flawed because it attempted to explain the relationship between germ cells and somatic cells using primarily influences from ultimate explanations in evolutionary perspectives. Because it lacked proximate explanation, Wilson’s diagram oversimplified Weismann’s theory and mistook the germ cell for being continuous, not the germ plasma. In the context of the HGI, molecular biologists disregard the ultimate explanations from population biologists and demographics. The social context of the HGI requires knowledge about these subjects and because molecular biologists do not have this expertise, they should not have the authority on the social evaluation over the HGI.

In the GMO controversy, the argument against GMO critics being anti-science is analogous to having a proximate explanation bias and has little concern for the context of the social evaluation of GMOs. Even though GMOs are deemed to be relatively safe, the anti-science claims do not take into account the social context of GMOs. For example, the concern for labelling GMOs is not an issue about the questioning of GMO science but rather having the right to know what one is eating and having the right to decide what to eat. The anti-science claim also does not take into context of other systems such as the possible effects of using distantly related genes in different genetic contexts or the environmental risks of overusing pesticides in GM crops. The anti-science claim also forgets that GM science is not solely aimed towards new knowledge in biotechnology but also the social applications of GMOs that satisfy our values, which Milstein defines to be “making money for biotech corporations and their shareholders, feeding the hungry, developing new and beneficial strains of food for consumers, reducing pesticide and herbicide use to save money and help the environment.” The anti-science claims must take into account these ultimate explanations to have a better social evaluation for GMOs.

Bowen Tan
Posts: 26
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 5:57 pm

Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby Bowen Tan » Sat Sep 12, 2015 12:15 am

1. The models of transmission systems that are responsible with the spread of cultural traits include; the vertical transmission that involves passing cultural traits from parents to offspring, oblique transmission that involves passing cultural traits from any member of an older generation to a younger generation and horizontal transmission that involves passing traits between members of the same population. These models do explain the cultural evolution that takes place and their resulted consequences. As an example these models are being used to show how back in the days women in Italy used to give birth to five kids and above but after a while that number reduced to two kids only. So with that fact, it does show that it is something that is connected more to cultural evolution. Because once kids are born then that trait of having two kids is passed down to them from their parents, their peers and other members of their society. An example of qualitative assumption that a social scientist might make is that genes form lineages while cultural units do not. Sober thinks that with such an assumption being wrong then culture should be used as a crucial way of explaining cultural evolution compared to using biology to explain biological evolution since cultural changes occur faster. I do think that Sober’s view is plausible because of the time essence that he pointed out when he said that, “One virtue of these models of cultural evolution is that they place culture and biology into a common framework, so that the relative contributions to an outcome are rendered commensurable. What becomes clear in these models is that in assessing their relative importance of biology and culture, time is of the essence. Culture is often a more powerful determiner of change than biological evolution because cultural changes occur faster” (Sober, pg. 35). Also I would say that memes are easily passed over from one generation to another hence making cultural evolution faster. While biological evolution tends to be slowed by the interruption of crossovers that occurs when genes are passed down from one generation to another. (Total words: 349)

3. According to Lloyd, “what is abnormal under the biochemical model is not necessarily abnormal under a medical model”. It is possible that something such as a gene may be “abnormal” from a molecular aspect but may not show any effects that are harmful. In other words, should something still be considered “abnormal” if a mutated gene is there but is “silenced”? Some scientists may argue no, and others may argue yes. A molecular model focuses on the organism as a whole rather than on the cellular so under this description the answer would be no because there is nothing changing the proper function of the organism in a way it would need to be treated with medicine. On the other hand, a biochemical model would label a gene variation as an abnormality because it differs from a main scheme. This biochemical model goes with the beliefs that “"there should also be as many hereditary diseases as there are different genes representing abnormal sub- molecular chemical structures." (Temkin, Owsei). This is the type distinctions is what leads to the confusion and error that arises from the biological means of “normal” and “abnormal”. As Lloyd argues, health cannot be defined purely objectively or scientifically. This ties in also the evolutionary standpoint of altruism and how we evolve.

Altruism is so biologically mysterious because there is no one-way to look at it. It requires a mixture of both objective and scientific objectives, and even then there could still be some inconsistencies. As stated, the prospects for altruism are enhanced when culture is included in the model along with the biological model. Altruism in the biological model would function as something that depends on what is best for an organism in their given environment. However, when taking into consideration altruism in the cultural model then there are so many more aspects that come into play such as the nutrition, social acceptance of behaviors and even the way that they think about what is “normal” and “abnormal”. (Total words: 333)

4. It is often argued that GMOs frequently occur in correlation with people’s agricultural production activities and artificial selections. From this point of view, in some extent, those gene modified agricultural products are not new. However, the technique used for modern GMOs is substantially different from that in ancient times. It can introduce a foreign gene from a different species into another, which is a more efficient and precise method of gene modification. From the view of the concept and efficacy of modern gene engineering, Millstein's argument is convincing.

Changes of a larger magnitude include indicators such as frequency, efficiency and outcomes. Comparing to other methods, gene engineering method represent the use of distantly related genes. But it is not enough to build up a robust argument due to the results of whether genes are modified. Gene modified occurring naturally or by other methods may cause the same results as gene engineering does. Meanwhile, a relative high frequency of modifying genes doesn’t induce different results from traditional methods necessarily. However, the unpredictable results caused by gene engineering due to quite a different genetic context are considered as a novelty of GMOs. Although it is beyond the former knowledge of modifying genes, the results of genetic expressions are unforeseeable because there might be the same genetic context in a small extent of certain genome. Also, whether it can express certain proteins that scientists target is examined well by a series of researches.

According to the cautionary principle, something which may bring unknown or disrupted ultimate effects should be resisted. CRISPR-style GMOs are modified precisely so that it can be difficult for regulators and farmers to examine. But the strength of CRISPR-style GMOs comparing to conventional GMOs is, it is more accurate which may decrease the risks of mixing DNA from different species. The ultimate effect for CRISPR-style GMOs is to track and examine those products efficiently. In contrast, the conventional GMOs are much easier to detect, though the costs may be expensive. However, the safety of conventional GMOs is full with debates. Due to the guidance of the cautionary principle, both of two kinds of GMOs should be resisted in order to avoid arising food safety and social problems.(Total words: 375)

5. Griesemer concludes that molecular biologists should not have the authority over social implications for the Human Genome Project because they tend to think in terms of proximate explanations, the mechanistic and causal explanations of science. Griesmer argues that ultimate explanations, the “why” explanations of contextual significance, are also important and that these two explanations are both necessary in solving scientific problems. Griesemer uses the example of Wilson’s diagram in Weismann’s theory to explain the negative impacts of the drift between the ultimate and proximate explanations. Wilson’s diagram was heavily flawed because it attempted to explain the relationship between germ cells and somatic cells using primarily influences from ultimate explanations in evolutionary perspectives. Because it lacked proximate explanation, Wilson’s diagram oversimplified Weismann’s theory and mistook the germ cell for being continuous, not the germ plasma. In the context of the HGI, molecular biologists disregard the ultimate explanations from population biologists and demographics. The social context of the HGI requires knowledge about these subjects and because molecular biologists do not have this expertise, they should not have the authority on the social evaluation over the HGI.

In the GMO controversy, the argument against GMO critics being anti-science is analogous to having a proximate explanation bias and has little concern for the context of the social evaluation of GMOs. Even though GMOs are deemed to be relatively safe, the anti-science claims do not take into account the social context of GMOs. For example, the concern for labelling GMOs is not an issue about the questioning of GMO science but rather having the right to know what one is eating and having the right to decide what to eat. The anti-science claim also does not take into context of other systems such as the possible effects of using distantly related genes in different genetic contexts or the environmental risks of overusing pesticides in GM crops. The anti-science claim also forgets that GM science is not solely aimed towards new knowledge in biotechnology but also the social applications of GMOs that satisfy our values, which Milstein defines to be “making money for biotech corporations and their shareholders, feeding the hungry, developing new and beneficial strains of food for consumers, reducing pesticide and herbicide use to save money and help the environment.” The anti-science claims must take into account these ultimate explanations to have a better social evaluation for GMOs. (Total words: 399)

Group member:
Franklin Tran, Selestine Mtei, Bowen Tan, Nancy Galeno

anjames
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 7:51 am

Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby anjames » Sat Sep 12, 2015 1:10 am

2. This passage is describing how Wilson’s illustration of Weismann’s diagrams does not correctly represent biological causation, resulting in a misunderstanding. The simple diagram was easily (and incorrectly) understood. Criticizing Weismann’s view of biological causation becomes problematic for this reason. It means that when considering the implications of the HGP, the fundamental “facts” need to first be sorted out, lest the implications be less realistic. Griesemer uses this example of the focus on problems in more proximate (“how” explaining, as opposed to ultimate/”why” explaining) sciences to question the segmentation of problem solving. Griesemer concludes that if we understand that the body itself and the social environment also contribute to causation, we can better assess the utility of the HGP.

We can expand on Griesemer’s example of the misunderstanding of causal diagrams in terms of cultural replicators. Such a “clear, simple, easily expressed, and portable” representation is meant to be replicated as each person encounters it. A replica in any case does not have to be exact to be considered a replica. To use Tim Lewen’s metaphor of cake, if I bake 2 cake from a recipe and vary slightly on one but no one can tell the difference, they have both been replicated. They are not exactly the same, because they pass, they are replicas. In the case of Weismann’s diagram, Wilson replicated the information into his own diagram and others with even more success. The two aren’t the same, but functionally Wilson’s diagram acts as though represents Weismann’s argument. Wilson’s diagram is still a replica (both diagrams are “clear, simple, easily expressed, and portable”, though the clarity of Weismann’s diagram might be lacking) and it has been treated as such.

This analysis does not support Tim Lewins’ claim that “cultural units are not replicators”. A cultural replicator is successful if it produces a cultural replica, which is what Wilson’s diagram has accomplished. The exactness of the copy only matters as much as the culture deems it. That is a problem for biological causation it just so happens but not for cultural units being replicators.

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3. Lloyd’s argument for health being subjective includes examples of functionally inert yet “abnormal” health conditions like Gilbert’s disease and the fuzziness of the notion of “proper” kidney function. When assessing an individual’s health, one can look at the prior state, but if that was also inefficient, then there must be some idea of “proper” function in order to assess the diseased state. She further explains that it also depends on which level of scientific analysis one uses to assess the abnormality. The biochemical causal-pathway model would suggest that variation in the pathway is bad, but variation is good from a population genetics standpoint.

Analyzing altruism requires taking a leaf from Lloyd’s book, considering that “proper” behavior is more than making sure genes get passed on, depending on the scientist one asks. Where altruism comes into play is that it also would seem “abnormal”, depending on the context: cultural evolution or genetic evolution. To genetic evolution, it’s weird that self-sacrificing behavior would persist. That kind of behavior does not directly result in continuation of biological material. A trait does not have to be advantageous in order to persist, but it should at least not be detrimental. Being willing to sacrifice one’s own life or well-being in order to help someone else does not have obvious benefits, if one ignores the cases where helping someone somehow helps the “altruistic” individual. It could also be seen as a genetic disease as the genes causing the behavior are not continuing themselves as is “normal” for them to do.

Cultural evolution, on the other hand, does not have this same problem. Altruistic behaviors could come out of propagation of the idea that self-sacrificing behaviors are good. The idea does not need to be true, but it does need to take hold. Even if the person exhibiting the behavior dies, the idea just needs to pass on to the next person. It’s normal for culture to let wrong or detrimental ideas continue. The normality of any concept is subjective. The cultural disease would be in the case where the behavior does not get shared.


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4. Millstein is neither correct nor convincing in saying GMOs are biologically new. It’s insufficient to say that the larger magnitude of changes occurring is what makes GMOs new. What is new is our caution when a new technology develops. Selection and hybridization have been going on for much longer and it has taken time to understand the effects we do know. The more we know, the more we realize we don’t know sometimes and then we try to compensate by imagining what we missed. We don’t necessarily know if larger magnitude changes will occur. Further, the newer genetic modifications are taking inbreeding to the extreme, allowing for the crop to be controlled but still resulting in the environment mucking things up. In the case of GMOs, they need more pesticides in the end because the pesticide-resistant pests proliferate. In the case of bananas, everyone only eats one kind of banana and it is at great risk of dying out because it is susceptible to diseases not necessarily kept in mind when the strain was developed. I think these two cases are analogous because biologically, we’re still not taking into account the diversity required to keep a crop alive in the long-term. Fitness is environment-dependent and the dependence of the success of GMOs on the right environment is still true.

The precautionary principle would lead us to reject GMOs due to not knowing their effects, but we are potentially facing the choice of which GMO type to support: conventional or CRISPR-style. CRISPR can get rid of the ability to track engineered crops, an advantage for GMO crops if we are trying to track the effects they’re having on whichever system of study we are considering. CRISPR also is not reliably accurate in all organisms all the time yet. There’s plenty to learn. That said, the precautionary principle would lead us to choose conventional GMOs anyway because we want to be able to tell what we’re doing vs. what nature is already doing. We might still want to intervene if we don’t like what’s naturally being selected. Finding the cause could be important to developing a set of possible solutions.


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5. Before arriving at this conclusion Griesemer discusses eugenics, recessive-caused diseases, the correlation between age of mothers and genetic defects in their offspring, and the issue of consumers making the right reproductive choices (p. 84). First, the eugenics example sets the tone for scientists being unable to entirely get rid of a gene, even if we assume it is the right gene to get rid of. This introduces the idea that there is a right choice to be made that needs to be communicated to consumers, a problem in itself. He argues that the social issues are the problem just as much as getting the mechanisms and predictions right. When the technologist looks at the trend that mothers are having children later in life and older mothers tend to have children with genetic defects, he would predict an increase in the number of genetic defects. But he does not properly understand demographics and misses that the average age of mothers (and genetic defects) is declining. Lastly, he explains that recessive-caused diseases cannot be eradicated because humanity does not live in isolation. Migration must be taken into account. Thus Griesemer makes his conclusion that molecular biologists lack the necessary knowledge to correctly evaluate the implications of their manipulations, and should not take the place of demographers or other relevant scientists.

Griesemer’s reasoning can be applied to the claims that GMOs are anti-science too. Millstein argues that such critics of GMOs are not correctly citing science. Even without that, Griesemer’s analysis would likely be that scientists cannot take into account every factor as each system of study would have to be too isolated for proper analysis. Another reason such critics are wrong is that even if scientists have proven GMOs to be safe, the definition of “safe” is made from a particular point of view. Even if they’re safe for human consumption, there is evidence that GMOs are not safe for the environment and not safe for the longevity of the crops in question. Like with genetics, molecular biologists should not be given the authority to define safety for everyone. Human health is important and complex.

lksalinero
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Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby lksalinero » Sat Sep 12, 2015 1:53 am

Other group members: Gisele Uwobahorana, Diana Lee, Elizabeth Ridolfi

2) James Griesemer describes how the modern concept of heritability and reproduction as a one-way flow of information from DNA to the rest to the organism is an over-simplification that hinders our ability to accurately discuss the implications of innovations like the Human Genome Initiative. This widespread misconception is the legacy of a misconstrued version of Weismannism, a theory of germ and soma predating the discovery of DNA, propagated by a popular but incorrect diagrammatic interpretation of the theory. This simple diagram was intended to represent the core ideas of the theory, but instead left out critical nuances, leading viewers to mistakenly believe that information flows out of the genes to the cells of the body, but never from the body back into the genes.

Despite its flaws, this oversimplified diagram gained widespread popularity and acceptance, and as a result, came to influence many of the biological theories that came after it, including the central dogma. Griesemer argues that the ideas embodied in this diagram became so “entrench[ed] in biological thinking” that new generations of biologists struggled to identify or articulate the flaws in this way of thinking. Furthermore, Griesemer claims this flawed concept of the relationship between gene and body prevented scientists from understanding the true implications of the Human Genome Initiative.

How did an incorrect diagram become so popular in the first place? Griesemer argues that the diagram’s widespread use and rapid acceptance was due to it being “clear, simple, easily expressed, and portable.” These are all qualities that allow an idea or unit of culture to easily spread from one individual to the next. The simpler and more easily expressed the idea, the more likely it is to be adopted by those who come into contact with it, and the more likely it is that they will pass it on in turn. Additionally, the clarity and simplicity of the idea undoubtedly allowed this diagram to be faithfully reproduced in the minds, notes, and textbooks of the individuals who adopted it. The fact that this diagram and the concepts it represents were exactly replicated in the minds of most people who came in contact with it with little error or modification undermines Tim Lewen's contention that "cultural units are not replicators."

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3) Elisabeth Lloyd describes how the essential definitions of “normal,” “abnormal,” “healthy,” and “diseased” differ depending on the biological model being used. For example, biochemical models are based on chains of events in causal pathways, any deviation from which is considered abnormal. On the other hand, the medical model of biology allows for more variation between organisms and considers a variation abnormal only if it interferes with “proper function.” When applied to certain cases, these models yield judgments of normal or abnormal that are in agreement; however, the definitions of normal provided under each of these models do not always coincide.

Altruism, or behavior that benefits others at the expense of the individual performing the behavior, has long perplexed biologists. Purely biological models attempt to explain this phenomenon with the concept of natural selection, but ultimately fall flat. Biological models of natural selection cannot account for the persistence of a trait that increases the fitness of others while decreasing the fitness of the organism carrying said trait.

As in Lloyd’s arguments about defining normal, different models offer different explanations for the persistence of altruism in humans. Using a cultural evolution model, we see that altruism is not as mysterious as previously thought. Under the cultural evolution model, ideas and behaviors spread rapidly between individuals and “within a group, individuals are especially biased towards adopting altruism if most individuals are altruists.” Furthermore, groups with altruistic individuals prosper more than groups with only selfish individuals. As Sober writes, “the prospects for altruism to evolve are enhanced when culture is included in the model.” Here we see that “altruism” has different meanings in different contexts: in the biological model of evolution, altruism is a detrimental characteristic conferring an evolutionary disadvantage, while under cultural evolution model, altruistic behavior is just a unit of culture whose spread and prevalence can be easily explained.

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4) Millstein is convincing, but not totally correct that GMOs are biologically new. It is true that modern gene editing techniques differ greatly from the selection and hybridization techniques historically used to create new and improved varieties of crops and livestock. However, Millstein’s main argument that the large evolutionary distances between the genes combined in GMOs will result in changes of greater magnitude than previously observed is somewhat unfounded. Horizontal gene transfer is a common and naturally occurring phenomenon resulting in the transfer of genetic material from one organism to another, often across vast distances on the tree of life. Horizontal gene transfer is common among bacteria, even between the most distantly related species. Horizontal gene transfer is even thought to occur, albeit less frequently, between some eukaryotes and even in certain cases between insects and their bacterial endosymbionts. Furthermore, many historical techniques to create new varieties of crops likely had even more dramatic affects than modern molecular GMO production. For example, “gamma gardening” was employed in the 1950s and 1960s to create novel mutant varieties of commercial crops using radiation and trial and error. Several of the subspecies created through gamma gardening are still widely used.

That said, even if the magnitude of genetic change generated by modern GMO production is not necessarily novel, the specific genetic changes and particular GMOs being generated are certainly new. Regarding the introduction of a new product or process, the cautionary principle advises resisting introduction until there is consensus that the new product or process’ ultimate effects are safe.

The cautionary principle does not currently support the introduction of any GMOs, regardless of the techniques used to create them. Although both techniques are based on gene altering mechanisms that occur in nature, the applications of these mechanisms are arguably “new” in both cases and there is much research to be done before consensus will be reached on the absolute safety of either technique. However, the cautionary principle may incline us to prefer conventional GMO production to production using CRISPR because CRISPR is a newer and less understood technology, and because CRISPR’s subtler approach to gene insertion makes it difficult to distinguish CRISPR-modified organisms, a quality that could prove dangerous should a CRISPR GMO need to be contained or recalled in the future.

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5) James Griesemer argues that molecular biology alone is not sufficient to evaluate the Human Genome Initiative’s impact on society; rather, knowledge of the complex environment in which the Human Genome Initiative was introduced is also required to effectively evaluate and predict its significance to society. Citing the example of birth defect rates changing with parental age, Griesemer demonstrates how a molecular-level understanding of a phenomenon is not sufficient to draw conclusions about that phenomenon in a broader societal context. Social problems like disease prevalence depend on a complex whole; simply understanding and knowing how to fix a problem on a genetic or molecular level does not necessarily equate to understanding and being able to resolve that problem for all of society. Griesemer argues that molecular biologists are not experts in sociology and demography, and for this reason do not have the authority to make promises about how the Human Genome Initiative will affect society.

Similarly, Roberta Millstein argues that when evaluating GMOs, both the molecular mechanisms of the technology and the broader context in which it is deployed should be taken into account. Pro-GMO scientists assume that all opposition to GMOs is based on a disbelief or mistrust in the safety of molecular genome editing techniques and construe this opposition as “anti-science.” However, these scientists forget that even if the actual molecular technology is safe and GMOs are not toxic−the evidence for which is still inconclusive−GMO technology still must be evaluated in a broader societal context. As a result, it is possible to oppose GMOs for reasons that have little to do with molecular biotechnology. For example, some individuals might take an anti-GMO stance due to concerns about the environmental impact of GMO usage or the social consequences of GMOs for farmers. As Millstein writes, “Technology is never deployed in a context-free situation.” Scientists would be wrong to accuse all anti-GMO advocates as being “anti-science,” because social, and in particular environmental, costs are very scientific and completely valid reasons to oppose GMO usage.

nyonan
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Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby nyonan » Sat Sep 12, 2015 2:23 am

NUMBER 1
What sober is basically saying with this passage is that social scientists look at different aspects of the transmission system among humans than those that a biological scientist would. In a sense, he would say that they are not seeing the big picture. He terms this as social scientists looking at the “qualitative consequences” as opposed to the biological scientists' model of “quantitative consequences of systems of transmission.” His example of this is that a historian might look at “why some traits found among educated people were transmitted to lower social strata, while others were not” instead of looking at the bigger picture of “ideas cascade from one class to another.” He sees this as a fairly decent issue, for the quantitative model works well for biological scientists. He gave an example of looking at a simple and general genotype and applying the model to multiple different scenarios. In this sense, the model is a nice and simple frame to work from. However social scientists will look too specifically and not really give a good model that would be helpful in other areas. At least, that is the case if their assumptions are wrong. If their assumptions based on the methods that they use now turn out correct, then Sober thinks that it might just be acceptable for them to not worry about using a more general model. However, if they are wrong, he thinks that social scientists should adopt the more quantitative model. If they were to use the quantitative model in the historical scientist's situation, for example, it could help see a trend not only in the specific Italian society but in human societies throughout the ages as a whole. It would help bridge ideas into one big picture of humanity. I think this is very plausible, but only with the conditions Sober put. If indeed the models used for social sciences now yield wrong results, then I think a combination of both models should be used. Sometimes looking at the sources, as Sober calls it, is actually a good thing and is necessary towards a fuller understanding. Human culture is very complex and sometimes very erratic, thus some details might be missed if we just use a plug and play model for every instance. However, using such a model could be helpful in finding patterns that help us predict our future as a human race.

NUMBER 3
Lloyd argues that strict labeling of what is “normal” causes many issues due to it being interpreted in different fashions and even causes many gaps in understanding due to its stringent definitions in each case. The idea of altruism, from a genetic evolutionary standpoint, is insanely confusing. Because of the strict classification and models, altruism goes against the modus operandi of all lifeforms. Altruism, by definition, is an action or actions which reduce an organism's fitness. In a sense, altruism means that it is less likely that the organism will reproduce. For genetic evolution, this is the most irrational thing an organism can do. Because genetic evolutionists term “fitness” as strictly the amount of offspring one can continue their genetic lineage with, being altruistic is a conundrum and has absolutely no explanation. It is “abnormal.” However, if we were to look at it from a cultural evolutionary standpoint, we could see that altruism is very rational and even necessary for evolution. If we widen our scope to a culture instead of an individual, we can see that things that may be altruistic for the individual could be extremely helpful to the culture or group as a whole. For instance, let us say an individual chooses not to have any children. From a genetic evolutionary point of view, this is like suicide. Fitness drops to zero and that line of DNA is done. There is no good reason for this to happen. However from a cultural evolutionary point of view, this could be a great thing for the society. What would happen if the culture was overcrowded and running low on resources? Those to took an altruistic stance in not having offspring would be helping the culture by controlling the population and ensuring the survival of the culture. In genetic evolution, altruism is an absolute negative thing as well as being completely explainable in good light. It is a random occurrence in nature that makes no sense as far as how nature usually works. In cultural evolution, it is defined as sacrificing one's self in a way for the survival and continuation of the group as a whole. It is the definition of selflessness. This is why Lloyd argues so vehemently against such strict and narrow purview used in biological sciences and how there is not any “objective standard” in health or genetics
NUMBER 4
Are GMOs biologically new as Millstein argues? In short, I would say yes. But this is not because GMOs are genetic "changes of a larger magnitude than would be likely to occur in nature", I think. Rather, it is the simple fact that we as humans are doing the altering (at least in my view). This is biologically new because natural selection is just that; natural. It happens due to patterns and sometimes complete chance. GMOs are a result of human whimsy and a splicing of things that would never bear fruit in the natural world. “The techniques of genetic engineering are different from selection or hybridization. These techniques allow genes from one species to be introduced into a very distantly related species—for example, the insertion of a gene from a fish into a tomato (created but never commercialized) or the insertion of a gene from a pig into an orange (currently under research)” as quoted from Millstein. So in this way, I would say Millstein is correct in the idea that GMOs are biologically new, and her argument is very convincing. I would say the precautionary principle does not really offer any distinction between conventional GMOs and gene editing using CRISPR. Instead, I would think that the precautionary principle would resist both, even though we have been doing conventional genetic modification for a very long time. For instance, we have technically genetically modified many breeds of dogs by breeding them in specific ways. However, many of those “man-made” breeds suffer health issues because of the way the different genetics mix. This would mean that regardless of CRISPR being so precise that it may make it difficult to decipher between a conventionally mutated organism and one that was genetically engineered, it is still something that should be tested thoroughly. Though it may resist both, that does not mean that both are necessarily bad or should not be used. It just means that we may need to take a more middle ground approach like Millstein did with her argument. There could be long term benefits or disasters due to our tampering with GMOs, and we cannot necessarily say it is one or the other without further testing.

NUMBER 5
Griesemer believes that social science questions are within a different domain than biological science questions. There has to be a different approach when in one realm as opposed to the other. This idea is brought upon by his separation of “how” vs. “why” questions. These questions tend to be answered with opposing viewpoints, thus leading to gaps in explanation with both. Thus in the quoted passage, he make a statement about scientists who are approaching the issue of HGI from only one viewpoint, and are attempting to impose that view as THE view. He argues that the social context of the HGI issue is well outside of their area of expertise because of the opposing viewpoint which biological scientists do not understand or care to look from. In his argument, he tries to advocate a sort of multi-view perspective. In a sense, he wants people to make the “how” and “why” questions work together for a fuller understanding of any one genetic or social subject matter. The division of viewpoints is so drastic that it causes turmoil between the biological scientific community and the social scientific community. This is very apparent when looking at Millstein's argument and how each side is vehemently pushing their viewpoint as the correct viewpoint. We have the public thinking that GMOs could be bad, and should at very least be labeled under the idea that it is their right to know what they are consuming. Biological scientists completely dismiss that entire concept of “right to know” and take it as an affront against GMOs. Some go on to say that such an idea is “anti-science” because of their extremely limited viewpoint. They do not see GMOs the same way as the public does. “The anti-science charge fails to recognize that questions about rights involve questions about values. The question over whether to label GMOs is a question about the public’s right to know what they are eating and the right to decide what they eat, in accordance with their values” As quoted by Millstein. This is a key point in the argument, for it shows how severe the divide is. Griesemer would argue that the issue of “rights” falls well outside of the jurisdiction of scientists, thus the scientists have no right or authority in arguing against labeling GMOs.

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KelseyBS
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Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby KelseyBS » Sat Sep 12, 2015 3:15 am

2.
With this passage from his article Griesmer Tools for Taking is explaining how Weismann had a biological theory of acquired characteristics rejecting heredity which was oversimplified into a diagram drawn by a geneticist and then published in a textbook. This diagram, which misrepresent and distorts the theory when compared to the original written explanation from Weismann, became more widely known in the scientific community and misrepresented Weismann’s work. While I cannot understand much of the actual biology in the representations of the theory, this passage from Griesmer's article reminds me of is Plato's Cave. People are looking at different representations causing them to understand differently. Griesmer is not claiming that we will never be able to understand Weismann's Theory however. He is using Weismann’s theory as an example of why simplified representation creates a negative effect on the progression of science and it should be avoided.

This supports Tim Lewen's contention that "cultural units are not replicators." I would probably use the idea of labels in today’s LGBTQIA+ community as a comparable example to cultural units being used as replicators. Often labels force people into categories that they do not belong unintentionally. Unlike labels and people though, cultural units and replicators cannot ask us to avoid placing them together. According to Lewen, it is better to simply not use them as replicators.

Now is not it strange that I have compared these ideas to other ideas that are meant to represent concepts that are entirely different when all of these examples and explanations are meant to show that simplification and change of representation destroys original meaning. By doing this I am showing that the problem is not the new representations, it is the elimination of the original work and replacing with new work that destroys the original meaning. Griesmer does not provide the reader with an optimal solution. Yes spreading a different representation will change the meaning, but keeping the original information without various representations will exclude participation of those in differing fields. Variation can be good and a more productive move would be to add variable representation as an attachment to original work and spread it that way. This might be cumbersome and more difficult, but it would be more productive.

3.
Lloyd’s argument in this article is that the term “normal” is being used incorrectly and as a category out of context. In the first quote here, abnormalities she explains that abnormalities in a biochemical model, might not be considered abnormal according to a medical model. This is becoming a bigger problem in our society: people will take what is considered normal for a human body in a biology text book as a goal for their own personal physical fitness. Many would even go as far as to say that health is defined objectively or scientifically. When people talk about the diet they are starting they will reference the doctor that came up with the plan they are following, or they will quote the studies that suggest their new diet is healthy.

The quote from Sober is explaining another difficulty when mixing terminology from two different fields. The idea of Altruism would be considered negative in biology, but it is often viewed as a positive or noble trait culturally and socially. It seems impossible for these two fields to agree on the value of altruism. Perhaps biology needs to incorporate the benefits of networks and community, or Sociology needs to incorporate the well-being of the individual and its biology. Regardless, these two currently clash in several areas including altruism. It is easy to see how altruism would evolve a species culturally, but genetically it should be seen as a dead end to a species.

The essential argument here is that mixing the terminology across different fields can prove to be nearly impossible. When it is done, it can be problematic. Teenagers develop unhealthy ideas of how they should look at all times and health specialists begin to send out mixed messages. Some may suggest using new terminology or keeping vocabulary separate.

4.
Of course GMOs are biologically new; there were few differences in the first species that split off from a common ancestor. As long as the biological process has to be explained in different wording, you can consider it to be biologically new. Just the fact that the genetic changes that we are making can be some so much quicker IS enough to establish that GMOs are novel. This would not be possible without our advancements in science and technology.

The second quote in this question uses semantics to make a very misleading claim about CRISPR. It says that it can be used “to precisely edit existing DNA sequences,” I believe technically meaning that the DNA sequences are precise, but it leaves out that the way that the DNA is transcribed and then RNA is translated into proteins may not lead to precise results. The Precautionary Principle might be able to prevent us from being tricked by these semantics. By this Principle we would immediately be looking at the new technology with caution forcing us to think critically and find the misleading wording that may be used to disguise the dangers.

Use of semantics and critical thinking are not the only things we need to take advantage of to find the hidden dangers of GMOs and CRISPR. As Millstein also mentioned in her article no GMOs have been thoroughly tested for safety. Each GMO whether created “conventionally” or CRISPR-style needs to be tested for safety in not just livestock, but humans as well. And we need them to be tested for long term effects as well rather than just immediate effects. We may need to label GMOs as such to caution the public and give only some GMO companies the privilege of another label showing their thorough certified safety testing.

5.
I feel that the problem Greisemer is addressing here, is the fact that human population has grown a preference for developing our education in hard sciences and technology so much farther than our social sciences and ethics that it is starting to catch up with us. We cannot go on much longer without another enlightenment bringing our social sciences to the same level as our sciences. He is saying that we have turned our world into several small science experiments that are separate, but still come together to create the world. Our world is filled with hard science and technology with very little social science and ethics that are preventing us from taking other equally important components of our world into considerations. We will have debates about the ethics of GMOs while scientists somewhere else have already done what we are debating about. We should stop running off with our science experiments without consideration for our safety as well as the safety of the rest of the world that is maintaining our lives on Earth. Our hard science needs to take a break while our social science catches up.

If Liberal Arts like Philosophy, Sociology, and Anthropology, were taken as seriously as STEM fields, we might have less debate over certain scientific practices and experiments. Our standard scientific method might include or require a step to consider ethics before beginning any experiment. Scientists that oppose GMOs or suggesting labeling them as such should not be considered “anti-science,” but rather some term categorizing them as pausing science temporarily to allow Liberal Arts to catch up in order to keep us from living in a scary Science Fiction story where science and technology rule over humanity. Maybe instead of calling them anti-science we could call them pro-liberal arts. Many great well-respected projects are cross-disciplinary allowing many different fields to contribute to the quality and critical thinking that made them so great. More equality among fields as well as collaboration could give us a harmony that prevents the hard division between our fields that Greisemer refers to as “simple systems and complex environments.” This even might allow us to use cross-disciplinary jargon successfully and end the misuse of the word normal.

uwogisele
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Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby uwogisele » Sat Sep 12, 2015 3:56 am

I worked with Lauren Salinero, Diana Lee, and Elizabeth Ridolfi. Thanks!

#1

Taking the example of the Italian women, we see that they were having fewer children instead of having the number of children that their parents and grandparents had. This is a puzzling concept under the natural selection model. The natural selection model, which is from a social scientist’s perspective, would assume that there would be a constant rate in birth rates not a decline. But this assumption turned out not to be right because the Italian women were having fewer children; so social scientists had to look for another model that could explain the reduction in fitness in the Italian women. Cultural evolution on the other hand, gives a plausible reason of why the women were having two children instead of five. Cultural evolution proposes that Italian women were having fewer babies because they were influences by their peers and by other women in their culture. A desirable feature that such models presents is that “the cultural process can overwhelm the biological one; given that the trait is sufficiently attractive, the trait can evolve in spite of its Darwinian disutility”. The cultural process gives a better explanation when biological theories can’t explain a new phenomenon within a culture. Sober’s view is plausible since no theory or model ever seems to give the whole picture of a concept. Most concept borrow from other theories as well, so giving an explanation of a cultural phenomena should involve different models as well, because “there has been a tradition of borrowing between evolutionary theory and the social sciences since the time of Darwin”. Borrowing ideas from theories is accepted and recognized and this should also be the case in explaining cultural concepts. The models that social scientists use are different from the cultural evolution models. And consequently one model may give a better explanation than the other depending on the example that is being examined.

#3.
Lloyd rightly points out that depending on what model is being used the definition of “normal, healthy, diseased, and abnormal” will differ essentially. Health can’t be defined using one model because each model gives a different definition of what’s “normal or not”. A biochemical model shows the “proper functioning” of a given gene, but it fails to take into consideration different variation within the organism, because the focus of biochemical model is not in dealing with variation, but in what “events” leads to a disease. But since biochemical model does not take variation into consideration, any variation could be seen as a “disease”. The problem with this model is that not a every variation is a disease, a disease is a disease if it interferes with what’s perceived as a “normal function”. A medical model gives an explanation considering the whole organism; it doesn’t specifically look at a specific gene malfunction. In the case of virus, the medical model considers that even though a cold is a result of a virus, the problem is also the “failure of the immune system to fight the virus invasion effectively” Sober writes. This relates to the concept of altruism because looking at one model may not give us the whole picture of what’s going on. “Purely biological models” would try to give an explanation from the concept of the survival of the fittest, every man for himself type of definition-an inherent selfish inclination. Biological models can’t explain why some people would be inclined to be altruists. Using another model, in this instance, cultural evolution, we see that altruism is not that “abnormal”. With the genetic evolution model, altruism is abnormal but with a cultural evolution, altruism is not abnormal. Using cultural evolution, we see that “within a group, individuals are especially biased towards adopting altruism if most individuals are altruists and towards becoming selfish if most people are selfish”. From this model, we can understand altruism, and we can see why people would decide to be altruists. And this instance, altruism would be classified as “normal”. One model doesn’t give the whole meaning of a concept or a disease. Just like health cannot be defined using one model, “the prospects for altruism to evolve are enhanced when culture is included in the model”, Sober writes.

#4

Millstein is convincing, but not totally correct in GMOs being biologically new. Selection and hybridization occur in nature with various degrees of frequency. Especially in the case of hybridization, even if a viable offspring is produced, this individual’s fitness is generally lower as it either cannot reproduce or will die before it can. While this doesn’t limit the frequency of hybrids, it controls the surviving number. There are even prezygotic barriers as well such as anatomy incompatibility, gametes not fusing differences in mating or breeding practices and others. While hybrids do occur in nature with varying degrees of success, they are only in like species and under special circumstances. As such, it would be highly unlikely that a tomato and a fish would mate and produce a viable offspring, if there was GMOs of this type; there would something biologically new. The caveat to this statement is that many forms of live share common genes to begin with, even things that are very different. For example, humans share a gene with flies that controls body segmentation. Does that mean this gene is different because it is present in two different organisms? This makes Millstein’s statement slightly less convincing as given that genes can show up in organisms that are very unrelated. I frame this argument this way because under the precautionary principle, something cannot be called safe until proven safe and in this case something cannot be called new unless it is proven new. Using CRISPR, genes are edited using no new to the organism's genetic material, so while the process is new the material is not, stretching the definition of what it means to be a new organism. Using the precautionary principle becomes much more difficult in this case because the precautionary principle hinges on something being new in the deepest sense of the word and this is debatable in this case as no different genetic material has been added. With traditional GMOs the precautionary principle can be implemented with a bit more ease because, while most organisms share at least a few genes, there are some that are not shared. If one of those was used, there would be no feasible way to know the effects beforehand.

#5

James Griesemer argues that molecular biology alone is not sufficient to evaluate the Human Genome Initiative’s impact on society; rather, knowledge of the complex environment in which the Human Genome Initiative was introduced is also required to effectively evaluate and predict its significance to society. Citing the example of birth defect rates changing with parental age, Griesemer demonstrates how a molecular-level understanding of a phenomenon is not sufficient to draw conclusions about that phenomenon in a broader societal context. Social problems like disease prevalence depend on a complex whole; simply understanding and knowing how to fix a problem on a genetic or molecular level does not necessarily equate to understanding and being able to resolve that problem for all of society. Griesemer argues that molecular biologists are not experts in sociology and demography, and for this reason do not have the authority to make promises about how the Human Genome Initiative will affect society.
Similarly, Roberta Millstein argues that when evaluating GMOs, both the molecular mechanisms of the technology and the broader context in which it is deployed should be taken into account. Pro-GMO scientists assume that all opposition to GMOs is based on a disbelief or mistrust in the safety of molecular genome editing techniques and construe this opposition as “anti-science.” However, these scientists forget that even if the actual molecular technology is safe and GMOs are not toxic−the evidence for which is still inconclusive−GMO technology still must be evaluated in a broader societal context. As a result, it is possible to oppose GMOs for reasons that have little to do with molecular biotechnology. For example, some individuals might take an anti-GMO stance due to concerns about the environmental impact of GMO usage or the social consequences of GMOs for farmers. As Millstein writes, “Technology is never deployed in a context-free situation.” Scientists would be wrong to accuse all anti-GMO advocates as being “anti-science,” because social, and in particular environmental, costs are very scientific and completely valid reasons to oppose GMO usage.

ktoporovskaya
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Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby ktoporovskaya » Sat Sep 12, 2015 4:21 am

Please grade as 25% of the grade

Question 2:
Griesemer is talking about Wilson and Weismann’s diagrams that were created to depict the causal history from germ cells to somatic cells by Wilson and continuity of germ plasm (molecular material or genes on chromosomes) and the discontinuity of the soma by Weismann. The causal arrows only go one-way from germ cells and germ plasm to somatic cells, and not soma-to-soma cells as well. This means that gene transmission and development are both controlled by germ cells. Even if semantic cells changed during the development, the model states that those alterations would not be passed down to the next generation. The models are very simplified and separate heredity and development. This is dangerous because once the theory gains mainstream traction it becomes familiar and difficult to eradicate. This served as an example to a possible outcome of the Human Genome Initiative. Due to rapid technological advances there is a “comprehension gap” as well as not “sufficiently developed techniques, skills and practices that contributed to the technology” causing public understanding to continue to fall behind innovation. Due to this, we fall victims to “clear, simple, easily expressed and portable representations” like Wilson and Weismann’s models and misunderstand the issue. These models might make sense proximately but do not hold up in the context of environment or culture. This undermines Tim Lewen’s contention that “cultural units are not replicators” because Griesemer critiques the diagrams for going only one direction, meaning that cultural influence cannot change the germ line and be duplicated. Though it is not discussed in this article, epigenetics, which are influenced by environment, contribute to the human genetic makeup. They also have an ability to change somatic as well as germ cells. Therefore cultural units could also be considered epigenetic markers that are replicated and passed on from generation to generation with the power of somatic cells changing the germ cells.


Question 3:
When it comes to Altruism- a self-sacrificial behavior, which brings forth the same points as homosexuality example provided by Lloyd. Because normality is defined according to a set of standards or phenomena that occurs outside of what we might expect, we do not find altruism biologically normal and not just an assessment of biological function. We had to have established that being selfish is a proper function of ourselves according to the environment that we are in. Also the explaining of the phenomena just in the light of biochemical causal model does not clarify why this phenomena occurs. We must combine social and evolutionary influences that played a role in this characteristic. We know that the characteristic must have been beneficial to survival of our ancestors and other species possessing these same characteristics especially in harsh environments to be imprinted in our genome and then passed on down to future lineage and offspring. And just like sickle cell anemia which seems absolutely abnormal and considered a disease at the first glance and should have been eradicated through evolution, we find out that there is a benefit of protection from malaria in carriers. And just as well, we can also see how people in harsh environments might have benefited from altruism in their groups expecting the same in return from their community. There are some theories about what promoted altruism, for example kin selection, reciprocation, and group selection, but even then, others could have easily exploited this characteristic. Nevertheless, it continued to persist probably due to its increase in influence on society and on our genes acquiring benefits like protection, and gene distribution through taking selfless actions in certain citations. Humans especially have been successful due to cooperating together, sharing resources like food and information allowing a trait like altruism to prosper and propagate.

Question4:
Millstein is convincing when she claims that GMO’s are biologically new. Up until now we could only manipulate the genome by selective breeding, which is how natural selection works. You can only work with the genes you already have, with species that are able to breed with each other to give a viable offspring, and the process is slow enough to see the long-term effects and establish if genes are working well together. Now we can quickly introduce novel genes into species that are unrelated, without knowing the interaction of the gene with other genes, which then can be spread to future generations due to heritable alterations. This is novel because other species genome’s acquiring DNA is a rare occurrence unless it is of a virus in nature. The problem does not go away with CRISPR either; though the gene is not from another organism, you still do not know the impact of the change that the implanted gene has on the rest of the genome. CRISPR also can work on a part of the genome that it was not intended to work on; depending on how close the sequence matches to the template, which is limited to a small number of nucleotides, making it unreliable, unpredictable, and possibly dangerous. The precautionary principle does not establish how to choose between conventional GMO’s and CRISPR due to both being new technologies and possessing a risk in either choice. I think natural rules of selection should be the guide for the changes we are making to the organisms right now, whether using CRISPR or inserting genes from different species we need to be cautions and not take unnecessary risks. We still do not fully understand the molecular make up to mass-produce these modified organisms and release them into the environment, for example GMOs, without an ability to reverse these changes.


Question5:
Griesemer states that “one wonders whether gene sequencers know any more demography that the ordinary nonscientist knows genetics” implying that molecular biologist do not know enough about population considerations and social problems to interpret data or find solutions to discovered genetic topics. Even though genetic disease might be predicted individually it might not be necessary considered that in the light of population and social context. The author gives an example of mothers in Western counties where the age of reproduction has been declining. When observing this situation through a genetic lens this has a great potential mutation risk on an individual due to the increase in mutations as the age of the mother increases. But this is an average rate where the whole reproductive span of mothers is accounted for which is concentrated in the middle of the period of fertility actually results in a decline in genetic damage. These details of demographics and society are vital to make a decision and come to an informed and correct conclusion. When it comes to labeling Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and saying that people that are pro have an anti-science way of thinking is similar way of approaching science by oversimplifying the issue. This kind of thought process is based on the assumption that GMO’s are proven safe so labels are not necessary. This interprets data by applying proximal approach and does not account for the ultimate way of thinking. But Millstein points out that not only is the safety of GMO’s proven (no long term studies done) but also it is not the only issue that is questionable. She talks about the values when it comes to environmental effects, and the right to know that the public has, which are not anti-science. She mentions that this is a biological new invention because we are using a genome from distantly related species that would not occur in nature and does not follow natural selection rule with an unknown interaction with other genes.

herrerajen
Posts: 22
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 9:15 am

Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby herrerajen » Sat Sep 12, 2015 4:44 am

Take-Home Final


1.
As expressed in this passage, transmission system models describe quantitative consequences as they consider the role of demographic transitions and population consequences. Social scientists tend to immediately make qualitative assessments of the transmission systems, as they will point to historically specific details and thus make ungeneralizable conclusions. Sober then argues that social scientists could find cultural models useful when qualitative assumptions are wrongfully imposed and they overlook other possible historical explanations.
The qualitative assumption of decreased fertility among Italian women is a prime example of the social scientist thought. According to a nineteenth century historian, she or he will acknowledge that women decreased their number of offspring from five to two. This historian could then explain that the traits among educated people were transmitted to lower social class strata. The sources were then higher social class strata. Yet, according to Sober, social scientists pay narrowly attention to the sources of transmission systems; they point to the influence of ideas that flow from one class to another.
Notice that there is no account for the population consideration in this theory. This is particularly why Sober argues that social scientists should endorse the cultural evolution models. When social scientist wrongfully make qualitative assumptions, it gives them the opportunity to adopt cultural evolution models for this will leave room for consideration of the consequence of transmission systems and fitness differences. Adopting cultural models will help social scientists look beyond just the sources of transmission systems. These models will also help them move beyond giving historically specific accounts. Cultural models are then desirable and profound because they mix conceptions of biological and cultural fitness. Along with this, one of their virtues is that they uphold science and biology on a common framework. They acknowledge that both fields are comprehensively influential and neither is more “deeper” than the other. They also understand that a biological phenomena could be explained in cultural terms which biological theories oftentimes ignore.
Overall, I find Sober’s view plausible yet one of the challenges social scientists confront is immediate skepticism of their work. The theories social scientists make are not questioned as vehemently as the ones biologists make. They are also bombarded with counter examples which reduces the generalizability of their account. I believe that combining a biological perspective will help reduce such skepticism as it will allow for considerations of intersecting perspectives.


2.
As a starting point, Wilson’s diagram is much more than a metaphor of the way visuals can misinterpret and oversimplify biological causation. It is also a representation of the polarized views of ultimate and proximate causation. Notably, Wilson’s diagram misrepresents Weismann’s theory for it draws a mistaken continuity from germ plasma to soma. According to Weisman’s original claim, there is a continuity of germ plasma and discontinuity body cells or somata. Because Wilson’s diagram falsely portrays the theory it intends to depict, it “straitjackets” discussions about biological causation and agency. This is common throughout science as “simple, abstract visual representations” are used to substitute complex theories (p. 76). Griesemer also asserts that causal diagrams or visual displays withhold a particular power because they are viewed as representations as opposed to hypotheses. They are thought of as accurate emulations of abstract theories into tangible-like forms. Given this, Griesemer finds it peculiar that simple and portable diagrams have a strong presence in the biological domain as they are not only their widely used but they also can misinterpret biological causation. This is largely due to the fact that biologists feel the need to also present their work in the way that developmental and evolutionary systems do so. That is, biologists are pressured to present their work in a tractable, mathematical order, and diagrams allow them to do this (p. 71). Wilson’s diagram reveals the polarization between proximate and ultimate biologists and in this case, the need to explain a scientific phenomena only in proximate explanations. It shows how heredity and development are pulled apart when in fact they should have been included together.
Because biological causal diagrams are so widespread, they can oftentimes be thought of as memes, or cultural replicators. Replicators, according to Lewens, are “units that make copies of themselves” (p. 15). He defends that ideas are not copied but rather re-productions with a “causal link between [its] productions” (p. 16). Wilson’s model attests to the fact cultural units cannot be replicators because his diagram does not reproduce itself. Most importantly, the diagram is a false representation; it is not an imitation in the way Lewens depicts and therefore is not a meme. While it is true that diagrams are largely used and reproduced, they cannot be thought of as memes when they falsely intend to emulate the original theory.



3.
Altruism is regarded as “deleterious” when fitness is measured by survival and reproduction (Sober, 1992, p. 29). Under a genetic evolution model, altruism would be considered paradoxical, as it would presumably decrease and deteriorate fitness. Under this model altruism would be considered abnormal because this act would hinder the overall functioning of the body, as Lloyd’s definition accords. Furthermore, under the genetic model theory, the potential detection of an altruistic gene would then lead to the false conception that it would lead to altruistic behavior. Biologically speaking, this treat would be discarded as a valued trait; in fact it would be “eliminated in a large range of parameter values” (Sober, 1992, p. 30). A shortcoming of this model is that it could not fully express the usefulness of altruism along with its evolution given its biologically reductive perspective.
Meanwhile in the genetic model altruism would be considered “the central problem of sociobiology,” in a cultural evolutionary model this trait holds an explanatory justification. For instance, Sober asserts that altruism can be culturally fitter than selfishness. With the consideration of culture, altruism can move beyond a biological causation for self-destructive behavior as the genetic model claims. Altruism can be attached to a culturally significant behavior, especially when other individuals partake in this same behavior. The example of the Kamikaze pilots during WWII attests to this argument. Normality and abnormality are context-dependent, as Lloyd argues. Therefore, to be altruistic this specifics historical time with cultural traditions would be considered normal on a cultural evolutionary paradigm. Yet outside of this context, it could be possible that altruism could be considered as a disease. With this at hand, Lloyd argues that health cannot be defined objectively or scientifically just as “molecular information alone cannot decide whether a certain person is normal or abnormal” (p. 105). To say that a potential altruistic gene is abnormal ignores its relationship to environmental influences which would find this trait valuable.


4.
According to Millstein there is indeed something biologically new about GMOs. There are now new techniques that allow for an insertion of a certain gene from a species into another. For example, remarkably, a fish gene could now be inserted into a tomato. GMOs take selective breeding and hybridization to a further level because they now contain new proteins, which can potentially be an allergen or toxin over time (p. 13).
With this at hand, the claim that changes occur at a larger magnitude is not enough to establish that GMOs are new. GMOS are new because they can “affect the expression of other genes in unpredictable ways,” but also because the means of doing this are new (p. 6). Hence, it is not enough to say that the end products are novel, but also the means to that end are as well. The combination of the different methodologies and the end products are what makes GMOs biologically new.
It does not seem as though the cautionary principle would offer guidance towards the usage of conventional GMOs or CRISPER-style GMOs. To clarify, the conventional GMO usage has an additive feature, genes are being inserted and mixed; meanwhile the CRISPR-style GMO has a subtractive feature, where DNA is being cut. The additive feature is given more scrutiny because it could potentially interrupt other genes. It then follows that the cautionary principle would be lenient towards using CRISPR-style technique, as it is merely slicing unwanted genes and the technique is more clearly observable. But the cautionary principle warns that the “introduction of a new product” can have unknowable consequences. A potential consequence of CRISPR-style GMO method is that it will be difficult to detect mutated conventionally or genetically engineered foods. While the science behind the GMO labeling is still under development, and the safety is still being disputed, it should be necessarily and available to the public to be able to detect the differences between the two. By not being able to detect the differences, this runs the risk of corporations labeling their foods as “GMO-free” when in fact it could be genetically modified. The broader issue here is the fact that corporations and scientists may use to their advantage ways to disguise, or blatantly lie, about the integrity of their foods.



5.
Greismer contends that molecular biologists should not be given the assumed authority to impose, define, and apply social evaluations of the HGI. It is peculiar, he argues, that this implicit responsibility rests on molecular technologists rather than population or evolutionary biologists and nonscientists alike. He arrives to this conclusion by first exposing molecular biologists ignorance of organismal and population perspectives along with their social contexts. He illustrates this by providing the example of eugenicists which have infamously created selective-breeding programs with the end goal of eliminating unwanted genes. By examining a molecular detection of recessive genes, this ignored the complexities of the subjects bodies and at best: 1) reduced frequency of genes found in carries and 2) reduced frequency of genes to that produced by new mutation (p. 83-84). The genes were not eliminated, as anticipated. Additionally, molecular biologists make simple extrapolations from individual cases without considering the population, as seen through the example of women delaying reproduction. In another case molecular biologists fail to consider patterns of migration and interpopulation marriages when discussing genetic diseases.
There are two issues that bleed into the debate concerning the labeling of GMOs and their continued usage. The first issue concerns authority. Most often GMOs are tested by companies that manufacture the product without the oversight of the FDA. Given that the studies are short term and the scientific protocols of GMOs are lax, there are reasonable justifications for concerns of GMOs. Scientists will admit that “that they do not think their studies are the last word,” yet news authors and pro-GMOs proponents use ambiguous scientific to show GMOs are completely safe and thus label skeptics anti-science. Evidently, the issue here concerns who has the authority to make implications about the lack of scientific consensus. The other issue is that the anti-GMO labeling tends to ignore what molecular biologists ignore: system and context. The foods produced might have a similar system, yet the context and its products are variable. In each context the genetic combination is different, for instance, a BT pesticide in corn will be different from vitamin A in rice and thus produce different results. To say that a GMO was found ‘safe’ in one context does not mean it will be safe in other ones. As Miller remarks, “technology is never deployed in a context-free situation…we have to evaluate technologies in their context” (p. 12).

msnelmida
Posts: 20
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 1:41 pm

Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby msnelmida » Sat Sep 12, 2015 5:57 am

1. Elliot Sober is describing the possibility of a problem with the qualitative assumptions social scientists may make based upon the quantitative findings of models of transmission systems such as those of Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman and of Boyd and Richerson. Sober mentioned that although these two models describe how ideas are transmitted as well as what are the resultant consequences in such system it does give the idea to why or the reasoning the idea is being transmitted in the first place. Sober states, “the model describes the consequences of an idea’s being attractive, not the causes of its being attractive” (Sober, 32). Since the use of a qualitative data is to provide answer to both how and why such cultural phenomena occur then just reviewing just the quantitative findings that does not include in data of “why” will likely result to wrong qualitative assumptions. Sober shows that if it can be proven once on an important case that a qualitative assumption of why a behavior occur does not historically correlate to the quantitative data acquired then it is enough for social scientists to reconsider their method and apply some evolutionary biology related models on their research. The possible models can be a combination of Type I, II, and importantly III described in the writing (Sober, 22).
A social scientist may assume that higher middle-class families at a certain area learn from one another that buying smaller cheaper house is good for saving money. This can be assumed just looking at a qualitative data but yet social scientists can be wrong as the reasoning is more complex variety of reasons or a simple one that it is beneficial to a growing family as it is easier to maintain. Social scientists will see that there can be another factor that can be useful bringing in with the present quantitative data to fix their assumptions.
A social scientists adopting such models of cultural evolution will able to weigh in and compare different factors for cultural evolution similar to how fitness differences are weigh in biological evolution. I do find Sober’s view plausible in a sense that there is a problem when interpreting a data through a different reasoning from what it originally concerns for. How can one make a proper assumption of why a culture changes when the data itself does not explain why it occurs and only quantify it does occur.

2. James Griesemer is referring to how the style of causal structure of Wilson’s diagram in a way had influenced biological practices when it comes to interpreting and producing their works or data and observations. The simplicity and linearity of Wilson’s diagram makes it easy for biologists to understand the process. But this simplicity leads to less questioning of the diagram itself when later it is proven to be wrong. The diagram already represents a fundamental concept in biology and that in it proven not to be exactly correct. It had influence some to consider to why such diagram is wrong while at the same time uses the same fundamental concept to understand why it is wrong. This in a way makes it hard for some biologists on “reinventing aspects of Weismann’s theory” (Griesemer, 81). Solving this particular problem is troublesome as it plausibly already influencing the biologists’ process.
The role of this understanding of Weismannism thinking in biology and its influence on Greisemer’s overall argument is that it shows the overall division of thinking in biological topics. Weismannism being false shows that the reduction of view point to “how” or the consequences of specifically gene information flow cannot be properly used to understand causes of inheritance. How gene information flows does not include in other processes that may consider be the causes of inheritance which is outside of just molecular biology. One is population changes. Then pushing on with just this thinking process when it comes to solving problems in the modern society is best as the relying simple “systems” Weismannism represents will not work on complex world without considering the “why” or the “cause” of inheritance.
One cannot really say that a simple and easily expressed such as the causal diagram mentioned to be a cultural replicator. Just an example from the text Weismann claims that Wilson diagram is expressed differently from his. This shows that in way there is a sort of boundary when information is being copied. The simplicity of the information only makes it easier to pass on a similar variation of it because the receiver of it will always have an understanding of the topic in a different context. This supports Tim Lewens contention in sense that when such information spread an exact copy of information does not come up but just patterns of it.

3. The concept of altruism functions differently or in a sense contradicts between models of genetic evolution and cultural evolution. In a sense altruistic behavior in models of genetic evolutionary terms is more costly behavior than the benefits it provides and predicted to be passed down less in each generation. In terms of cultural evolution altruistic behavior is still considered to be a low fitness behavior but the process in which behavior are transmitted culturally is different genetically and the nature in which behavior is processed is totally dependent on the existing culture. From Sober’s writing it is shown that altruism can spreads out if initially the initial population has more individuals with altruistic behavior than selfish behavior. In another sense if initially altruism is common then its frequency will increase and vice versa with selfish behavior. This shows that some aspects of cultural evolution are not explained entirely with understanding of fitness alone. Learning about the concepts of normality and health from Elisabeth Lloyd one can see that although altruism in genetic evolution will most likely be passed down less to because it is an abnormal behavior as it is against one own fitness for survival other factors other than a genetic an explanation altruism may still propagate. At the same time it will only spread through cultural evolution only if such behavior exists and very common.
My analogy from Lloyd’s example to explain the situation with altruism is the situation with the gene and one’s immune system such as the usage of organism model and molecular model. A certain genetic “abnormality’ may or may not propagate depending on the organism’s immune system (Lloyd, 111). If a person’s immune system are able to destroy proteins translated from a certain gene then surely a person can be considered “healthy” and vice versa. It can be concluded that altruism through genetic evolutionary terms to be a self-sacrificing behavior in a negative context as it is against one’s fitness or in this case against one’s self interest or well-being. Also, it can be concluded that altruism through cultural evolutionary terms to be just a variant behavior which can be considered normal or abnormal under the standards of a society only if it is either common or uncommon within such society.

4. Millstein’s analysis is very convincing and correct that GMOs are biologically new and a novel method of genetic engineering. In a way the main indication of its novelty is the fact that past techniques and methods before are directly not manipulating the genetic material of an organism itself. Also old methods are often slower to process the final product one wanted to have than GMOs. To change the phenotype of certain domesticated animals or plants it took generations to achieve and with GMOs it is possible to be done within a generation. This is exactly the main reason for its novelty it is how fast GMO processing occurs in comparison to older methods. In a sense the process of how GMO are made are purely artificial. GMO products may have genetic material spliced from a mammal into a plant which is not done in past and possibly not entirely or will not occur in nature between two complex organisms. The amount of genetic manipulation is high with GMO thus there are possibilities in changes of genetic expression can be high as well. The question is whether such effects will result to no, minor, or major changes off from what is expected. That is what needed to be researched upon to know the costs and benefits.
I think the cautionary principle at this point does provide guidance when choosing between conventional GMOs and CRISPR-style GMOs. The reason is that conventional GMOs already exist for a while. Conventional GMOs are also widespread and already exists on every day consumption and usage. There will be exceptions when GMOs did not turn up well as it intended but most of those are problems outside of GMO itself which involve political and ethical issues. Such as the Monsanto corn seed incident. On other hand since we do not exactly know what will occur with CRISPR-style GMO and its detectability results to more unknown results it is safe to say that this type should be not considered yet until we have more information regarding GMO. Also the process of gene editing has no representations yet on real world use. In this case under the cautionary principle we know more about GMO than CRISPR-GMO thus some who have knowledge of current GMOs will choose the conventional GMO.

5. Greisemer first observes the distinctions in thinking within biology especially of molecular biologists and developmental biologists. He finds that when scientists are conducting generalizing theories specifically in gene information flow this generalization only shows the consequences within but not the actual reasons why it occur. In particular these consequences can only be explained within the subject of molecular biology and some causes for such gene-information is limited outside of molecular biology. This process of understanding how DNA replicates and eventually translates into proteins is not plausible on solving problems in a complex environment. Molecular biology is hard to implement when it is accounted to non-molecular biology aspects such as social and political issues. Thus molecular biologists’ reductionist approach to gene- information flow makes them not have authority to impose such beliefs on a more complex social subject of the HGI.
I think the main point from Greisemer’s conclusion which can be used to analyze what is wrong by the anti-science charge by some scientists opposing labeling is that these people are ignoring that is out of the question of science but outside of molecular biology and it is more on the questions of rights and values. These scientists may know what the genes in the GMO product but not exactly know complex environmental factors that may cause bad mutations of the gene or its overall effects on certain individuals. This is the exact reason in which some people prefer to know what they are consuming is GMO for either health reasons or for some more important political reasons. A scientist has no say to for one’s rights or political agenda as it is outside their profession and expertise. It is the same for scientists opposing GMO products overall and not just the labeling. Since such scientists have no knowledge of the results of GMO products and have been proven to be safe to some extent it is not in their expertise to say it is totally bad for the society as they cannot exactly predict the results. This is the reason why successful lab testing often not a proper representation of real world results like medicinal cures.

eugenekim
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 6:59 pm

Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby eugenekim » Sat Sep 12, 2015 5:59 am

1)From the consequences of transmission systems models, social scientists like making qualitative assumptions. Sober seems to be indicating that unless these social scientist’s theories come in conflict conflict with historical explanations, there is less need for them to take interest in these models of cultural evolution. The reason social scientists take less head to these investigations might be due to the fact that the qualitative assumptions that they make are indeed correct. To exemplify a qualitative assumption that a social scientist would make, consider the Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman model. In their model, they make a quantitative assumption by asserting that the idea of having two children in comparison to five was more attractive during the nineteenth century in Italy. A social scientist would attempt to reason why this idea that women should have fewer children became a societal norm. As he is interested in the sources of transmission systems and not the consequences of them like biologists. If the social scientists assumptions are wrong, then it could hurt the credibility of historical explanations, so in the case they are, they should look to the models of cultural evolution so that they could correct their assumptions and also their intuitions by analyzing these models. In these situations, these models are found to be helpful as they put a common framework on culture and biology as well as placing a similar “importance” upon the two. Not only that, because the emphasis placed on the two are similar, it puts to rest the common notion that biological explanations are more profound than their cultural counterpart. If the key word is plausible, then I would agree and state that I find his views plausible. The reason I believe so is because so much of the work of scientists compared to social scientist seem to have a different end goal from one another than causes their research to be different.

2)Originally, Weismannism was expressed through Wilson’s diagram to easily formulate its ideas. In contemporary times, that has been switched. Now, the ideas and language is used to formulate a theory based upon the visual diagram. However, because the diagram that Wilson drew was incorrect and distorted Weismmann’s views, developmental biologists are troubled on how to explain why Wesimannism is wrong while using the very basis of Weismannism itself to do so. The reason for this dilemma is due to the fact that Weismannism is so deeply integrated in biological studies that it has become almost an appendage for explaining the fundamentals of applied biology, making it even more difficult to debunk itself without the help of using its core framework. Wilson diagram is an example of why dividing the sciences into “how” and “why” is a terrible idea. The inadequacy of the diagram demonstrates that these interpretations fail to present important implications of its societal, political, and ethical effects. Furthermore, it highlights the fact that as completing the HGI becomes increasingly more complex, it will create a larger gap of explaining these technological capabilities to the public. As the information becomes more specialized, there will be less people who could be capable authority figures to interpret such information to the public. Without further input from other scientists and sources, it can easily create a greater divide between the proximate and ultimate questions and explanations, stunting the potential utility of the HGI. In terms of cultural replicators, ideas should be conceptualized as entities that can jump from one mind to another by making copies of these ideas as they move along. Furthermore, ideas can make copies of themselves at various rates, so a complicated idea might take more time to be replicated. A “clear, simple, easily expressed, and portable” idea has a higher chance of being replicated than a more difficult idea that takes a long time to be expressed; therefore, this idea becomes a more attractive hypothesis than other competing ideas that may be more complex. Griesemer is asserting that because of this phenomenon Weismannism has found itself deeply rooted to the fundamentals of applied biology and it would be incredibly difficult to de-root as such. Wilson’s diagram and its cause and effect logic was passed down from one scientist to another and although the diagram was incorrect, the idea was still transmitted and replicated from the head of one scientist through the use of communication to another, demonstrating that cultural units are replicators.

4)Millstein presents a valid argument that GMOs are biologically new and that we cannot yet know the full effects of the use of this technology. Millstein points out that although farmers have used selection and hybridization techniques for centuries, the GMO technology of today is not comparable because it is done on a much larger and less controllable scale. It is also concerning that the changes that can occur from genetic modification can be done with such distantly related organisms, such as fish and tomatoes, rather than something that is seen as more similar, such as two separate species of fish. GMOs are a novel technology because the changes introduced into the genes of organisms would not likely occur in a natural setting. However, with CRISPR, the genetic modifications of organisms are able to be more carefully controlled. CRISPR does make it more difficult to identify genetically modified organisms, which may seem concerning, but if the genetically modified organisms are hard to identify, it may also show that they are more “natural” the other GMOs being produced today. In terms of the cautionary principle, it would make sense that both conventional GMOs and CRISPR style GMOs should be rejected until further studies can be done to see the “ultimate effects” of their use. However, because the effects of CRISPR are more easily controlled than traditional GMOs, I believe that the cautionary principle would lean toward the use of CRISPR style GMOs. In addition, if it is difficult to tell whether an organism has been genetically engineered or mutated on it’ own, it would stand to reason that even if it had been genetically engineered, the organism would still retain most of it’s natural qualities.

5)Griesemer explains that while science research makes advances by dividing outside factors into their simple systems, molecular biologists should have the authority nor do they have the needed expertise to impose their beliefs and views when it comes to a social evaluations of the HGI. The reason he arrives at this conclusion is because when molecular biologists impose their beliefs they have a tendency to divide the “why” and “how” questions, which ultimately leads to ignoring important questions and aspects. For example, the author points out, “ How often is migration of peoples considered in arguments for or against the health benefits of HGI?” Here his argument entails that a molecular biologist would have never considered these factors that perhaps a population or evolutionary biologist would have considered. Furthermore, by only valuing one specific group’s input such as the molecular technologist’s a dangerously wrong hypothesis could be made such as the early eugenicists. Millstein raises similar concerns with Griesemer about GMOs. She notes that while analyzing the data, that she is not necessarily criticizing the data but rather she is criticizing the values that are inside of the scientific theories themselves. In other words, she is looking at the data with an outsider’s perspective other than a scientist’s and voicing new concerns from that perspective that perhaps scientists might not have the knowledge or the authority to make. Secondly, she is observing the same data, but yet she is giving it a different label than a scientist might, for instance, she notes that different people might weigh the risks associated with GMOs differently. Furthermore, she expands the argument for labeling GMOs beyond safety, but as the public’s right to knowledge, which is a perspective that a scientist may not have considered about GMOs. Since the public decides what they want to eat or not, Millstein argues that they have a right to know what they are putting in their body. Lastly, Millstein also considers environmental safety of implementing GMOs as well, something a scientist may not have considered when it concerns public safety. An example would be the possibility of a herb-resistant plant passing that trait down to relatively close wild species and so forth.

Michelle Tarango
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 5:59 pm

Re: Take-Home Final (due Saturday, Sept. 12 by 7 a.m.)

Postby Michelle Tarango » Sat Sep 12, 2015 8:01 am

Michelle Tarango
PHI 108
Partners Eugene Kim

Final
1. In this passage, Sober is pointing out the differences in assumptions reached by social and biological scientists. While biological scientists reach quantitative answers while studying cultural influence, social scientists reach qualitative answers. To exemplify a qualitative assumption that a social scientist would make, consider the Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman model. In the study that found that Italian women decreased the number of children they had on average, a biological scientist may point out that this trend occurred by examining birth and mortality rates over a period of time. However, a social scientist may stipulate why these changes occur, which is harder to say with certainty is correct. Without being there and asking these Italian women about the reasons behind their choice to have fewer children, it is impossible to say it is because it was popular rather than because the families were only able to economically support two children instead of five. Sober seems to be indicating that unless the social scientist’s theories come in conflict with historical explanations, there is less need for them to take interest in these models of cultural evolution. This might be because the qualitative assumptions that they make are indeed correct. In the model, they make a quantitative assumption by asserting that the idea of having two children in comparison to five was more attractive during the nineteenth century in Italy. A social scientist would attempt to reason why this idea that women should have fewer children became a societal norm, as he or she is interested in the sources of transmission systems and not the consequences of them. If the social scientist’s assumptions are wrong, then it could hurt the credibility of historical explanations, so in the case they are, they should look to the models of cultural evolution so that they could correct their assumptions and their intuitions by analyzing these models. In these situations, these models are found to be helpful as they put a common framework on culture and biology as well as placing a similar “importance” upon the two. In addition, because the emphasis placed on the two are similar, it puts to rest the common notion that biological explanations are more profound than their cultural counterparts.


2. Most biologists have widely accepted and have been influenced by the work of Wilson’s diagram. When Wilson’s work is translated for the layman, it is easily understood because of its simplicity and how easily its diagram can be demonstrated. Originally, Weismannism was expressed through Wilson’s diagram to easily formulate its ideas. In contemporary times, that has been switched. Now, the ideas and language is used to formulate a theory based upon the visual diagram. However, because the diagram that Wilson drew was incorrect and distorted Weismmann’s views, developmental biologists are troubled on how to explain why Wesimannism is wrong while using the very basis of Weismannism itself to do so . The reason for this dilemma is due to the fact that Weismannism is so deeply integrated in biological studies that it has become almost an appendage for explaining the fundamentals of applied biology, making it even more difficult to debunk itself without the help of using its core framework.
What this demonstrates is the difficulty of presenting complicated ideas simply to the public. The Wilson diagram is an example of why dividing the sciences into “how” and “why” is a terrible idea. The inadequacy of the diagram demonstrates that these interpretations fail to present important implications of its societal, political, and ethical effects. Furthermore, it highlights the fact that as completing the HGI becomes increasingly more complex, it will create a larger gap of explaining these technological capabilities to the public. As the information becomes more specialized, there will be less people who could be capable authority figures to interpret such information to the public. Without further input from other scientists and sources, it can easily create a greater divide between the proximate and ultimate questions and explanations, which will stunt the eventual usefulness of the HGI.
In terms of cultural replicators, ideas should be conceptualized as entities that can jump from one mind to another by making copies of these ideas as they move along. Furthermore, ideas can make copies of themselves at various rates, so a complicated idea might take more time to be replicated. A “clear, simple, easily expressed, and portable” idea has a higher chance of being replicated than a more difficult idea that takes a long time to be expressed; therefore, this idea becomes a more attractive hypothesis than other competing ideas that may be more complex. Griesemer is asserting that because of this phenomenon Weismannism has found itself deeply rooted to the fundamentals of applied biology and it would be incredibly difficult to de-root such an idea. It undermines the idea that cultural units are not replicators. The analysis seems to support the idea that cultural units are replicators. Wilson’s diagram and it’s cause and effect model had its idea passed down from one scientist to another and although the diagram was incorrect, the idea was still transmitted and replicated from the head of one scientist to another demonstrating that cultural units can be replicated.


4. Millstein presents a valid argument that GMOs are biologically new and that we cannot yet know the full effects of the use of this technology. Millstein points out that although farmers have used selection and hybridization techniques for centuries, the GMO technology of today is not comparable because it is done on a much larger and less controllable scale. It is also concerning that the changes that can occur from genetic modification can be done with such distantly related organisms, such as fish and tomatoes, rather than something that is seen as more similar, such as two separate species of fish. GMOs are a novel technology because the changes introduced into the genes of organisms would not likely occur in a natural setting. However, with CRISPR, the genetic modifications of organisms are able to be more carefully controlled. CRISPR does make it more difficult to identify genetically modified organisms, which may seem concerning, but if the genetically modified organisms are hard to identify, it may also show that they are more “natural” the other GMOs being produced today. In terms of the cautionary principle, it would make sense that both conventional GMOs and CRISPR style GMOs should be rejected until further studies can be done to see the “ultimate effects” of their use. However, because the effects of CRISPR are more easily controlled than traditional GMOs, I believe that the cautionary principle would lean toward the use of CRISPR style GMOs. In addition, if it is difficult to tell whether an organism has been genetically engineered or mutated on it’ own, it would stand to reason that even if it had been genetically engineered, the organism would still retain most of it’s natural qualities.


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