The work being done in cancer epigenetics not only introduces substantial complications into the scientific understanding of cancer, and of genetics in general, but perhaps even more substantial complications of the politics and policy of cancer because of the way it shifts attention back towards the nexus of genes and their environments.
Although these kinds of bioethical issues have already been raised in the context of genetic sequence data, the presumptively fixed and immutable nature of gene sequences shields the disclosure of genetic data from some of the thornier implications of epigenetics.
There are obviously no solid answers to these questions yet, given the state of both the science and contemporary public policy, but my project is to begin to ask these questions now in the case that the science of epigenetics begins to make its way into the public policy domain.
I’m not sure epigenetics constitutes such a fundamental shift in our understandings of genetics and inheritance as to actually warrant much change in our present policies [and] I don’t think society is about to start outlawing stuff because of its negative effects two generations down the road.
Does epigenetics challenge contemporary political ideologies? This small study may serve as a starting point for broader studies of epigenetics as it comes to affect political ideologies and, in turn, public policies. The narrative mix reported here could yet prove vulnerable to ideological capture, or, more optimistically, could portend the emergence of a "third-way" narrative using epigenetics to question atomistic individualism and allowing for less divisiveness in public-health domains such as obesity.
The gene-centric focus of molecular genetics is usually portrayed as the product of the inevitable and impartial progress of science, but the material effects of the Second World War and its aftermath on the particular trajectory of the science of genetics are rarely considered.
The Progressive movement aimed at a fundamental reordering of the political system, while at the same time advocating for a reordering of society. Not surprisingly, these political changes also coincided fundamental changes in the prevailing understanding of biology.
The history of eugenics in early 20th century science must be addressed because of the sheer magnitude of its influence in the science and the politics of this era, its relation to the science of genetics that was to come, and because it provides such a strong example of the guiding model of this book of the inextricable connections between ideology, politics, and biology.
Epigenetics and Public Policy: The Tangled Web of Science and Politics (April 2018). Read excerpts here. "This book comprehensively considers the political implications of the emerging science of epigenetics in specific policy domains, addressing the intersections of epigenetics with cancer, obesity, the environment, and the law. Author Shea Robison carefully navigates the messy history of genetics … Continue reading Epigenetics and Public Policy: The Tangled Web of Science and Politics
My name is Shea Robison. (Follow me on Twitter at @EpigeneticsGuy and see my academic profile at Academia.edu) As is well known, Darwin’s theory of evolution presented fundamental challenges to many of the prevailing core beliefs and values of the mid-1800s. These fundamental ontological challenges account for the significant scientific and ecclesiastical opposition which greeted the publication of On … Continue reading The Reception of Epigenetics: More like Mendel or Darwin?