Epigenetics and Public Policy: The Tangled Web of Science and Politics

The cover art for my forthcoming book Epigenetics and Public Policy: The Tangled Web of Science and Politics has been approved, and a tentative release date set (February 2017).

Stay tuned here, as I will post excerpts and work in progress as I finish the writing of this book.


“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 and epigenetics in order to explore what changes in public policy might come in the age of a new scientific frontier. Readers will understand how new findings in epigenetic research and increased acceptance of epigenetic science may lead to paradigm shifts in cancer prevention and treatment, significantly different policy solutions for combating obesity, and revised statutes of limitations and laws regarding civil and corporate liability and wrongful life.”

The first section of the book details the current state of the science of epigenetics.

In the second section I detail the political history of epigenetics going back to the 1800s. This history is inextricably intertwined with both the scientific development of genetics and with many of the most important political movements of the 19th and 20th century, from the rise of Progressivism in the United States, to the Cold War. This often overlooked historical context is critical for understanding both the science of epigenetics and the implications of epigenetics for contemporary public policy.

In the final section I discuss these policy implications of epigenetics in the context of specific policy domains such as obesity, cancer research, and environmental policy. In particular I use a policy narrative approach to analyze the different ways epigenetics challenges existing policy narratives in these domains, and suggest how epigenetics can introduce novel narratives into these policy domains. I also have a chapter on the potentially profound implications of epigenetics for the law.

The Reception of Epigenetics: More like Mendel or Darwin?


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 the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Similarly, the foundations of modern genetics which emerged in the early 20th century also presented scientific, political and ethical challenges of its own. I assert that contemporary epigenetics likewise presents equally fundamental challenges to the prevailing politics and ethics of our time, but with a twist.

As I discuss in more detail in other posts, changes in biological understanding such as those presented by natural selection, genetics and epigenetics have a direct connection with changes in politics and ethics. I discuss and illustrate these connections of biology with politics and ethics via the guiding model of my project:


Thus, the differences in scientific understandings of biology presented by each of these ‘advances’ in science present equally important political and ethical implications. To this end, there are important differences in the circumstances of the emergence of each of these significant changes in the prevailing understanding of biology, and in their commensurate impacts on the prevailing politics and ethics, and in the impacts of these prevailing politics and ethics on these changes in biology. In particular, while Darwin’s theory provoked—and still provokes—considerable opposition, as do epigenetics, the reception of the modern theory of genetics has been remarkably smooth. For many, this is merely evidence of the self-evident ‘rightness’ of genetics. However, the history and recent (re)emergence of epigenetics suggests that ease of acceptance is not necessarily the sine qua non of scientific validity. Elaborating these differences in reception between Darwinian evolution, genetics and epigenetics is an important step in predicting what could be the political and ethical impacts of epigenetics today and in the future.

Politics, Ethics and Darwin

Even before the publication of Origin in 1859, the reactions to Darwin’s ideas were immediate, international and intense. As evidenced by the Scopes trial in 1921, the religious reactions against Darwinian evolution were still boiling over sixty years after the publication of Origin, and these reactions against the implications of Darwinian evolution continue to the present day in the ongoing debates over the teaching of evolution in public schools.

As described by the American philosopher John Dewey in his 1910 essay on the influence of Darwin, “the ‘Origin of Species’ introduced a mode of thinking that in the end was bound to transform the logic of knowledge, and hence the treatment of morals, politics, and religion”[1] And this has clearly been the case. Notably, though, few of these reactions against Darwinian evolution also include opposition to genetics; instead, Darwinian evolution is usually the sole focus of these ideology-based critiques (i.e., how many school boards have banned the teaching of genetics on religious grounds?).

Darwin, Christianity and Genetics

In fact, if the available evidence supports any conclusion, that conclusion is that genetics is also compatible with the basic assumptions of Christianity[2]. Given the extent to which modern Western society is a product of the history of Christianity only provides further support for a fundamental congruency between genetics and the political and ethical assumptions of modern Western liberalism [3].

To wit, some of the most strident opposition to Darwin’s theory came from the ecclesiastical perspective, including ecclesiastically-affiliated scientists. For example, Adam Sedgwick, one of the founders of modern geology and one of Darwin’s early instructors, after reading an advance copy of Origin wrote that the “point blank issue” that Darwin and his theory deny—but which is actually the “crown & glory” of organic philosophy—is that “there is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical.” “You,” Sedgwick writes to Darwin, “have ignored this link; &, if I do not mistake your meaning, you have done your best in one or two pregnant cases to break it.” The repercussions of breaking this link as Darwin proposes, which Sedgwick first thanks God is not possible, is that humanity “would suffer a damage that might brutalize it—& sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history”[4]. These comments from Sedgwick provide just one example of the well-known negative reactions to Darwin’s theory [5], most of which revolve less around the science and—per the guiding model of my project in Figure 1—are more concerned with the political and ethical implications of Darwin’s theory of biology.

However, the emergence of modern genetics—which is itself a synthesis of Mendelian genetics with Darwinian natural selection—with its emphasis on genes as the carriers of biological essences and of evolution as a gene-focused process generated new causal narratives which differed significantly from what were the prevailing narratives of the early 20th century. An important point of departure, though, is that while the Modern Synthesis did present some significant challenges to the political and ethical conventions of the early 20th century, it did not provoke the same reactions as Darwinian evolution. In fact, I have been hard-pressed to find any evidence of the kinds of censorious reactions against genetics like those of Sedgwick cited before.

The best explanation I can give for this marked lack of reaction, per the relationships diagrammed in Figure 1, is that the assumptions of the science of genetics were already more or less congruent with the assumptions of the prevailing politics and ethics. This congruence facilitated the acceptance and propagation of the Modern Synthesis beyond the weight of the scientific evidence in its favor, which was not as overwhelming in its favor as it now seems in hindsight. In fact, one tantalizing possibility suggested by Figure 1 is that one of the reasons for the sudden acceptance of the synthesis of Mendelian genetics with Darwinian evolution—which until then had been competing explanations—was because it allowed just such a reconciliation of the science with the politics and ethics.

Epigenetics and Darwinism?

In contrast, I assert that the ontological assumptions of contemporary epigenetics represent a fundamental break from the basic ontological commitments which inform contemporary society, similar to those presented by Darwinian natural selection. In this context, the position of epigenetics vis-à-vis the prevailing politics and ethics of contemporary society is likely much more similar to that of Darwinian evolution in the 1860s than of the emerging science of genetics in the early 1900s. While there may have been some resistance to genetics on political (i.e., ideological) and ethical (e.g., religious) grounds in the early 20th century, genetics produced nowhere near the antagonistic response to Darwinian evolution in the 1800s or epigenetics today—at least in the West. As has been discussed elsewhere, the reception of genetics in the Soviet Union, while initially quite positive, quite suddenly turned negative and for openly ideological reasons. In the West, though, with the possible exception of France [6], genetics has enjoyed a somewhat charmed life, moving quite rapidly from disputed scientific hypothesis to almost universally accepted convention.

Again, the operative question is why genetics has trod a much smoother path even than its counterpart in the Modern Synthesis, the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection? And then what do these differences in reception say about the rocky history of epigenetics and about the prospects for epigenetics in the future?

The Road(s) Ahead for Epigenetics

According to the guiding model of this project, for epigenetics to become widely accepted and to exert an influence on public policies there must be an eventual even if uneasy reconciliation between the science of epigenetics and the prevailing ethics and politics. This reconciliation must occur either through modifications of the politics and ethics to become more congruent with the innovations introduced by epigenetics, or through modifications of the science of epigenetics to become more congruent with the politics and ethics, or through some homeodynamic adjustments of all three components. We have the benefit of hindsight as to how this dynamic has already played out in regards to both Darwinian evolution and the Modern Synthesis with the politics and ethics of their time; the outcome of this dynamic in regards to epigenetics remains to be seen.

In the context of this history and the relationships revealed by Figure 1, there are at least three potential avenues that can be taken at this point: That contemporary politics and ethics are already changing to be congruent with these novel assumptions introduced by epigenetics; that these contemporary politics and ethics are not changing and will not change as needed to become congruent with epigenetics; or that epigenetics and the prevailing politics and ethics will all change together so as to become congruent with each other.

In the first case, as the politics and ethics continue to change the science of epigenetics will be increasingly incorporated into contemporary politics. In the second case, the science of epigenetics will be increasingly hounded to the brink of irrelevance or extinction—as epigenetics had been until relatively recent. In the third case, some of the aspects of epigenetics which contradict these prevailing ethics and politics will be modified to conform while some of the other aspects of the politics and ethics which contradict the findings of epigenetics will likewise be modified to conform to epigenetics, though what these homeodynamic changes might be is difficult to predict at this point.

At this early stage in the (re)emergence of epigenetics, any of these outcomes is plausible. Regardless, just as the narratives of evolution and genetics from the Modern Synthesis began to influence public policies in distinct ways even before the codification of the Modern Synthesis, e.g., the influential eugenics movements of the early 20th century [7], so also may the emerging narratives of epigenetics already be introducing unanticipated wrinkles into contemporary public policy discussions.

Thus, one focus of my project–as discussed here in regards to the policy narratives of obesity–is to empirically analyze the implications for policy of these new challenges from epigenetics via the emerging narratives of epigenetics, as compared to the conventional narratives of obesity in particular. As such this project constitutes an important early point of reference for future discussions of the state of epigenetics, and of its political and ethical implications.

I am curious to hear your thoughts. Are there important similarities between the receptions of Darwinian natural selection and epigenetics? Leave your comments below and I will respond.

Also, if you find these thoughts I’ve shared interesting and worthwhile, Like this post, Reblog it, or Tweet about it using the buttons below.

[1] Dewey, John. 1910. “The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy.” In The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy, and Other Essays in Contemporary Thought. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

[2] Branch, Glenn. 2013. “Bad Science: Genetics as Misread by Creationism.” GeneWatch 26(4). http://www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org/genewatch/GeneWatchPage.aspx?pageId=504 (May 6, 2015); Lester, Lane P. 1995. Genetics: Enemy of Evolution. Creation Research Quarterly 31(4); Lester, L. P. (1998). Genetics: No friend of evolution. Creation Ex Nihilo20(2), 22.; Moore, J. A. (2002). From Genesis to genetics: the case of evolution and creationism. Univ of California Press; Moore, J. A. (2002). From Genesis to genetics: the case of evolution and creationism. Univ of California Press; Morris, J. 2000. Why Can’t Geneticists See the Obvious Evidence for Creation in the Genetic Code? Acts & Facts. 29 (10).

[3] Hannam, J. (2011). The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution. Regnery Publishing; Moritz, J. M. (2012). The War that Never Was: Exploding the Myth of the Historical Conflict Between Christianity and Science. Theology and Science,10(2), 113-123; Stark, R. (2014). How the west won: The neglected story of the triumph of modernity. Open Road Media; White Jr, L. (1967). 4. The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis. Science, 155(3767), 1203-1207.

[4] Sedgwick, Adam. 1859. Adam Sedgwick to Charles Darwin, November 25. In Darwin Correspondence Project. https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/entry-2548.

[5] Desmond, A. J. and James Richard Moore. (1994). Darwin. WW Norton & Company.

[6] Gayon, J., & Burian, R. M. (2004). National traditions and the emergence of genetics: the French example.Nature Reviews Genetics5(2), 150-156.

[7] Adams, M. B. (ed.). 1990. The Wellborn Science: Eugenics in Germany, France, Brazil, and Russia. New York: Oxford Univ. Press; Harper, P. S. (1992). Huntington disease and the abuse of genetics. American journal of human genetics, 50(3), 460; Scales-Trent, J. (2001). Racial purity laws in the United States and Nazi Germany: The targeting process. Human Rights Quarterly, 23(2), 260-307; Sofair, A. N., & Kaldjian, L. C. (2000). Eugenic sterilization and a qualified Nazi analogy: the United States and Germany, 1930-1945. Annals of internal medicine, 132(4), 312-319.

The Trans-ideological Potential of Epigenetics


by Shea Robison (@EpigeneticsGuy)

As discussed repeatedly on this blog, epigenetics is a rapidly emerging field of research akin to genetics but with some substantial differences. In addition to the differences in the sciences of genetics and epigenetics—which differences are more a function of the ontological assumptions of each than the actual science—there are significant differences in the narratives of both. In the contexts of policy and politics, these differences in narratives are perhaps more salient than are the scientific differences.

In this context the “narratives” of epigenetics refers to the politically relevant interpretations of epigenetics which, while related to the science of epigenetics, are not the science itself but the political use of that science. As such, there are a number of aspects of the science of epigenetics which complicate the conventional ideological dichotomizations of conservativism versus liberalism around which are organized so much of our historical and contemporary politics[1]. For example, most of the policy solutions prescribed for obesity have their roots in either a conservative narrative of obesity which emphasizes personal responsibility, or a liberal narrative of obesity which emphasizes the overriding causal influence of the environment [2]. The opposition of these ideologies in obesity policy narratives is reflected across a wide swath of policy domains. These ideological orientations are generally assumed to be diametrically if not fundamentally opposed.

The science of epigenetics, though, contains elements of both dispositional and environmental influences at once. Thus, both conservative and liberal narratives can both be constructed simultaneously from the science of epigenetics. At this early stage in the emergence of both the science and the narratives of epigenetics there are two potential routes for the policy narrative use of the science of epigenetics: Either those aspects of epigenetics which are conducive to the different ideologies will be emphasized, resulting in mutually exclusive conservative and a liberal narrative of epigenetics, or that by complicating or combining these longstanding ideological orientations epigenetics will actually provide a ‘third-way’ for the ascription of causes for highly politicized issues such as obesity. In the former case, policy contests will be more or less business as usual with epigenetics as just one more arrow in the ideological quivers of opposing sides. The latter case, though, would open the way for unanticipated policies which are not beholden to either one of these currently predominant ideological poles. This complication of conventional ideologies resulting in unprecedented combinations of policy orientations would be just one indication of the true political impact of epigenetics.

Revealing the narratives

I conducted searches for articles on epigenetics in two major newspapers: the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and the New York Times (NYT) to see how epigenetics is talked about, and whether there were these ideological differences in the narratives of epigenetics. These newspapers were selected for the level of circulation of both their print and digital editions, the scope of their readership, and their differences in ideological biases. These two posts are the number one and number two newspapers in the United States in terms of weekday circulation, and are also two of only three newspapers with a national instead of a local or regional readership[3].  As discussed by Lawrence (2004)[4], while these two posts are perhaps not as direct an indicator of the general public perception of an issue as a national survey, they are still excellent sources for tracking how an issue is framed by and for elites, and how an issue is presented to the general public.

Also, according to the analysis of Gentzkow and Shapiro (2010)[5], on a scale of user-based ratings of conservativeness—from 1 (liberal) to 5 (conservative)—the NYT (owned by the NYT Company) scores a 2 and the WSJ (owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp) scores a 4. Each post is also located on opposite ends of the liberal-conservative slant index constructed by Gentzkow and Shapiro (2010). These differences in ideology are important for identifying possible differences in the composition of the epigenetic narratives from these sources.

When the epigenetics narratives—or the words used to describe epigenetics—in articles from both sources are compared with each other, a number of interesting patterns emerge (full results to be published in forthcoming paper). Again, a reasonable expectation is that the reporting on epigenetics in the NYT would emphasize those aspects of epigenetics which are congruent with a liberal emphasis on the causal influence of the environment, while the reporting on epigenetics in the WSJ would emphasize the personal and dispositional aspects of epigenetics. Instead, there are many instances in which the narratives from both sources share narrative elements, even to the point that the epigenetics narrative in the NYT demonstrates both liberal and prototypically conservative elements, just as the narrative of epigenetics from the WSJ also shows both conservative and liberal elements

The Trans-ideological potential of epigenetics

At the beginning of this post, two possibilities were offered for the emerging narratives of epigenetics. Because of the causal mechanisms revealed by the science of epigenetics which blur the conventional boundaries of our insides and our outsides and between the individual and their environment, epigenetics is capable of producing both conservative and liberal narratives. One possibility of this potential dualism is that each ideological orientation would just co-opt those aspects of epigenetics which fit its preconceptions. The other possibility is that epigenetics would compel a unique third way narrative which, while containing elements of both ideological narratives, is actually beholden to neither conventional ideology.

The preceding suggests the latter much more than the former. As discussed before, science-based policies are the result both science and narrative development. Science-based narratives do not reflect just the science but also an ideological interpretation of the science, just as science itself is a process of narrative formation often informed by ideology[6]. A valid question at this early stage is therefore which factor will have more influence on the other. Indications are that at this early stage the narratives of epigenetics are molding the existing ideological narratives and not vice versa.

Given the high level of attention devoted to epigenetics in the sciences, the incorporation of epigenetics into policies is only a matter of time. Although there are as yet no epigenetics-informed policies per se, this vector of influence suggests that when there are such policies they will be composed of both individual and environmental aspects and not isolated to either ideological orientation, regardless of the source. What these new policy prescriptions will be which result from this unique combination of the previously juxtaposed environmental and personal narratives remains to be seen, but the results just discussed suggest that the science and narratives of epigenetics promise potentially transformative possibilities for politics and policies which transcend the conventional ideological dichotomizations.

What do you think? Do the narratives of epigenetics provide a potential ‘third way’ for policy? Or is this just a result of the early formative stages of the narratives of epigenetics?  I am curious to hear your thoughts. Leave your comments below and I will respond.

Also, if you find these thoughts I’ve shared interesting and worthwhile, Like this post, Reblog it, or Tweet about it using the buttons below.

[1] Conover, P. J., & Feldman, S. (1981). The origins and meaning of liberal/conservative self-identifications. American Journal of Political Science, 617-645; Huntington, S. P. (1957). Conservatism as an Ideology. American Political Science Review, 51(02), 454-473.

[2] Kersh R. 2009. “The politics of obesity: a current assessment and look ahead.” Millbank Quarterly 87(1):295–316; McBeth, M. K., Clemons, R. S., Husmann, M. A., Kusko, E., & Gaarden, A. (2013). The Social Construction of a Crisis: Policy Narratives and Contemporary US Obesity Policy. Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy, 4(3), 135-163; Niederdeppe, J., Robert, S. A., & Kindig, D. A. 2011. “Peer Reviewed: Qualitative Research About Attributions, Narratives, and Support for Obesity Policy, 2008.” Preventing chronic disease, 8(2).

[3] Alliance for Audited Media. 2015. “Research and Data.” http://www.auditedmedia.com/news/research-and-data/top-25-us-newspapers-for-march-2013.aspx (April 6, 2015).

[4] Lawrence, R. G. (2004). Framing obesity the evolution of news discourse on a public health issue. The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 9(3), 56-75.

[5] Gentzkow, M., & Shapiro, J. M. (2010). What drives media slant? Evidence from US daily newspapers. Econometrica, 78(1), 35-71.

[6] Fuchs, H. U. (2015). From Stories to Scientific Models and Back: Narrative framing in modern macroscopic physics. International Journal of Science Education, (ahead-of-print), 1-24; Sheehan, R. J., & Rode, S. (1999). On Scientific Narrative Stories of Light by Newton and Einstein. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 13(3), 336-358; Wise, M. N. (2011). Science as (historical) narrative. Erkenntnis, 75(3), 349-376.

The History of Epigenetics and the Science of Social Progress


by Shea Robison (@EpigeneticsGuy)

The importance of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and of Lamarckism in the contemporary debates about epigenetics and genetics is difficult to overstate, primarily because one of the most common epithets used against contemporary epigenetics is that it is ‘Lamarckian’, which distinction is deemed sufficient to dismiss any subsequent discussion. As discussed here, such references demonstrate fundamental misunderstandings of both Lamarckism and epigenetics. The contemporary indictment of epigenetics qua Lamarckism, though, is quite helpful in revealing the underlying political and ethical commitments of genetics.

As I discuss here, the scientific flaws of Lamarckism—which, although numerous, are also understandable in its historical context—are actually of little relevance for contemporary epigenetics. What is relevant is that Lamarckism is invoked so often as a conversation-stopper [1] about contemporary epigenetics. The guiding model of my project helps to explain why these unsubstantiated epithets are being used against epigenetics, as a means to protect the often unrecognized underlying political and ethical commitments of genetics. This post will use the experiments of August Weismann to demonstrate how this has worked in the past.

Weismann v. Lamarck?

The scientific rationale for the rejection of Lamarckian inheritance—and, by extension, much of contemporary epigenetics—is largely provided by August Weismann’s experiments on whether mutilations of parents (i.e., cutting off the tails of 22 generations of rats) could be passed on to their offspring. (Similarly, the repeated need for circumcision in Jewish populations is still often offered as anecdotal proof for the rejection of the inheritance of acquired characteristics [2].)

From his experiments Weismann postulated a tissue barrier that protects those cells involved in sexual reproduction (germline cells) from environmental influences registered in the cells which constitute the body of an organism (somatic cells). This barrier is what prevents Lamarckian inheritance. With the support of experiments by Castle and Phillips in 1911 of the transplantation of albino guinea pig ovaries into non-albino guinea pigs which appeared to verify empirically that adaptations of such characteristics were not heritable [3], Weismann’s Barrier soon gained widespread acceptance and still constitutes a central assumption of the conventional orthodoxy of genetics as an inviolate barrier against the transmission of acquired traits [4]. Notably, there have been significant modifications of this concept since Weismann, but the contemporary articulation of this barrier is still that there must necessarily be some kind of barrier which prevents the transfer of genes from the somatic cells to germline cells [5].

However, there are a couple of substantial issues with both the history and the science of this concept. First, according to E.J. Steele, these experimental protocols did not accurately reflect the mechanisms of inheritance as theorized by Lamarck and thus were not actually a valid test of Lamarckism [6]. Second, the results of these experiments were obviously only deductively valid (i.e., while these experiments showed that the specific mechanisms of tail generation may not be subject to transgenerational inheritance, it is logically invalid to infer that these results definitively disprove the possibility of the inheritance of acquired characteristics in general). Yet the results of these experiments were promulgated as definitive disproof of the inheritance of acquired characteristics.

Even Weismann himself admitted that his justification for this barrier was based on almost pure speculation only tenuously informed and supported by empirical evidence [7]. To be fair, Weismann also declared that his intent was to speculate so as to spur further research in this area, and acknowledged that his ideas were likely woefully incomplete and would require much experimental work to verify or disprove. Regardless, this concept was quickly accepted as being presumptively true without much of the empirical work Weismann recommended be done.

While subsequent research has largely supported the assumption of Weismann’s Barrier, the actual physical grounding of this barrier has not been established until quite recent [8]. Notably, as the actual make-up of this barrier is just now being verified, this same work is also establishing that there is no such inviolable barrier per se, but rather a collection of mechanisms which prevent the transmission of acquired traits [9]. At the same time, work in this area is also providing evidence that genetic material does cross this supposedly inviolable soma-germline ‘barrier’ [10], that genes may be transferred both vertically (between parents and offspring) and horizontally (i.e., between unrelated organisms) [11], and that there are epigenetic mechanisms which do allow the inheritance of environmentally induced characteristics [12].

The look before the leap

So why did Weismann, one of the most respected experimental scientists of his time, see fit to engage in such speculative theorizing to derive his crowning achievement? And why did a concept with so little initial empirical support so quickly attain the status of a presumptively true assumption to become a cornerstone of contemporary genetics that only now is being questioned?

The conventional view of science and of the history of genetics is that Weismann ‘merely’ took a creative leap which contributed to subsequent advances in our scientific understanding of biology. This may be true, but a reasonable hypothesis—per the guiding model of this project—is that there were also political and ethical impetuses which influenced the direction and the trajectory of this leap.

This hypothesis finds significant support in the context of Weismann’s bitter—and well cataloged—dispute with Herbert Spencer [13]. This dispute between Spencer and Weismann, according to Stephen Jay Gould, was the “focal point and most widely cited set of documents in the great debate between ‘neo-Darwinism’ and ‘neo-Lamarckism,’ perhaps the hottest subject in evolutionary theory of the 19th century” [14].

In this ‘debate’ Weismann disagreed vociferously with Spencer—and, by extension, with Freidrich Engels and Karl Marx and other neo-Lamarckians of this time—who used Lamarckism as scientific support for their theories of social improvement. Many of these neo-Lamarckians preferred Lamarckism for the emancipatory possibilities it offered as in contrast to the practical immutability of biological essences promoted first by conventional religion, and continued by Darwin and neo-Darwinists. Instead of organisms (and humans in particular) being fixed in their basic endowments, or subject to the grace of God or random forces for change, dramatic changes were deemed possible for these social reformers through the guidance and instruction of their environments [15].

For example, in 1891 the prominent American geologist and president of the American Natural History Museum Henry Fairfield Osborn described the social implications of these differences in biological science, writing that:

If the Weismann idea triumphs, it will be in a sense a triumph of fatalism; for, according to it…each new generation must start de novo, receiving no increment of the moral and intellectual advance made during the lifetime of its predecessors. It would follow that one deep, almost instinctive motive for a higher life would be removed if the race were only superficially benefited by its nurture, and the only possible channel of actual improvement were in the selection of the fittest chains of race plasma[16].

For these reasons, as described by Lenoir and Ross in their brief history of natural museums in England, Lamarckism was a fundamental aspect of many of the rationalist (i.e., secular), progressive reform movements of the 1800s in which “a belief in the perfectability of humankind and the self-organizing power of matter according to natural laws [was] joined to a faith in the environment as a determinant of form and character” [17]. This combination of scientific and philosophical beliefs supported the expectation that “through the appropriate social and material environment, humanity’s spiritual qualities could be molded as a prelude to political change” [18].

It was against such politically and ethically loaded ideas that Weismann and other Darwinists and neo-Darwinists set themselves. Although much of this debate was couched in scientific language about ostensibly scientific subjects, underneath much of it were competing worldviews as to the proper place of humanity on the earth and in the universe. In other posts, I have likewise written about the significant though largely ignored roles of competing political ideologies in the scientific history of genetics and epigenetics, as well as about the ideological implications of epigenetics.

In hindsight we are able to see how this dynamic has played out in the early and mid 20th century, with conventional genetics being declared the winner (i.e., the one true science) while the other combatants have been relegated as quaint relics of a bygone era (i.e., unscientific). However, the recent (re)emergence of contemporary epigenetics strongly suggests that neither the motives nor the outcomes of these ‘scientific’ debates were as pristine as they are now assumed to be.

Likewise, that these ideological influences on science in the past are as obvious as they are now also suggests that ideological influences are similarly present in science today. That most scientists working today would be offended at this suggestion that ideology has any influence in their work is understandable, but this umbrage does not mean that such influences are not operative today as well (how aware were Weismann or any of the other scientists of his time of the now obvious ideological influences on their work?).

Per the guiding model of this project, these political and ethical influences on science—and scientific influences on politics and ethics—are always present. My project is to identify the effects of these political and ethical influences on the emergence of the science of epigenetics.

I am curious to hear what you think so far. Leave your comments below and I will respond.

Also, if you find these thoughts I’ve shared interesting and worthwhile, Like this post, Reblog it, or Tweet about it using the buttons on this page.

[1] Rorty, Richard. 1994. “Religion as a Conversation-Stopper,” Common Knowledge 3(1): 1-6.

[2] Levin, Harold. 2009. The Earth Through Time. 8th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. 133.

[3] Chiras, D. D. (2013). Human biology. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

[4] Alexander, Richard. 1979. Darwinism and Human Affairs. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

[5] Steele, E.J. 1999. Lamarck’s Signature: How Retrogenes Are Changing Darwin’s Natural Selection Paradigm. Basic Books.

[6] Steele, E.J. 1999. Lamarck’s Signature: How Retrogenes Are Changing Darwin’s Natural Selection Paradigm. Basic Books.

[7] Weismann, August. 1892. Essays Upon Heredity and Kindred Biological Problems. Clarendon Press, 81-82.

[8] Sabour, D., & Schöler, H. R. (2012). Reprogramming and the mammalian germline: the Weismann barrier revisited. Current opinion in cell biology24(6), 716-723.

[9] Solana, J. (2013). Closing the circle of germline and stem cells: the Primordial Stem Cell hypothesis. EvoDevo4(1), 1-17

[10] Boyce, N. (2001). Trial halted after gene shows up in semen. Nature,414(6865), 677-677.

[11] Riley, D. R., Sieber, K. B., Robinson, K. M., White, J. R., Ganesan, A., Nourbakhsh, S., & Hotopp, J. C. D. (2013). Bacteria-human somatic cell lateral gene transfer is enriched in cancer samples. PLoS computational biology9(6), e1003107.

[12] Sharma A, Singh P. Detection of transgenerational spermatogenic inheritance of adult male acquired CNS gene expression characteristics using a Drosophila systems modelPLoS One 4, e5763 (2009); Sharma, A. (2013). Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance: focus on soma to germline information transfer. Progress in biophysics and molecular biology, 113(3), 439-446; Sharma A. Novel transcriptome data analysis implicates circulating microRNAs in epigenetic inheritance in mammalsGene 538:366-372 (2014); Sharma A. Bioinformatic analysis revealing association of exosomal mRNAs and proteins in epigenetic inheritanceJ. Theor. Biol. 357:143-149 (2014).

[13] Bowler, P. J. (1992). The eclipse of Darwinism: Anti-Darwinian evolution theories in the decades around 1900. JHU Press.

[14] Gould, S. J. (2002). The structure of evolutionary theory. Harvard University Press.

[15] Morange, M. (2010). What history tells us XXII. The French neo-Lamarckians. Journal of biosciences35(4), 515.

[16] Osborn, Henry Fairfield. 1891. The Present Problem of Heredity. The Atlantic Monthly 57, 363.

[17] Lenoir, Tim and Cheri Ross. 1996. The Naturalized History Museum. In Peter Galison and David Stump, eds., The Disunity of Science: Boundaries, Contexts, and Power. Stanford; Stanford University Press: pp. 370-397.

[18] Lenoir, Tim and Cheri Ross. 1996. The Naturalized History Museum. In Peter Galison and David Stump, eds., The Disunity of Science: Boundaries, Contexts, and Power. Stanford; Stanford University Press: pp. 370-397.

Epigenetics and the Ideology of ‘Nature’ versus ‘Nurture’


by Shea Robison (@EpigeneticsGuy)

As discussed in a previous post and in this conference paper on epigenetics and the causal narratives of obesity, there are important congruencies between causal narratives (i.e., stories about why things do or do not happen) and ideology. These congruencies explain why ideological conservatives tend to prefer narratives of individual responsibility while liberals prefer narratives implicating the influence of the environment on human action[1]. According to the paper just mentioned, given the unanticipated ways that epigenetics connects the immediate environment with changes in gene expression, epigenetics blurs the traditional boundaries that have been erected between these two narratives by incorporating elements of both—in addition to introducing unique narrative elements of its own.

This post will begin to show how just as epigenetics complicates the juxtaposition of these conventional narratives, the emergence of epigenetics poses similar complications for the juxtaposition of the conservative and liberal ideologies which are associated with these narratives.

That these underlying ideologies—which for so long have been presumed to be mutually exclusive—can likewise be so complicated by epigenetics is clearly of significant consequence for conventional politics. Given that politics—particularly in America—are largely organized around the supposed opposition of these two ideological orientations, the possibility of such a fundamental ideological reconfiguration poses significant challenges for contemporary politics which extend well beyond the practical policy implications raised in the previous discussions.

Ideologies, narratives and nature versus nurture

One way to begin to highlight these more fundamental implications of epigenetics is through the observation that these conventional narratives of individual responsibility versus environmental influences reflect in many ways the well known dichotomy of ‘nature versus nurture’ which has been a fundamental opposition in Western thought for decades if not centuries[2].

By ‘nature’ is meant the belief that physical and moral characteristics are fixed by nature and therefore not ultimately malleable to external influences; ‘nurture’ is the belief that the substrate of these traits and behaviors are malleable to these outside influences. While the strict dichotomization of nature versus nurture has been largely discredited as too simplistic, too restrictive and therefore not representative of reality[3], the opposition of these two orientations does still play a significant role in many contemporary explanations of human action, as evidenced by the prevalence of the causal narratives discussed before.

As with the ideological differences in narratives described in previous discussions, this ‘nature versus nurture’ dichotomy also has important ideological and political dimensions, particularly via discussions involving genetics[4]. In particular, the point of view that human nature is more or less fixed and therefore not ultimately influenced by external forces is most generally associated with ideological conservatism; conversely, the viewpoint that human nature is malleable to external forces is most often associated with ideological liberalism[5].

Importantly, although the nature-nurture dichotomy plays a role in the competing narratives of individual responsibility versus environmental influences, the nature-nurture dichotomy is also in many ways distinct from these causal narratives such that discussion of one is not the same as discussion of the other. The relationship between these dichotomies is usefully illustrated by mapping them on perpendicular axes:

Figure 1

The more strongly one prefers a particular narrative, the higher or lower he or she will be located on the vertical axis. The more strongly one prefers a particular nature or nurture orientation, the more to the left or the right he or she will be located on the horizontal axis. Arranged in this way, the axes with their opposite poles also allow for the representation of a number of different vectors of preferences or beliefs. This mapping also thus facilitates the mapping of the relationships of each dichotomy with their respective ideologies.

In general, according to the research mentioned before, ideological conservatives will more often than not be located above the horizontal axis (i.e., preferring narratives of individual responsibility) and to the left of the vertical axis (i.e., preferring attributions of nature over nurture), and vice versa for liberals. In other words, the more a person both identifies the individual as the locus of responsibility for his or her own actions, and also believes that human physical and moral attributes are fixed by nature, the more likely this person is to be ideologically conservative (i.e., the top-left quadrant). Conversely, the more a person places the onus for human action on the environment and particularly in ‘nurture’, the more likely that person is to be ideologically liberal (i.e., the bottom-right quadrant):

Nature_Responsibility_Nurture_Environment 2
Figure 2

Admittedly, this diagram as-is is a fairly blunt tool for mapping political ideologies. Many self-identified conservatives and liberals would locate themselves in other quadrants either in general or on specific issues. Also, finer distinctions could be drawn using more nuanced categorizations (e.g., fiscal conservatives might be located at different coordinates than would social conservatives or “crunchy” conservatives, possibly bleeding into the other quadrants). There is an extensive literature in which ideological differences such as these are parsed and elaborated to ever finer degrees, but engaging with this literature is not the purpose of this post. Rather, taken as a whole, Figure 2 is a reasonable illustration of the basic gist of this literature in demonstrating how the particular configurations of preferences represented by these two axes relate to conservatism and liberalism as perhaps the fundamental distinction in contemporary politics.

However, another issue is that there are many people with preferences and beliefs which do not fit cleanly within either ideological orientation. These non-dichotomous ideologies can also be incorporated into this mapping. Instead of a strict opposition between quadrants, the ideological distribution can be better mapped as a gradient between these two ideologies. Conservatives will be most highly concentrated towards the top-left corner of this graph, while liberals will be more highly concentrated in the bottom-right corner, but the distribution of preferences of these other possible ideological orientations will then radiate outwards from these respective points of origin towards the intersection of the axes, as illustrated in Figure 3:

Figure 3

Figure 3 better reflects all the possible configurations of preferences along these two dimensions and not just the standard ideological divide between liberals and conservatives, while also showing the relationship with both conservatism and liberalism of these other possible configurations of preferences.

For example, a person who believes that human physical and moral attributes are strongly influenced by the environment, but also that an individual still has a relatively high level of responsibility for their actions and the outcomes of their actions, would be located somewhere in the purplish area of the top-right quadrant. While this pattern of preferences would not be identified as either conventionally conservative or liberal, the relationship of this configuration of preferences to both the conservative and liberal ideologies is thus apparent.

The relevance of this mapping for this project is to demonstrate how practically all sets of politically relevant beliefs along these two dimensions can be related to these two ideological orientations. Once these relationships between narratives, orientations and ideologies are established, it is easy to demonstrate that to the degree that epigenetics complicates these conventional causal narratives and the nature-nurture dichotomy it also complicates the supposed opposition of these underlying ideologies.

Subsequent posts will explore how epigenetics complicates the traditional dichotomization of these conventional ideologies via the ways that epigenetics complicates these two dominant causal narratives and the nature-nurture dichotomy. This will show how aside from the practical effects on policy, which as discussed here can be significant, these more philosophical and metaphysical implications of epigenetics on the foundations of conventional politics suggest the true political impact of epigenetics.

I am curious to hear what you think so far. Leave your comments below and I will respond.

Also, if you find these thoughts I’ve shared interesting and worthwhile, Like this post, Reblog it, or Tweet about it using the buttons below.

[1] Kluegel JR, Smith ER. 1986. Beliefs about Inequality: Americans’ Views of What Is and What Ought to Be. New York, NY: Aldine de Gruyter; Sniderman, P. M., Hagen, M. G., Tetlock, P. E., & Brady, H. E. (1986). Reasoning chains: Causal models of policy reasoning in mass publics. British Journal of Political Science, 16, 405–430; Cozzarelli, C., Wilkinson, A. V., & Tagler, M. J. (2001). Attitudes toward the poor and attributions for poverty. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 207–227. 11; Skitka LJ, Mullen E, Griffin T, Hutchinson S, Chamberlin B. 2002. “Dispositions, scripts, or motivated correction? Understanding ideological differences in explanations for social problems.” J Pers Soc Psychol. 83(2):470–487.

[2] Pastore, N. (1949). The nature-nurture controversy. Oxford, UK: King’s Crown Press; Goldhaber, D. (2012). The Nature-nurture Debates: Bridging the Gap. Cambridge University Press; Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (2013). The Nature–Nurture Debates 25 Years of Challenges in Understanding the Psychology of Gender. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8(3), 340-357.

[3] De Waal, F. B. (1999). The end of nature versus nurture. Scientific American-American Edition, 281, 94-99; Pigliucci, M. (2001). Phenotypic plasticity: beyond nature and nurture. JHU Press; Pogun, S. (2001). Sex differences in brain and behavior: emphasis on nicotine, nitric oxide and place learning. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 42(2), 195-208; Coll, C. G., Bearer, E. L., & Lerner, R. M. (Eds.). (2014). Nature and nurture: The complex interplay of genetic and environmental influences on human behavior and development. Psychology Press; Moreno, J. (2014). How We Became Human: A Challenge to Psychoanalysis. Rowman & Littlefield.

[4] Paul, D. B. (1998). The politics of heredity: Essays on eugenics, biomedicine, and the nature-nurture debate. SUNY Press; Hatemi, P. K., Dawes, C. T., Frost-Keller, A., Settle, J. E., & Verhulst, B. (2011). Integrating social science and genetics: News from the political front. Biodemography and social biology, 57(1), 67-87; Smith, K., Alford, J. R., Hatemi, P. K., Eaves, L. J., Funk, C., & Hibbing, J. R. (2012). Biology, ideology, and epistemology: how do we know political attitudes are inherited and why should we care? American journal of political science,56(1), 17-33; Suhay, E., & Jayaratne, T. E. (2012). Does Biology Justify Ideology? The Politics of Genetic Attribution. Public opinion quarterly, 77(2), 497-521.

[5] Lakoff, G. (2010). Moral politics: How liberals and conservatives think. University of Chicago Press.

“Understanding the Impact of Epigenetics” podcast


by Shea Robison (@EpigeneticsGuy)

Understanding the Impact of Epigenetics podcast

Below are links to posts and papers I mention in this podcast about epigenetics and health that I participated in as a panel member hosted by the health and fitness website BreakingMuscle.com:

When it Comes to Epigenetics, How Much Fun is Too Much? Comment and Reply

Epigenetics By Any Other Name? What Epigenetics Should and Should Not Be

Epigenetics and Drug Discovery: The Missing Link?

Gene Sequence but not Structure? The Costs of Excluding Epigenetics from Genomics

Ben Laufer Comments on “Gene Sequence but not Structure”

Epigenetics Minority Report Part I: Epigenetics, blame, precrime and politics

All of these posts have many links to other posts on this blog and to external materials about epigenetics so click on these links for supplemental information. You can also navigate through the posts about the different topics I discuss on this blog using the pages in the header above or the Categories list located on the righthand margin of this blog.

Below is a link to a PowerPoint presentation in which I discuss the Agouti mice experiments and the longitudinal studies in humans that I mention in the podcast:

Agout Mice 2

Epigenetics PowerPoint

The link below is to the paper on the emerging narratives of epigenetics in regards to obesity that I reference in the podcast, which I presented at the 2014 annual conference of the Association of Politics and the Life Sciences:

The Emerging Obesity Policy Narratives of Epigenetics

I have also summarized a number of research papers on epigenetics. You can find these research summaries here:

Reasearch Summaries

Additional Information:

For a visual of how epigenetics work, you can watch this video from the University of Utah Genetic Science Learning Center.

Also, in this video:

a world class epigeneticist explains some of the mechanisms of epigenetics, as well as discusses some of the intriguing possibilities (video from the RWJF).

You’ve come this far, so I am curious about what brought you here. Read the posts that interest you, leave a comment or question, and let’s see what we can do.

Feel free to contact me at epigenetics.guy@gmail.com with any questions or comments.

Follow my epigenetics and policy themed Twitter feed @EpigeneticsGuy

The True Political Impact of Epigenetics


by Shea Robison (@EpigeneticsGuy)

The scientific findings emerging from epigenetics have significant implications for public policy (e.g., this conference paper on epigenetics and obesity policy or this post about epigenetics and the Environmental Protection Agency), but the philosophical challenges presented by epigenetics are even more profound than just these practical policy implications. In particular, epigenetics challenges the very foundations upon which our contemporary ethics and politics are based.

As the science from epigenetics is just now emerging as a challenge to many aspects of conventional genetics, the social and political effects of epigenetics are just now emerging as well. My project is to anticipate the nature of the ethical and political effects of epigenetics via the model presented below.

Figure 1

Epigenetic Model 2.0

This model revolves around the often overlooked linkages between our politics our ethics and our biology, to be understood as our understanding of the physical composition of humans and of our physical relationships with each other and with our environments.

How we understand our biological development and origins is inextricably linked to how we perceive ourselves—and more literally our selves—as a metaphysical concept. These biological and metaphysical conceptions of how we understand ourselves together constitute the foundations of our ethics, or our concepts of what is right and wrong, which are then ideally translated into our politics.

The political and intellectual history of the West is marked by many such instances when the prevailing politics and ethics have been influenced by changes in the understanding of our biology, just as our understanding of our biology has been influenced by changes in politics and ethics (as discussed here and here). The introduction of contemporary epigenetics is just the latest iteration of the model in Figure 1, with a couple of additions.

In particular I situate the impact of epigenetics for politics via the challenges epigenetics presents to the conventional understanding of genetics. Therefore, to incorporate epigenetics into the model of Figure 1, I substitute “Genetics” for “Biology” in the lower left vertex of the model, of Figure 1 as displayed in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Epigenetic Model 6b

This invocation of genetics is necessary for the entrée of epigenetics into the flow that eventually explains political change, as the science of epigenetics is best understood in the context of its challenges to the science of genetics.

As discussed in a previous post, there is a common intellectual lineage between the scientific assumptions of genetics which conceptualize our genes as our biological essence and the philosophical assumptions which frame our prevailing concept of the individual self as our philosophical essence. The concept of self which results from this shared scientific and philosophical history constitutes the basis our conventional ethics, which ethics ideally become embodied through our politics. This specific causal path from genetics to politics is highlighted in bold in Figure 3.

Figure 3

Epigenetic Model 6

Epigenetics, as an area of scientific research on a par with genetics, produces scientific results that are not of themselves ethical or political challenges. However, because of this common provenance of the scientific gene and the metaphysical self mentioned before, the scientific challenges of epigenetics to the assumptions of conventional genetics also mirror philosophical challenges to this prevailing concept of self upon which are built our contemporary ethics and politics. This is the angle of attack for the presentation of the political and ethical implications of epigenetics at the heart of my project modeled in Figure 4 below

Figure 4

Epigenetic Model 3.0

in which epigenetics is triangulated between genetics and politics and the concept of self, both influencing and being influenced by genetics and by politics (as discussed here and here) and the evolving conceptions of the self. However, to simplify even further, the specific pathway of causation that is the primary focus of this project is diagrammed as the highlighted bold lines and uni-directional causal arrows in Figure 5.

Figure 5

Epigenetic Model 3.0b

Before delving into the particulars, though, the necessary connections between biology, ethics and politics must be established. Without this interconnectedness of biology and ethics and politics, the introduction of epigenetics becomes little more than a practical policy concern; because of this interconnectedness, though, epigenetics as a new source of knowledge about human biology has significant political and ethical implications well beyond these more mundane policy concerns.

Epigenetics, ethics and political legitimacy

Ultimately, the critical factor linking politics and ethics and biology is political legitimacy. Political legitimacy is defined as the generalized perception that the actions of a government are “desirable, proper, appropriate within some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs, and definitions”[1], or more colloquially that a government’s policies are perceived as “the right thing to do”[2]. As Judith Shklar observes, history shows that every form of government maintains its legitimacy primarily “by reinforcing the ideological values upon which it is based,” and that because “it is neither psychologically feasible nor politically possible to evade them…no one can hope to govern without reference to these values”[3]. In other words, the legitimacy of a politics depends upon the degree they reflect a specific ethical standard. Therefore, as illustrated by Figure 5, to the degree that epigenetics influences the prevailing ethics is also the degree to which the politics will also have to change in order to maintain congruence with these ethics.

The more congruency between a politics and a prevailing ethics and a biology, the more those politics are going to be perceived as legitimate. To the extent that the politics do not match an ethics or that this ethics is contradicted by the biology is also the extent to which those politics are considered illegitimate. This enhancing or undermining role of biology in regards to ethics and politics is one of the functions of epigenetics as illustrated in Figure 5.

Importantly, biological facts like those from epigenetics do not of themselves provide ethical imperatives (i.e., there is no fallacious appeal to nature here); rather, the biology provides an epistemic context for the application of the ethic, which is then translated into political focus. This epistemic influence on the composition of ethics is another function of epigenetics as illustrated in Figure 5.

Epigenetics, epistemology, ethics and policy

As observes Eugene Meehan in his book on the necessary though problematic connections between ethics, knowledge and policy, “with respect to policymaking, some significant human purpose(s) must be identified and the limits within which those purposes can be satisfied must be determined”[4]. An example of how and why this is so is illustrated in a paper on anti-smoking policies and legislation:

Epistemic knowledge that smoking causes cancer, in itself, does not have any clear policy implications. It has to be combined with phronetic arguments as to why the causes of cancer should be addressed, and practical-technical arguments about whether desired reductions in smoking are practically feasible. Phronetic claims that harm should be avoided are substantially strengthened if there is epistemic evidence that pinpoints the causes of harm, and that such causes can manipulated by policymakers. None of these types of arguments, by themselves, would amount to a comprehensive case for restricting smoking in public places, or for raising taxes on tobacco. It is the combination of all three that builds a coherent policy argument.[5]

As demonstrated by this real world example, Meehan’s “significant human purpose(s)” in regards to smoking and cancer are not supplied by either the science or the politics but are provided by ethical claims about what constitutes the good life. These ethical claims combined with the science then determine the appropriate focus of policy. Policy provides the means for realizing these ethical ends via the recommendations of science. This is the interconnection between science, ethics and politics indicated by the bi-directional causal arrows of Figure 4.

But Meehan goes even further in linking science, morality and politics. in noting that science is actually one of the prerequisites for morality because “where there is no knowledge there can be no choice,” and that “science (which is essentially capacity to act) actually requires mankind to be moral by forcing choice”[6], or that without the knowledge provided by sciences like biology there is no opportunity for action.

In this sense, the introduction of the novel scientific knowledge from epigenetics provides not only fresh grist for the mill of ethics, but also thereby provides new opportunities for action as well as the standard by which such political actions can be adjudicated as moral (i.e., legitimate) or not. This is the true potential political impact of epigenetics, the elaboration of which is my main project.

I am curious to hear what you think. Leave your comments below and I will respond.

Also, if you find these thoughts I’ve shared interesting and worthwhile, Like this post, Reblog it, or Tweet about it using the buttons below.

[1] Suchman, M. C. (1995). Managing legitimacy: Strategic and institutional approaches. Academy of management review, 20(3), 571-610.

[2] Hardy, J. (2014). Legitimacy in the use of force: Opinio or Juris? Refereed paper presented to the Sixth Oceanic Conference on International Studies University of Melbourne 9-11 July 2014; Dingwerth, K., Lehmann, I., Reichel, E., & Weise, T. (2014). Democracy is Democracy is Democracy? Changes in Eval-uations of International Institutions in Academic Text. This is a preprint of an Article accepted for publication in International Studies Perspectives.

[3] Shklar, J. (1979). Let Us Not Be Hypocritical. Daedalus , 108 (3), 1-25.

[4] Meehan, Economics and Policymaking: The Tragic Illusion, 1982, p. 11.

[5] Tenbensel, T. (2006). Policy knowledge for policy work. In: Colebatch, H.K. (Ed.), The Work of Policy: An International Survey. Latham, MD: Lexington Books, pp. 199–216.

[6] Meehan, E. (1982). Economics and Policymaking: The Tragic Illusion. Greenwood Press, 42.