If there are so many science-based reasons for the inclusion of epigenetics within genetics, why has it been so maligned for so long? A plausible answer is that there are even stronger non-scientific reasons for this exclusion of epigenetics, and my working theory in this post is that these non-scientific reasons are a function of key differences in the ‘hidden’ ethical commitments of epigenetics and conventional genetics.
My working theory in this project is that many of the scientific criticisms of epigenetics are ultimately political and ethical in origin, and that these scientific disagreements will not be resolved until these underlying ethical complications from epigenetics are at least acknowledged and addressed. Elaborating these ethical challenges from epigenetics through an analysis of fundamental concepts in political philosophy is the primary purpose of this post.
Because epigenetic marks are distinct from genetic mutations in a number of fundamental ways “the threshold issue will be whether, as a matter of ethics and law, it is appropriate to engage in ‘epigenetic exceptionalism.’” Given the unique scientific challenges raised by epigenetics, such as the possibilities for rapid adaptation and transgenerational inheritance, the configuration of the liberties and the resulting ethics recommended from epigenetics may not be compatible with conventional politics; then again, perhaps they are. What the politics of epigenetics are or may become is yet to be seen, but elaborating the different possibilities at this early stage of the emergence of epigenetics is my project.
by Shea Robison (@EpigeneticsGuy) If you picked up the movie reference in the title to this post, you are likely (hopefully) asking yourself “Minority Report? And epigenetics? Really?” The answer to this question is “Yes…perhaps,” but while the reference is meant in fun, this connection between epigenetics and Minority Report raises some serious points for discussion. … Continue reading Epigenetics Minority Report Part I: Epigenetics, blame, precrime and politics
by Shea Robison (@EpigeneticsGuy) An article by Angela Saini recently published in The Observer (the Sunday edition sister paper of The Guardian UK) detailed some of the exciting and/or troubling implications of epigenetics. In this article Saini provides an excellent summation of the recent and not so recent developments in epigenetics. She also does a good job of acknowledging the significant amount … Continue reading Epigenetics as a Political Revolution?
by Shea Robison (@EpigeneticsGuy) Part III: Declaration of Independence Redux Picking up where the first post in this series left off, that the autonomy of individual persons at birth is fundamental to the political philosophy expressed in the Declaration of Independence is even more evident in Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, in which the … Continue reading More Than Just Science III: The Challenges of Epigenetics to our Traditional Ethics
by Shea Robison (@EpigeneticsGuy) Part I: The Declaration of Independence I hope that after reading the title of this post you are quite skeptical and asking yourself ‘What could epigenetics possibly have to do with the Declaration of Independence?’ By the end of this series of posts, though, you will see that the answer to this … Continue reading More Than Just Science I: The Challenges of Epigenetics to our Traditional Ethics
by Shea Robison (@EpigeneticsGuy) This post began as a simple reply to a comment from Alison M to this post about epigenetics and drug discovery, but suddenly bloomed into a full-fledged post of its own. Below is Alison M's original comment in italics for purely aesthetic purposes, followed by my reply (and I think Alison is actually … Continue reading When it Comes to Epigenetics, How Much Fun is Too Much? Comment and Reply
by Shea Robison (@EpigeneticsGuy) In a recent post I summarize the May 2014 article “Mosaic Epigenetic Dysregulation of Ectodermal Cells in Autism Spectrum Disorder.” This article details the gathering and analysis of genetic data in order to determine whether ASD has genetic or epigenetic causes. One of the causes associated with ASD is advanced maternal age … Continue reading Autism, Ethics and Epigenetics
by Shea Robison (@EpigeneticsGuy) Mosaic Epigenetic Dysregulation of Ectodermal Cells in Autism Spectrum Disorder Authors: Esther R. Berko, Masako Suzuki, Faygel Beren, et al. Journal: PLosGenetics Publication Date: May 29, 2014 This week’s paper deals with trying to trace the biological causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The authors begin by noting that one of the … Continue reading Mosaic Epigenetic Dysregulation of Ectodermal Cells in Autism Spectrum Disorder