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Understanding Genes

January 11, 2021 - 12:00 pm

Kostas Kampourakis, PhD, Section of Biology and IUFE, University of Geneva

Seminar on Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Genetics

Center for Research on Ethical/Legal/Social Implications of Psychiatric, Neurologic & Behavioral Genetics, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Irving Medical Center

What are genes? What do genes do? These questions are not simple and straightforward, but simplistic answers are quite prevalent and are taken for granted, both in schools and in the public sphere. These answers reflect a series of misunderstandings, which can be collectively described as genetic fatalism: that genes are the essences of what we are (genetic essentialism); that they determine traits notwithstanding the environment (genetic determinism); and that if we want to understand traits, we should begin our study with genes (genetic reductionism). However, current research in genomics reveals a more complicated picture. In this talk I explain the origins and evolution of the gene concept, how it has been used, misused, and misunderstood. Drawing on research in genetics and genomics, and scholarship in history and philosophy of science, psychology, and science education, I provide an updated view of what genes are (and are not) and what genes do (and do not do).

Monday, January 11, 2021, 12:00-1:00 pm

To register for this online presentation and receive the Zoom link, please send an email with your name and affiliation to Janee.Frankel@nyspi.columbia.edu.