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Extra resources for The troubled helix : social and psychological implications of the new human genetics / [...] XD-US

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Before genes were discovered and understood, it was difficult to explain inheritance and the evolution of organized traits. Genetics has become the central, theoretical organizing principle of biology. However, recent work, and ideas that will be considered in this book, raise tempering questions about several aspects of the present view of genes. First, the connection between genes and traits is in many ways more indirect and subtle than most biologists have thought (or than many still seem to think).

ENERGETICS AND EVOLUTIONARY EXPLANATIONS: THE NOT-SO-THRIFTY GENOTYPE Characteristics of our age and culture include concepts of energetics, productivity, and efficiency. The evolution of biological traits is commonly explained the way we account for successful industry, as if natural selection can detect and favor subtle differences in form or physiology if they are more energy efficient. The idea is that efficiency would be favored because it costs less metabolic energy and hence less food and less struggle to acquire it.

Despite the occasional transfer of genes or sets of genes, one might nonetheless surmise that all of this reticulated ancestry at least goes back to a single ancestral cell. But even this may not be so. An alternative to a single tree of all cells is that life evolved from a kind of communal pot of primordial soup, dished initially into rather imperfectly sequestered troughs, of incompletely different cell prototypes, and finally to more completely separated bowls. In the first stage of such a scenario, biochemical reactions took place communally, diffusing rather freely.

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