Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA by Richard C. Lewontin

By Richard C. Lewontin

Following within the model of Stephen Jay Gould and Peter Medawar, one of many world's best scientists examines how "pure technological know-how" is actually formed and guided by means of social and political wishes and assumptions.

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So, there is a kind of fluctuating asymmetry. An individual fruitfly, however, has the same genes on its left side as on its right. Moreover, the tiny size of a developing fruitfly and the place it develops guarantee that both left and right sides have had the same humidity, the same oxygen, the same temperature. The differences between left and right side are caused neither by genetic nor by environmental differences but by random variation in growth and division of cells during development: developmental noise.

It is our common prejudice that even if one had practiced the violin from a very early age, one would not be able to play as well as Menuhin, and we think of him as having special neuronal connections. But that is not the same as saying that those neuronal connections were coded in his genes. There may be large random differences in the growth of our central nervous systems. It is a fundamental principle of developmental genetics that every organism is the outcome of a unique interaction between genes and environmental sequences modulated by the random chances of cell growth and division, and that all these together finally produce an organism.

It has put people on the moon and made it possible to sit at home and watch the world go by. At the same time, science, like other productive activities, like the state, the family, sport, is a social institution completely integrated into and influenced by the structure of all our other social institutions. The problems that science deals with, the ideas that it uses in investigating those problems, even the so-called scientific results that come out of scientific investigation, are all deeply influenced by predispositions that derive from the society in which we live.

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