Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Cuttlefish Genome Project

So, Steve Pinker's genome is going to be made public. He comes across as quite willing to recognize genetic determinism, but in my view he is all too dismissive of our ability to systematically analyze our environmental variability. "Nonshared environment" is "just a fudge factor" in twin studies; to my ear, it sounds like a bit of an argument from ignorance. It should not be a fudge factor, it should be a fertile area for study. But for now...

They analyzed my genome, and they put it in a book,
Which they offered me, politely, so I thought I’d take a look.
I wondered what my genome could inform me of myself,
So I summoned up my courage… and I pulled it from the shelf.

It spoke in broad percentages and probabilities
And it warned we are unable to extrapolate from these;
The educated reader knows the folly of that task—
But the info’s on the pages, so it couldn’t hurt to ask.

My eyes, it said, were hazel, if I represent the mean;
But the distribution spreads a bit, and so my eyes are green.
I’m average height, and average weight; I’m healthy in my heart,
And I’ve got some good potential, or I did back at the start.

I ought to be a genius (that should make me a believer)
If I hadn’t scrambled half my brains with adolescent fever;
(The doctors say my fever was a nasty one-oh-eight;
Sure, my nature points to brilliance, but my nurture says “too late!”)

It says I’ve got a decent chance of having OCD
But I have to tell you, honestly, I think I disagree—
I’m not the sort to check my stove or light-switch all the time,
Not obsessive or compulsive… save for meter and for rhyme.

It tells me I prefer a blonde—I much prefer brunette,
Ah, but maybe there’s the perfect woman I have never met
It tells me I should love the taste of steak and kidney pie,
But I’ve never really eaten one—I guess I’d better try.

The listed probabilities all seem to interact
Like a winning hand in poker, less the one or two I lacked,
When I add them all together, It was plain for me to see
Just a chance in several billion that I’d come out just like me.

1 comment:

seanahan said...

Fabulous work.