February 16, 2009

Steven Pinker and the Personal Genome Project

As many of you might already know, Steven Pinker (famous Havard psychologist) had his genome sequenced and posted on the internet for the Personal Genome Project.

Pinker wrote an essay about it for the New York Times, but I originally found out about it through edge. It's a pretty good essay. He covers genetic determinism, evolutionary theories for personality differences, and twin research. Genes do play out a large part in our behavior:

"Behavioral genetics has repeatedly found that the 'shared environment' — everything that siblings growing up in the same home have in common, including their parents, their neighborhood, their home, their peer group and their school — has less of an influence on the way they turn out than their genes. In many studies, the shared environment has no measurable influence on the adult at all. Siblings reared together end up no more similar than siblings reared apart, and adoptive siblings reared in the same family end up not similar at all. A large chunk of the variation among people in intelligence and personality is not predictable from any obvious feature of the world of their childhood."
But that doesn't mean that genes decide everything. You can make predictions based off genes that are flat out wrong (for instance, Pinker appears to have a gene that gives him an 80% chance of baldness). Much of it is probability, not only do you have to account for genes and the enivironment (i.e., nature vs. nuture), but you also have to account for how your genes interact with each other. Pretty cool stuff though.

Pinker went on the Colbert Report to talk about his genome sequencing experience as well. It's pretty funny, as can be expected. Check it out:


3 comments:

Radley said...

Got the link to the article?

Radley said...

Got the link to the article? I submited into this project. Pretty interesting. You joke Odell that he's part Enuit. For some reason, that's what showed up on my Genetic test. I think our Muttness confused their computers.

pr1ttyricky said...

Ha, yeah dude. You should be able to find it here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/magazine/11Genome-t.html?_r=1&ref=magazine&pagewanted=all

So, how much did it cost you to do your test?