Sunday, March 14, 2010

Stepping Out Of The Frame

I have a geek question in search of a serious answer or a fresh theory: I just read this article at Eureka! Science News about how the genome of an entire family has been sequenced to track how genetic mutations are handed on. The article states "Scientists long had estimated that each parent passes 75 gene mutations to their children." However, the actual rate of passing on was less than half of what had been estimated -- "By comparing the parents' DNA sequences to those of their children, the researchers estimated with a high degree of certainty that each parent passes 30 mutations — for a total of 60 — to their offspring."

My question is, why was the erroneous estimate so high to begin with? What were they observing that caused them to attribute a passing on of mutations at this level? And if the mutations are present but not being transmitted via our parents' DNA (which seems likely), then what IS causing the mutations?

I'm theorizing it is genetic reconfiguration that is the result of environment in early development. Cultural biological mutation, a la epigenetics. Which biological determinists and essentialists of all stripes do NOT want to admit is the case -- especially all those among us obsessed with "masculinity" as if it has authentic biological reality, instead of being a pathological cultural construct in the midst of epic fail. I am as interested in hearing "examinations of masculinity" as I am in hearing about exploring white supremacy -- i.e., it has shot its wad and we can't afford to waste any more time pretending it has value to impart. Yes, my generation looked at "femininity" which had been crammed down our throats (sometimes literally) as part of girl conditioning, but we quickly understood it was a bogus binary and instead began focusing on what was HUMAN -- and reclaiming humanity for women.

I feel this morning as if we have lost an entire generation to the rabbithole of feminist denial and a lopsided, desperate clutch at keeping the gender binary alive through the pretense of "subverting" it.

The silver lining is that money has been poured into scientific studies which hope to bolster biological determinism, and the vast majority of them (except for the tiny ones done on selected populations of adults) keep proving that culture and environment are the major factors in determining "identity". Truth will out, even if it is funded by the boys (and boy fetishists) who want to prove their definition of boy is triumphant.

NOTE: Here's another recent article from The New York Times, Human Culture Plays A Role In Natural Selection, which states that genetic adaptation to sustained cultural change "works more quickly than other selective forces, 'leading some practitioners to argue that gene-culture co-evolution could be the dominant mode of human evolution'". Yep.