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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  December 2002

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE December 2002

Subject:

Re: Genetics isn't privileged

From:

Richard Levins <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 21 Dec 2002 09:14:49 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (170 lines)

There is no controversy about our being both social and biological entities
or that biology is important. But "biology" does not mean genetics.
Physiological differences accumulate during a life time, with the
parameters influenced by DNA included. If causation is non-linear and
emergent, a network of interacting variables is the place to look for
explanation. Then network properties become relevant: its branchedness,
occurrence of cycles, nodal variables with many connections and end-point
variables, resilience to perturbation and resistance to parameter change,
likelihood of oscillatory and chaotic behavior, etc. And the cause is  the
whole network. Furthermore these network elements are both biological and
social: the control of blood sugar includes the familiar pathways of
physiology (sugar, insulin, glycogen, adrenalin, etc) but also metabolic
rate related to work intensity; anxiety induced by a blood sugar drop or
the work environment, the degrees of freedom of the worker to adjust blood
sugar flux behaviorally(take a break or a snack), the interference of the
foreman with behavioral homeostasis, the intervention of the shop steward
to offset the foreman's stimulation of anxiety, etc. We all share a common
physiological subset of the system but it is imbedded in a larger ecosocial
network that depends on how we fit into society. If there is a distinction
between progressive and reactionary science it is not so much specific
conclusions about pathways but rather in a dialectical framework: the truth
is the whole; a problem has to be posed large enough to accommodate a
solution; things are more connected than generally realized; things are the
way they are because they got that way, haven't always been that way and
need not remain the way they are; currently accepted fixed boundary
conditions may be considered as variables; history matters, both the
history of the phenomenon under study and the history of thinking about the
phenomenon. Reactionary science generally tends to work with more rigid
categories, takes the social boundaries of a problem as fixed, sees nature
in a fragmented way, counterpoising natural/social,
physiological/psychological, heredity/environment, random/deterministic,
quantitative/qualitative understanding, and declines to examine the
development of science itself as an object of scientific inquiry.




At 10:48 PM 12/20/02 -0500, you wrote:
>Stuart and company,
>
>  I'd like to address something you raised about the bigger question
>on the Genetics - <Brain/Behavior/Language (BBL)> discussion goes to
>what you raised about explanation of biological phenomena and the
>privileged position of genetics. OK, I agree that genetics has no
>right to the privilege it enjoys right now (even that's degrading
>with proteomics and glycomics etc.). I have to agree with the notion
>you put forward with the Miles Davis example, why should one level of
>organization (genetics) be privileged as to causation than another
>level of organization (BBL) (Behavior).
>
>One might imagine a reason someone could give is that biological
>polymers (like nucleic acids) contains information and biological
>information flows from them: therefore their privilege.  I imagine
>someone might say that higher level structures don't or not in the
>same way as nucleic acids.
>
>Whatever.  This raises the bigger question in biology...What causes
>what? Is causation linear? If its not, people are gonna have a hard
>time thinking of a cloud of causative agents of a particular
>biophenomena.  They are also used to thinking in chains of causation.
>A master molecule like DNA is convenient in that way; DNA as prime
>mover (informer) of the chain of biological causation.  So what's the
>alternative?  Clearly, it has to be a complex systems idea...with
>biophenomena as emergent properties of a causative cloud of factors.
>To throw a monkey wrench in the mix, not all factors are equally
>weighted.
>
>Whatever the case, that complexity perspective is VERY slowly being
>applied to biology. Luckily "Systems Biology" is back in vogue.
>Never the less, this new biology has to account for the various
>phenomena that are observed...like the FOX2P gene, and the others
>(FGF?) that affect the brain and other biological phenomena that I've
>sent emails about.  People are doing work now and this work is real
>(however overblown as per the press releases about fear) and has to
>be incorporated into whatever is the "correct" view.
>
>This goes back to the question I originally posed... "What is the
>role of biology in human behavior from a progressive perspective?".
>I guess that I would alter it slightly what's the role of genetics
>(biology-cause its what I know) in BBL from a progressive
>perspective?.  The direction for an answer has to be in a better
>model--a complex systems model.  Is this a progressive view?
>
>That goes to the comment that someone made about "Progressive
>Science" and Lysenko etc.  On the one hand, we don't want a science
>that slavishly adheres to a political doctrine against what nature
>dictates.  On the other hand, we know the scientific views of some
>folks (sociobiology, Pinker et al) is right leaning.  Doesn't that
>also suggest that someone could be left-leaning (ie. Gould etc.)  So
>I guess the proper interpretation is that the right-wingers are
>doing "bad science".  The left-wingers or at least non-right-wingers,
>are doing good or ok science (at least from our perspective).
>
>Jose
>
>
>
>
>>Isn't it more accurate to say that the organism controls fear by using,
>>among other things, the GRP receptor?  Or should we start saying that the
>>middle valve of Miles Davis's trumpet controlled the quality of his sound,
>>since in cases when he played a trumpet with a stuck middle valve he sounded
>>awful?  I anticipate that there will be a hundred or more papers on genetic
>>influences on behavior over the next year.  Why don't we just stipulate that
>>there are genetic influences on behavior?
>>
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: Les Schaffer [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
>>Sent: Friday, December 13, 2002 5:02 PM
>>To: [log in to unmask]
>>Subject: Query: Researchers Discover Gene That Controls Ability To Learn
>>Fear
>>
>>
>>Carrol Cox wrote:
>>
>>>  This comes from the headline; Would it have been composed by those
>>>  who did the research or by someone in their public affairs office or
>>  > whatever. "Indelible" strikes a wrong note. As though the brain were
>>>  steel and the impression inscribed with acid.  But I'm no
>>>  neuroscientist and can't judge for myself.
>>
>>typically, these kinds of reports are written by public affairs people
>>in the university or research facility news divisions, as is this one:
>>
>>   http://www.hhmi.org/news/kandel3.html
>>
>>as is clear from the news article, the author (unsigned) interviewed
>>Kandel and others for the article.
>>
>>in regards to the use of the term "indelible", its pretty clear from
>>the article itself that the protein in question is actually operates
>>as an __inhibitor__ of laying fear traces in the brain. Mice with a
>>__reduced__ level of Grp gene __receptor__ were more prone to learning
>>from fearful situations. which is why the abstract (below) refers to a
>>negative-feeback loop.
>>
>>
>>The abstract for the paper is naturally quite a bit "tamer":
>>
>>
>>    We identified the Grp gene, encoding gastrin-releasing peptide, as
>>    being highly expressed both in the lateral nucleus of the amygdala,
>>    the nucleus where associations for Pavlovian learned fear are
>>    formed, and in the regions that convey fearful auditory information
>>    to the lateral nucleus. Moreover, we found that GRP receptor (GRPR)
>>    is expressed in GABAergic interneurons of the lateral nucleus. GRP
>>    excites these interneurons and increases their inhibition of
>>    principal neurons. GRPR-deficient mice showed decreased inhibition
>>    of principal neurons by the interneurons, enhanced long-term
>>    potentiation (LTP), and greater and more persistent long-term fear
>>    memory. By contrast, these mice performed normally in
>>    hippocampus-dependent Morris maze. These experiments provide
>>    genetic evidence that GRP and its neural circuitry operate as a
>>    negative feedback regulating fear and establish a causal
>>    relationship between Grpr gene expression, LTP, and
>>    amygdala-dependent memory for fear.
>>
>>
>>perhaps there are neuroscience people here who could explain this in
>>more detail? i'm just summarizing what i understand from a first
>>reading.
>>
>>les schaffer
>
>
>--
>|||///\\\///\\\///\\\///\\\|||O|||///\\\///\\\///\\\///\\\|||
>Jose Morales Ph.D.

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