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Taylor Peter J. | Fellow Visitor
2010-05-10 - 2010-10-17 | Research area: Philosophy of Biology
Control and Analysis of Human Variation
The proposed research begins from a simple observation about two foundational developments of modern biology. The theories of evolution by natural selection and the genetic basis of heredity were built from language, arguments, evidence, and practices of controlled breeding in agriculture and the laboratory. What does it mean that understandings of the origins over time in the diversity of forms of life were formed in a crucible of human control of biological materials? Taking the control of complexity as an entry point, I have been examining life scientists’ conceptual and practical engagement with varied scientific and social projects that, broadly speaking, attempt to control human variation and to discipline the complexities of change. The research and collegial interaction proposed for the KLI visit focuses on two extended episodes: 1. The mid-twentieth century transfer of methods of analysis of heredity and variation from agricultural and laboratory breeding into human behavioral genetics, and from there into the persistent, heated debates around genes, environment, and IQ. 2. The shift of research on the genetics of complex traits from the partitioning of variation into “genetic” and “environmental” fractions to identification of DNA variants associated with risk for diseases or behaviors, a shift accelerating with the advent of Genome-Wide Association studies that hit the headlines last year.