Category Archives: genetics

Neil deGrasse Tyson gets epigenetics completely wrong

Oy! Neil deGrasse Tyson can be as misleading as Siddhartha Mukherjee when it comes to epigenetics. Here’s a video from NOVA Science (2012) showing Tyson stating—completely erroneously—that epigenetic phenomena, like gene methylation and histone alterations, are the important factor controlling the expression of genes. As he says, they constitute “a second genome: the epigenome.” As we’ve seen over […]

The End of the Mukherjee Affair: He “clarifies” in response to a critical letter

Let’s mercifully draw the curtain on L’Affaire Mukherjee, which started when a number of eminent scientists criticized Siddhartha Mukherjee’s May 2 New Yorker piece because it gave a completely distorted view of how genes are turned on and off to make bodies (see critiques here and here). I’ve been awaiting the New Yorker‘s and Mukherjee’s response […]

More on Mukherjee

We’ll have two guest posts today, and the second comes from Greg Mayer, who’s been AWOL for a while (he’s now in Costa Rica). by Greg Mayer As WEIT readers know, Pulitzer Prize winning author and physician Siddharta Mukherjee has been in the news since he published an article in the New Yorker on “epigenetics”. Surprisingly […]

PLOS Biology weighs in on Mukherjee affair: “Writing for Story distorts and cripples explanatory prose”

At least one science writer, Tabitha M. Powledge, has called out her journalistic confréres for their abysmal coverage of MukherjeeGate. In her piece at the PLOS Biology blog, “That Mukherjee piece on epigenetics in The New Yorker“, she has little patience for the “let’s leave out the truth in favor of a cute but dubious […]

Matthew reviews Mukherjee’s new book in Nature

Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies, and subject to a bit of discussion on this site in the last week, has now published a new book: The Gene: An Intimate History, and our own Matthew Cobb has just reviewed in in Nature (free link).  The book is doing well on Amazon, […]

Michael Eisen on epigenetics

Micheal Eisen, a well known geneticist at UC Berkeley, has weighed in on genetics and l’affaire Mukherjee on his website It is Not Junk. As you’ll see from his post (click on the screenshot below to go there), he thinks that Mukherjee way overrated the significance of epigenetics in his New Yorker piece. I like the title […]

Mukherjee takes confusing positions about epigenetics in Nature and in Forbes

Believe me, I really am tired of this affair and didn’t want to post more on Siddhartha Mukherjee and his New Yorker article, a piece that, to many scientists, distorted what we know about gene regulation (see here for background).  But I did note that I’d discuss press coverage of our disagreement, and we have some. Yesterday, two articles […]

New York Times reviews Mukherjee’s new book on the gene

Jennifer Senior, a daily book reviewer for the New York Times, has appraised Siddhartha Mukherjee’s latest book The Gene: An Intimate History, in the New York Times. Since it’s in today’s paper, I suspect there will be another review next Sunday. This review is mixed, but you can see for yourself. I hope for two things: that the […]

Dreadful science journalism at Vox: all interpretations of science are equal, but some are cuter than others

We’re beginning to see a recurring theme among the defensive responses to our scientific criticisms (here and here) of Siddhartha Mukherjee’s misleading piece on epigenetics in the New Yorker. So far, the responses of journalists (see here as well as below), of Mukherjee himself, and even of the New Yorker, are along these lines: There are differing opinions on this issue. […]

Your reading assignment for tomorrow

Several readers called my attention to a piece in the latest New Yorker. It’s by Siddhartha Mukherjee, is about epigenetics, and is called “Same but different” (subtitle: “How epigenetics can blur the line between nature and nurture”). I’m sure you know of Mukherjee, as he’s a doctor and writer, author of the renowned and Pulitzer-Prize-winning book […]


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