Category Archives: genetics

The Left eats its own: The New Yorker criticizes Elizabeth Warren for checking her ancestry, asserts that idea of biological differences among people is “pernicious”

The more I read the New Yorker, the more I realize two things. First, it’s rapidly become a sophisticated version of HuffPo, a liberal magazine marinated in Authoritarian Leftism. That became palpably clear when the editor, David Remnick, who was scheduled to interview Steve Bannon onstage at this month’s New Yorker Festival, disinvited Bannon. (Several […]

Elizabeth Warren is “native American”—or is she?

Well, she has at least one Native American ancestor some ways back. But I wouldn’t exactly say that makes her a “Native American”—any more than nearly all American blacks are “white” because most of them have at least some white ancestors. I believe the average African-American has 20% of their genes from whites.) At this […]

RadioLab distorts some science

There’s been a lot of publicity about David Quammen’s new book, The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life, which tells the story of the discovery of a new domain of life, the Archaea, the discovery that chloroplasts and mitochondria are the remnants of anciently absorbed microbes, and, most novel, the recent discovery of […]

Errors in forensic DNA testing are still pervasive: false matches and wonky statistics

About twenty years ago I spent a good deal of my time testifying for the defense in criminal cases involving DNA evidence. These were trials in which the prosecution claimed that the defendant’s DNA profile had been found to match crime-scene samples (these involve blood or sperm analysis), and in which the prosecution presented “match […]

Guess the dads!

These young men both had famous fathers, and their fathers played in the same band. Guess who they are. The answer is here, and it isn’t hard. If you guessed correctly, it shows, as I used to demonstrate to my class, that the variation among people in their facial features has substantial heritability: that is, […]

More evidence against pervasive “epigenetic” heritable and environmentally induced changes in DNA

I’ve discussed at great length the lack of evidence that the environment can change the DNA in a way that is both inherited through successive generations and can also be adaptive: the view that there is a new “epigenetic” form of Lamarckian inheritance of acquired characteristics. Go here to see a panoply of my pieces […]

My WaPo review of Carl Zimmer’s new book

I wrote a short-ish review of Carl Zimmer’s new book on heredity, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity, for the Washington Post. It appeared online today and will be in the paper newspaper on Sunday. You can read it for free by clicking on the screenshot (and please do, so […]

The flimsy evidence that environmentally-induced “epigenetic” changes in DNA are transmitted between generations of humans

All of you have read on this site (most recently in my critique of a dire New York Review of Books article) about the buzz concerning “epigenetics”—in particular, about the idea that human DNA can be changed by our exposure to the environment, and the view that such DNA changes can be inherited across several generations.  […]

Another lousy article on epigenetics, this time in the New York Review of Books

I don’t know who the New York Review of Books is getting to vet its biology articles, but this one below (free access) is really confusing. One reason may be that the authors have no particular expertise in evolution. Israel Rosenfeld is an MD with training in neuroscience, while Edward Ziff is a professor at NYU […]

60 Minutes explains CRISPR, neglects important contributors

Not too long ago in the Washington Post, I reviewed (favorably) Jennifer Doudna’s new book on CRISPR, A Crack in Creation, which describes for a popular audience this amazing new method of genetic engineering, a method based on DNA and enzymes that bacteria use as their immune defense against viruses. The development of CRISPR, which […]