Friday, September 16, 2011

Steampunk Genetics

 
I recently learned a lot about steampunk by attending Polaris 25 last July. I'm thinking I should put together an outfit that I can wear around campus. I haven't seen a fashion statement that's as cool as steampunk since the 1960's.

John Hawks is obviously a fan as well. He's posted an article entitled Steampunk Genetics where he describes how predictions based on Victorian genetics are still more accurate than those based on genome sequences. The important point is that some heritable traits are still too complex to be attributed to specific alleles.


5 comments :

  1. It was a while ago now (at least 6+ years), but I remember a seminar where the speaker claimed that breast cancer risk assessment was better done by reviewing family history than by checking the diagnostic alleles know at that time.

    Interesting stuff, and thanks for pointing to John Hawks's post. An interesting paper to read over the weekend.

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  2. I'm not surprised at this. Of course using Dieselpunk Genetics (the quantitative genetics of Fisher. Wright, and Haldane) is even better than Steampunk (Galton and Pearson). And combining that with SNP effects would be even better.

    One technical comment. As Michael Bulmer showed in his 2003 monograph on Galton's methods, Galton and Pearson (the Steampunk guys) tried to come up with a regression equation that would work for all traits -- in effect assuming equal heritability for all traits. This does not work. The Dieselpunk work allowed different heritability for each trait, and added in dominance variance as well, which improves prediction from sibs.

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  3. @ Joe Felsenstein,

    Wasn't that the "between the lines" point of the paper? I get a general feeling from the new *omics / post-genomics world that they feel that new technologies are replacing the old dogmas and leading us forward by putting away these old-timer ideas. They feel there is no old value in the Dieselpunk works, becasue they have the ENCODE and 1000 Genomes Project,and any citation before 2000 is just old textbook stuff hindering our deeper understanding.

    Though not surprising to someone who has a firm grasp of the classic studies, and new *omics student/post-doc might be humbled enough by such a study to actually look up the older papers.

    My career lead me away from phylogenetics/ phylogenomics towards more functional genomics. It's depressing how mis-understood evolution is, and how most have never heard of Population Genetics.

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  4. I agree. I have been worried for some time that theoretical population genetics is dying out -- not even being taught in many "evolution" graduate programs. I am worried that the current generation of students know what Tree Bisection and Reconnection is, but have no clue how genetic load arguments work, or what Wahlund's Law is.

    I do teach all that, and even have a free e-book text Theoretical Evolutionary Genetics available at my web page. But perhaps I'm bucking an irresistible tide. And I have to take some of the blame for it, too.

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  5. I am worried that the current generation of students know what Tree Bisection and Reconnection is, but have no clue how genetic load arguments work, or what Wahlund's Law is.

    Sadly, I can't rebut this comment. I was not taught Hardy-Weinberg until Graduate School...

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