Tag Archives: biology

The elusive gay gene

[HT A Queer Thing Happened to America]

It was pointed out 11 years ago how time and again “scientists have claimed that particular genes or chromosomal regions are associated with behavioral traits, only to withdraw their findings when they were not replicated. Findings linking specific genes to complex human behaviors all were announced with great fanfare; all were greeted—without skepticism—in the popular press; all are now in disrepute.” Nevertheless, considerable grant money has been available in this country for research seeking to show a genetic basis for homosexuality. Researchers now openly admit that after searching for more than 20 years, they are still unable to find the “gay gene.”

Full paper is here

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Could marriage be undermined by language?

A friend of mine recently pointed me to this page where in the author crafts an argument against the definition of marriage being between one man and one woman. His argument is based largely on biological anomalies which give rise to odd situations where if we consider the person to be male or female depending on what aspects of the male or female biological makeup we choose to measure by (ie. testosterone, estrogen, physical features) we might end up “mandating and legally sanctifying exactly the sort of same-sex marriages they’re intending to ban”.

First off, it needs to be pointed out that no one is required to marry or procreate. They may have the freedom to or not depending on their physical characteristics, but they are by no means forced to marry anyone.

Additionally, since genetic abnormalities are quite common (ie. cancer) I fail to see why offering medical treatment to resolve these conditions would be less preferential than redefining the institution of marriage.

As to government’s involvement. I would agree with government’s non-intervention and I would argue that any attempt at redefining commonly used words would constitute a major intervention. If you want to strengthen contract law to rectify situations like visiting a loved one in the hospital or prison then I would be all for that. But you don’t need to redefine a word in order to accomplish that end. Likewise it makes no sense to say that a group of people are deprived of a right because the definition of words functions in an exclusionary sense in order to convey meaning. In order words, if we, as a society, start monkeying around with our language such that marriage is no longer biologically bound, then what we would have accomplished is the destruction of language and constructive discourse.

We would not, however, have done anything to increase freedom or equality.

The Great Debate – What is Life?

[HT Uncommon Descent]

Global data storage calculated at 295 exabytes. Still less than the average cell.

Recently, the BBC cited a study which estimated the total amount of data stored by humans to be 295 exabytes

The study, published in the journal Science, calculates the amount of data stored in the world by 2007 as 295 exabytes.

That is the equivalent of 1.2 billion average hard drives.

As impressive as this sounds, nature is more impressive still. The report continues

These numbers may sound large, but they are still dwarfed by the information processing and storage capacity of nature.

“The Human DNA in one single body can store around 300 times more information than we store in all our technological devices” according to Dr Hilbert.

How much data is estimated to be in 1 cubic centimeter of DNA? About 108.420217 exabytes.

Its also estimated that the human body processes about 430 zettabytes/day.

And we are expected to believe that all of that precision machinery happened by unguided, unintelligent processes.

Like magic.

Bonus: Here is a story by the Washington Post on the same topic.

But Hilbert offers a humbling comparison. Despite our gargantuan digital growth, the DNA in a single human body still stores far more information – and a single human brain computes far more calculations – than all the technology on Earth.

“Compared to Mother Nature,” Hilbert said, “we are humble apprentices.”

I think he misspelled God there.