The Fearless Vampire Conservator : Philip Kitcher, Genetic Determinism, And Informational Gene

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In The Fearless Vampire Conservator: Philip Kitcher, Genetic Determinism, and the Informational Gene, Paul Griffiths defines genetic determinism as “the idea that significant human characteristics are strongly linked to the presence of certain genes.”(pg number). Griffiths argues that the common characterization of genes as informational, in both science and general society, is problematic because it causes our concept of genetics to be inextricably linked to genetic determinism. He explains that “the predominant vernacular conception of information is intentional information,” which is context-independent, leading to an association between genetics and determined health and behavioral phenotypes. To provide evidence for this thesis,…show more content…
A template is “material used as a pattern for processes” (SORUCE DICTIONARY). Double-stranded DNA, during transcription, is used as a pattern by RNA polymerase to create a single-stranded, complementary strand of mRNA. In translation, a protein is created using the linear structure of mRNA, which along with other structures like tRNA and ribosomes, attracts specific amino acids, lines them up in a precise order and attaches them together. DNA can also be replicated during certain times in the cell cycle. Thus, genes can be described as templates for specific RNA sequences, which may or may not be templates for protein products. A genetic template can be used by other cell structures in ways that are dependent on the micro- and/or macro-environments. This minimizes a gene’s role in larger processes by defining it in less deterministic molecular terms: as a helical stretch of nucleotides (with a phosphodiester backbone) that contains triplet codons which, when transcribed into mRNA, attract specific amino acids. In this way, a gene has a finite set of mRNAs (and subsequent proteins) that it can code for, but it is not ascribed a finite set of larger outcomes, like behaviors, that it determines. Describing DNA as a template for non-coding mRNAs and proteins allows genes to be informational without giving them an intentional and deterministic role in development and behavior. The template definition of a gene also

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