Friday, 18 October 2013

Mad Myth Friday - Predicting the Future

Scientists discover a gene linked to a particularly deadly form of breast cancer.  The gene cancer is so aggressive and comes on so suddenly that it is seen as a death sentence.  A woman discovers she has the gene and decides that she will have a double mastectomy to live.  At first this is considered rash or even crazy, but gradually over time, and with public awareness campaigns society comes around to the idea.  More and more women decide to take this route until it becomes the norm.
What is the gene?  It is a gene that prevents breast cancer. 
A quick note on the above parable, it was written in 2005 or 2006, before I had heard of BRCA1 and BRCA2 and mutations of those.  It was long before Angelina Jolie brought the concept of having a preventative mastectomy into the public spotlight.  Rather, I dreamed the example up myself as a plausible future.

Of course in reality there will never be a gene that definitively causes or prevents anything.  But the message of the parable is the same.  At the time I was very up-in-arms about people with the idea that we are vehicles for our genes.  But the reality is that long before contemporary genetic engineering we stopped being controlled by out genes and started controlling them instead.  Evolution is results-based thinking, laws with predictive power surpass it.

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