Whys to look for genes: Pros and complications

postponed to a later month, to be determined
A Collaborative Exploration (CE) in which participants consider what it would mean for the public to be treated as capable of thinking about the complexities that surround the application of genetic knowledge
  • In brief, CEs are an extension of Problem- or Project-Based Learning (PBL) and related approaches to education in which participants address a scenario or case in which the problems are not well defined, shaping their own directions of inquiry and developing their skills as investigators and prospective teachers (in the broadest sense of the word). (For more background, read the prospectus.)
  • If you want to know what a CE requires of you, review the expectations and mechanics.
    • on hangout for 1 hour each week at time and day of the week to be arranged to fit the schedules of those who register. The URL for the first hangout will be provided only to those who register (via http://bit.ly/CEApply), which entails making a commitment to attend that 1st session and at least 2 of the other 3 hangouts.
  • If you are wondering how to define a meaningful and useful approach to the topic, let us present a scenario for the CE and hope this stimulates you to apply to participate. We will then let CE participants judge for themselves whether their inquiries are relevant.
  • Intended outcomes for participants of this CE are of two kinds:
    • a) tangible: a compilation of accessible explanations of why one might look for the genetic basis of something and, for each, a guide or introduction to thinking about issues that confound or complicate the situation or claims being made; and
    • b) experiential: being impressed at how much can be learned with a small commitment of time using the CE structure to motivate and connect participants.

Scenario

In September 2014 a special issue of Time appeared at supermarket checkouts: “How DNA shapes your life.” “Having tried to harness the power of DNA for decades,” the introduction begins, “we’re finally getting somewhere.” The special issue and its articles are clearly optimistic, even boosterish, without much nuance. What would it take, we might ask, to make a special issue that delved into the range of meanings of genes and genetic, that treated the audience as capable of thinking about the complexities that surround the application of genetic knowledge. We might start by listing the variety of reasons one might look for the genetic basis of something and, for each, think about issues that confound or complicate the situation or claims being made. This was the idea behind a series of 50 posts by Peter Taylor, now assembled on a wordpress blog. Other people, including participants in the CE, are invited to become new contributors or suggest edits to clarify the existing posts. The posts are currently organized in 8 categories:
  • Development & functioning of organism
  • Diagnosis by genetic type/sequence
  • Origin by Descent
  • Production
  • Selection-artificial & natural
  • Therapeutics & other interventions
  • Tool use & development
  • Variation within & between groups