Thursday, October 25, 2007


It was a banner day for genetics today. This afternoon I was listening to a fascinating story on NPR about identical twins, given up for adoption at birth, who never knew each other, all for science. They were part of a scientific experiment to determine what each of a pair of identical twins would grow up to be like without knowing the other. The idea proposed in the study was that it was somehow detrimental to be raised with your twin, and that if raised alone the twins could become separate, independent individuals. It was supposed to be the ultimate determination of nature verses nurture.

More on genetics, Colin sent me this article on C. Elegans, determining what attracts male worms to hermaphroditic (female) worms and vise versa. What makes the male worms male, and the hermaphroditic worms female? The researchers genetically manipulated a hermaphrodite worm's nervous system by taking a gene that is responsible for the sexual characteristics of male cells and turned it on in the hermaphrodites' brains. This made the hermaphroditic worms behave liike male worms ( become attracted to other hermaphroditic worms).


Blogger Connor said...

That sounds *awful*! Just speaking for myself (of course), I think that I would be much more upset about losing decades of a relationship with a brother/sister than having to poke around identity issues growing up. I really think "individuality" is sometimes prized to a ridiculous extreme, culturally. But the worst aspect of the setup here is how on earth could there be any kind of informed consent?

October 29, 2007 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Connor said...

(ie. what I mean about "individuality," is I wonder how this test would have measured success/functionality against a control group in a way that could avoid cultural normativity).

October 29, 2007 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Nora said...

Its the sort of test that would never be done today. The sisters said that they felt really wronged, and I cannot blame them! I think I too would feel as you do, that the famillial bond is more important than being an indvidual. And, in fact, the weird thing is that this idea that somehow being a twin was detrimental was not eve that popular or pervasive when the study was carried out!

November 4, 2007 at 8:26 AM  

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