Understanding

Genetics on the simplest level is the name of a class of problems of organic chemistry: how to name and describe the structure and function of the DNA that forms the core structure within the nucleus of all living cells. The particles of the molecule are arranged in a structure called the double helix, and this doubled form traces the function of the molecule and the transmission of data between generations of organisms as each is copied for replication. Scientists have come to understand and believe that genes, the smallest unit within that molecular system, direct chemical reactions that create larger proteins that drive the processes necessary for cell growth and cell death. Much remains to be discovered about how this occurs, but that it occurs—that proteins direct biological processes, and that they in turn are directed by genetic or epigenetic activity—is largely a settled question.

Why then, does the idea of genetics excite such controversy? The problem lies in what one makes of this genetic narrative, and how the epistemic task of genetics implies fundamental ontological and moral assumptions. Hence, the meaning of genetics is only partially addressed as a problem of scientific definitions. It also queries some of the most profound of issues in philosophy (such as the meaning of identity), social theory (such as the meaning of justice), and theology (such as the balance between imaginative human actions and proper human duties).

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Conquering Fear In The 21th Century

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