Genes and Jeans

We recognized in 1996 that, with progress in the field of genetics accelerating at a breathtaking pace, we need to ensure that advances in treatment and prevention of disease do not constitute a new basis for discrimination.

former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (Maine)

Genes 1

IMG_1581A biologist and former teacher, a friend from Chicago, sent me a column (written by Jenny Graves, Distinguished Professor of Genetics at La Trobe University), that discusses, once again, a gene having been identified as a “gay” gene.  Actually two genes on the same chromosome.  The original study (1993, Hamer) identified a single gene.  A 2005 study found three possible genes.  The genes appear in both males and females, and they work in exactly the same way in both genders.  One gene is being called a “male loving gene” and the other a “female loving gene.”

Now, all of this is simplified as it isn’t individual genes but “stretches of DNA” on individual genes.  The exact mechanism is not known.

A question arises:  why should there be such a gene, let alone two (or more)?  If the life force is to procreate, then a gene that leads to men having a “male-loving gene” (and therefore a lack of procreation) would not serve the species; however, nature has favored women who carry the “male-loving” gene with more children (according to Ms. Graves an Italian study showed sisters of gay males have 1.3 times as many children as do sisters of non-gay males).

Ms. Graves mentions that alleles, variants of genes, may also come into play, and so there may be shades of the male-loving and female-loving genes.

Genes 2

That news followed my reading the NY Review of Books to my friend Farley, in which we learned of a new book that yet again looks to attribute differences between human races to genetics.  H. Allen Orr (a professor of biology at the University of Rochester) reviewed A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History by journalist Nicholas Wade.  Orr wrote that Wade’s book

reminds us of the risks inherent in blurring the distinction between science and science journalism:  science demands unrelenting skepticism about purported facts and theories, journalism demands an ability to make the complex clear… I’m afraid that Nicholas Wade’s latest book … goes beyond reporting scientific facts or accepted theories and finds Wade championing bold ideas that fall outside any scientific consensus.

Other excerpts from Orr’s review:

As human beings evolved over the last tens of thousands of years, the genetic basis of people’s behavior may have changed, just as the basis of their skin color did.

In response to this new environment, social behaviors [among the five great “continental races”: Africans (sub-Sahara), East Asians, Caucasians (Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and the Middle East), Australians, and Native Americans] may have changed by natural selection.

Wade says that “evolution in social behavior has necessarily proceeded independently in the five major races,” reflecting their geographic and thus genetic isolation. The net result of all of this, during settlement as well as other events in recent evolutionary history, is that the continental races might well come to differ genetically in social behavior.

Orr goes on to say that

Hard evidence for Wade’s thesis is nearly nonexistent.

Orr then quotes Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011):

The fact that a hypothesis is politically uncomfortable does not mean that it is false, but it does mean that we should consider the evidence very carefully before concluding that it is true.


I’ve been to therapists my whole life. I find the less attention I pay to food, the healthier I am. Any obsession is dangerous. And a whole country that’s obsessed with one thing, unless it’s, like, jeans, it’s very dangerous. Everyone’s obsessed right now with carbohydrates in this country. It’s ridiculous.

Christina Ricci

While in the United States recently I sought to buy some blue jeans.  Denim.  I went to second-hand stores where I was shocked by the high prices and so went to traditional department stores and I ended up at Macy’s.  I didn’t need anything fancy, just simple straight-leg, non-curvy, regular waist jeans.  I didn’t need rhinestones on the butt, I didn’t need the jeans to be skinny jeans, they needn’t have been boot cut.  A little bit of stretch fabric would have been delightful as my shape is not a traditional shape in certain places.  There sat a pair, in my size, meeting my requirements (except for the glitter pattern on the butt):  they were on sale, I was in the store on a day when everything was marked down another 20 per cent, but they had no price tag on them.  In today’s computerized retail world, no price tag is like being in a foreign land without a passport.  I felt I was doomed to spending the rest of my life in Macy’s.  Luckily the sharp young salesperson knew what to do and I was out of the store in just 20 additional minutes with a pair of jeans for eight dollars.

Stars, Namoli Brennet


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