‘Just stick to the science’ is not enough
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‘I don’t get what’s so hard about all this gene stuff,’ a colleague who teaches introductory genetics recently said to me. ‘We all have them. They make us into what we are. What is there to object to?’ For the first time in my colleague’s long teaching career, students were challenging him about the way he presented his material. ‘They think it takes away their free will,’ he complained, shaking his head. As he saw it, they were upset about non-issues, big slippery philosophical things they should not attempt to grasp. Just stick to the science, he insinuated.
We are more than a century and a half from Mendel’s humble pea crossing experiments and six decades from Watson and Crick’s double helix. The Human Genome Project wrapped up when the majority of today’s biology students were infants. Still, there is a terrible signal-to-noise ratio regarding genetics. Misunderstandings have accumulated to such a degree over the years that even those who teach biology for a living sometimes...