Exploring the post-genomic world: differing explanatory and manipulatory functions of post-genomic sciences
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Richard Lewontin proposed that the ability of a scientific field to create a narrative for public understanding garners it social relevance. This article applies Lewontin’s conceptual framework of the functions of science (manipulatory and explanatory) to compare and explain the current differences in perceived societal relevance of genetics/genomics and proteomics. We provide three examples to illustrate the social relevance and strong cultural narrative of genetics/genomics for which no counterpart exists for proteomics. We argue that the major difference between genetics/ genomics and proteomics is that genomics has a strong explanatory function, due to the strong cultural narrative of heredity. Based on qualitative interviews and observations of proteomics conferences, we suggest that the nature of proteins, lack of public understanding, and theoretical complexity exacerbates this difference for proteomics. Lewontin’s framework suggests that social scientists may find that omics sciences affect social relations in different ways than past analyses of genetics.
Holmes, C., Carlson, S. M., McDonald, F., Jones, M., & Graham, J. E. (2016). Exploring the post-genomic world: Differing explanatory and manipulatory functions of post-genomic sciences. New Genetics and Society, 35(1), 49-68. doi: 10.1080/14636778.2015.1133280