Friday, September 21, 2012

Logical reasoning in human genetics

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin
We may have fewer posts in the next couple of weeks, because we'll be in Berlin, where I'll be co-teaching a week-long mini-course called 'Logical Reasoning in Human Genetics.'  We'll try to blog about issues and so on that arise there.  Meanwhile, Holly's already got a lot lined up so do stay tuned.

'Logical' reasoning is designed to raise the issues about knowledge and how we get and evaluate it in human genetics.  Of course, we'll stress the issues related to causation and complexity, and how that involves genetics.  How do we gather evidence?  What theory--if any!--do we use to evaluate that evidence?  One of the core criteria for modern science for the past 400 years has been prediction, that is, that from a given set of observed conditions we can predict future outcomes (the manifest objective of 'personalized genomic medicine'), then what is the basis of the belief that this is actually true, or that its truth will be broadly applicable?

These seem like simple questions, but they depend on the degree to which Enlightenment-derived criteria for making inferences about the world apply to the genomic world.

Likewise, the same issues arise when we try to understand and reconstruct evolution, both generally and in particular from a genomic point of view.

As time permits, we'll blog about these things here in the context of trying to raise them for the professional or pre-professional students who take this course next week.

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