Steven Pinker Reflects on His Genome

Steven Pinker, one of the PGP-10 has written an essay for this weekend’s NYT Magazine. Here is a clip:

Assessing risks from genomic data is not like using a pregnancy-test kit with its bright blue line. It’s more like writing a term paper on a topic with a huge and chaotic research literature. You are whipsawed by contradictory studies with different sample sizes, ages, sexes, ethnicities, selection criteria and levels of statistical significance…there’s no denying the horoscopelike fascination of learning about genes that predict your traits…Who wouldn’t be flattered to learn that he has two genes associated with higher I.Q. and one linked to a taste for novelty? It is also strangely validating to learn that I have genes for traits that I already know I have, like light skin and blue eyes…I also have genes that are nothing to brag about (like average memory performance and lower efficiency at learning from errors), ones whose meanings are a bit baffling (like a gene that gives me “typical odds” for having red hair, which I don’t have), and ones whose predictions are flat-out wrong (like a high risk of baldness).

Read the whole thing.

Steven Pinker. “My Genome, My Self” New York Times Magazine. January 7, 2009

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