Witness marks: On the trail of an epigenetic metaphor

This is a guest post by Aleksandra Stelmach, University of Nottingham, Institute for Science and Society In a previous post Brigitte Nerlich and I briefly discussed the emergence of a seemingly new metaphor used in popular discussion about epigenetic effects of nutrition on offspring and, potentially, future generations. In this post I try to track …

Epigenetics: Between fundamental science and fantastic expectations

One of my heroines in the field of epigenetics is Edith Heard. In this post I will tell you what I learned from her over the years with regard to epigenetic facts and fantasies. (For a good overview of facts and fantasies, watch this video at ‘Cracked Science’). Before I do that, you might want …

From epigenetic landscapes to epigenetic pancakes

As somebody interested in metaphor, art and science, I was just starting to read Susan Merrill Squier’s book Epigenetic Landscapes: Drawings as metaphor (2017) (I am grateful to Cath Ennis for sending me this book), when Aleksandra Stelmach alerted me to a blog post entitled “Epigenetic Pancakes”. It was therefore inevitable that I should write …

The exposome – the what?

I recently came across the term ‘exposome’ (roughly, the sum total of everything we are exposed to) and started to read up on it. But I just don’t know what to make of it… is it merely humbug or is there more to it? In this post I want to summarise a few milestones in …

Public Understanding of Science – the 1960s

At the end of last year I wrote a blog post about a book in which Sheila Jasanoff asks ‘Can science makes sense of life’. She answers this question in a rather bleak and negative way. However, questions about the nature of science and the nature of life have stayed with me ever since, which …

Making Science Public: End of year blog round-up, 2018

2018 is the year that the Leverhulme Trust funded programme ‘Making Science Public’ really ended (today our director Sujatha Raman is submitting the final report to the Leverhulme Trust). My last post on the programme, entitled ‘Making Science public: six years on’, mentioned one of the most important milestones of our work, namely the publication with Manchester …

Epigenetics: Grappling with definitions

Definitions of epigenetics are notoriously slippery. This does not seem to hamper basic research. But it might hamper public understanding. The words ‘epigenetics’ and ‘epigenetic’ have undergone quite substantial changes in meaning over time, leading up to a meaning which is now popular but open to misinterpretation. This history and increasing confusion has been charted, …

Epigenetics and sociology: A critical note

I recently read an interesting article by Michel Dubois, Catherine Guaspare and Séverine Louvel entitled “De la génétique à l’épigénétique: une révolution ‘post-génomique’ à l’usage des sociologies”, which appeared in the Revue française de sociologie, 59(1), 71-98 (2018). Dubois et al.’s ‘critical note’ is intended to introduce French readers to English works that explore the boundaries between …

Biology and sociology: estrangement and entanglement

Ever since my PhD, I have been fascinated by the interplay, interrelations, mutual inspirations, struggle and strife between various disciplines that began to establish themselves during the 19th century, such as linguistics (which became the focus of my research), sociology, biology and so on. In recent years, a little flood of literature has emerged that …