Encounters between life and language

Philip Ball has just written a great article dissecting new research showing that there is no ‘gene for’ homosexuality. He notes the fallacies behind the facile way of pointing to individual genes and saying what they are ‘for’. This is dangerous, especially when talking about genes for behavioural traits. Single genes don’t determine such traits …

What is a climate change communicator to do?

In a recent article, social scientists claim that a rhetoric of deadlines to urge action on climate change is ‘dangerous’. While I agree that it might be dangerous to get into a situation where you extend deadlines forever if you cannot achieve them, setting no deadlines at all may make it difficult to talk about …

Threads, worms and science communication

I thought I had written my last post about epigenetics. But then came along some ‘worms’ and I had to write another one. I have written about worms once before on the Making Science Public blog, in the context of science communication. And this blog post too will reflect on worms in the context of …

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 …

Talking organelles: A riot of metaphors

A few days ago, somebody tweeted an article on organelles and somebody else tweeted an article on how worms regenerate their bodies. I was just in a slump of Brexit malaise when I saw this and thought, “oh, there is life outside Brexit at least in worms and cells”. So, I started to read an …

CRISPR culture

CRISPR is a way of changing and replacing parts of DNA using enzymes like a pair of molecular scissors (of course things are more complex than this!). This new technology for ‘editing’ DNA, genes or genomes began to attract public attention between around 2012 and 2015. When I started to write about metaphors used to …

Is STS trivial? Chris Toumey reflects on writing a book about nanotech and the humanities

This is a guest post by Chris Toumey, a cultural anthropologist who has observed and studied developments in nanotechnology for many years. Chris and I have known each other for a long time, and his work and words have always inspired me. He has just published a book entitled Nanotech and the Humanities: An Anthropologist …

Mice, dice and copycats: Metaphors for gene drives in mammals

When you hear the word ‘gene drive’, you will either be baffled or you will think about mosquitoes, engineered to eradicate insect-born disease like malaria, Dengue fever, or Zika for example. But gene drive research has now moved from insects to mammals. Mammals On the 23rd of January, researchers at University of California, San Diego, …

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 …