A road called ‘gene drive’ and the road to ‘gene drive’: Trials and tribulations of media analysis

As people might know, I enjoy doing media analysis of emerging biotechnologies, from cloning to gene editing and beyond. I have lately become fascinated with something called ‘gene drive’, a new genetic engineering technology that was brought to public attention around 2014/2015 at the confluence of two ‘events’: the outbreak of Zika and advances in CRISPR-Cas9 …

The microbe/gene drive communication confusion

Last week I wrote a post about how genetic modification and/or gene drive are used when managing disease transmitting insects. I want to come back to this topic today and talk about another difference, which, yet again, confused me. I hope that these efforts of disentangling stuff also help other people trying to understand and …

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 …

Inspecting Pandora’s box: Promises and perils of gene drives

This is a guest post by Aleksandra Stelmach, University of Nottingham, Institute for Science and Society. *** Some years ago the sociologist Alan Petersen noted that metaphors of new biotechnologies not only express hopes and fears about their use and misuse, but that they also set the agenda for debate and action. Thus, metaphors not …

Science and Metaphors

Today I gave a lecture on responsible innovation and responsible language use (via Skype) to biochem and synbio students at the University of Oxford. After the lecture, one student asked whether there was a good go-to book on science and metaphor. I hummed and hawed…. There is of course some stuff, but not a really …

Scientists call for a moratorium on heritable genome editing. What do they want?

This is a guest post by Jim Dratwa and Barbara Prainsack. Jim Dratwa, Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, D.C., and Free University of Brussels’ Centre on Law, Science, Technology & Society. e: jim.dratwa@vub.ac.be Barbara Prainsack, Department of Political Science, University of Vienna, AT and Department of Global Health & Social Medicine, King’s College London, UK. e: …

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 …

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 …

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 …