Improving science literacy – part 3

There has been much talk about “cloning” in the popular press over the past decade or so and I have realized that most people don’t really understand what cloning actually is. That’s a problem I can easily clear up with a little bit of explanation.

Cloning is simply making a copy of something else. That copy is typically DNA, and it can either be partial or complete. The way it is typically used is in conjunction with human embryos, so that’s what I’ll focus on.

First off, DNA isn’t the be-all, end-all determining factor of human behavior/function/whatever. Development is determined by many factors, but when cloning is involved it is only concerned about one particular source of information: nuclear DNA. This plays into the nature vs. nurture debate because it means that people with the “same” DNA can develop into different people. However, problems with this idea persist. First, they probably don’t have the same DNA. Simply due to the nature of DNA copying there are bound to be fuck-ups which can then be compounded by developmental differences between the siblings. This can help account for the differences between identical twins, as can many other theories, but this helps explain why “identical” may not be the best term for such twins.

Essentially, what this comes down to is that even if there is an exact copy of your nuclear DNA out there (which is very unlikely), there are many other factors involved in the development of a person that influence it’s final outcome that it will not be a carbon copy of you (and I didn’t even touch mtDNA, DNA imprinting, or external developmental factors).

Genetics is crazy and you can’t even begin to understand how fascinating and confusing it is. I have only scratched the surface and my mind has been blown so many times I don’t know what “gene” means anymore. That’s another post… A very complicated post that I don’t want to write…

Hope this helped. Questions are welcome.



Filed under Those Other Sciences

2 responses to “Improving science literacy – part 3

  1. Is it lame that I didn’t know there were differences between identical twins? I mean, I knew there were personality differences, but after reading this I looked it up… and they can have physical differences?!? Crazy! Science is so beyond my brain power…

  2. Na, it’s not lame at all. Hell, I’m a biologist and there’s plenty of biology that’s still completely beyond me!

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