You’d think that by now biologists agree on what a gene is and have moved on.
And the reason is both historical and scalar.
It’s historical in that the term was originally used in biology and genetics in a particular way that made sense at the time. Then, as research continued, scientists uncovered additional complexity in the role of genes and genetics. In addition, they began to look at genes from new scales and perspectives.
Thus, while a geneticist tends to still see genes as locatable regions of genomic sequences, those who delve into phenotypes and function tend to find that an insufficient definition. For example, DNA, that old workhorse considered the master molecule of life, is now seen to be sometimes quite passive (meaning other factors can act or dominate), and just plain multifunctional in ways that weren’t known when the locatable regions concept was developed.
If you want to read more (I’m not being sarcastic!), check out this 2007 paper by Evelyn Fox Keller and David Harel in PLoS ONE, one of the free, on-line Public Library of Science journals (hence: “PLoS”).
My take on this: see, scale makes all the difference (sorry to flog this idea, but, as I’m sure you’ve discerned, this is one of my truths).
Corollary: it may be difficult to match your language and concepts to the scale of analysis. If you’re using the words already in use, they may no longer suffice if defined in old ways. On the other hand, if you introduce new vocabulary, you may introduce layers of confusion. Still, the latter may well be the best choice.
Philosophical question: does this topic link somehow to my current “off-duty” reading that has settings in China, Tibet, and Turkey?—three different volumes….
Keller, Evelyn Fox, and David Harel (2007) Beyond the Gene. PLoS ONE 2(11): e1231. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001231 [Apologies to AFK if she’d prefer to be “Fox Keller, Evelyn”; I see both in the Google-able world.]
Sidebar: I see pink champagne, rechristened rosé champagne of course, is très chic, but I remain a prosecco gal! (Especially at those prices!)
Okay, one more. How could I not link to this, on a huge ice skating rink in Mexico City’s main plaza, created atop forty-six miles of chilling tubes, energized by ten truck-generators? Did they make the rink because the US border is harder to cross these days?—so they import the cold?
* If your eyes are sharp and your screen is good, you’ll see ice—the picture is from several years back, but right here in good ol’ ATL….
the sudden reversal of fortune or change in circumstances, often used referring to fictional narrative.