Toward a Biology Worthy of Life > From Physical Causes to Organisms of Meaning > Brief excerpt
A project by Stephen L. Talbott

Importance of observable traits vs. DNA

The Ultimate Cause, of course, was supposed to be the genomic sequence, or DNA. But Florida State University biologist David Houle and his colleagues remind us that, for the most part, phenotypes (observable traits) “continue to be the most powerful predictors of important biological outcomes, such as fitness, disease and mortality. Although analyses of genomic data have been successful at uncovering biological phenomena, they are — in most cases — supplementing rather than supplanting phenotypic information” (Houle et al. 2010). And William Bains, chief scientific officer at Amedis Pharmaceuticals in the United Kingdom, wrote upon the completion of the Human Genome Project:

The chances that genome properties can be used to predict organismal ones is remote. Genomics and its daughter technologies are valuable instruments in the analysis of cells and tissues. They provide means of exploring biological processes and phenomena. However...they will not often address most human needs. (Bains 2001).

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