Mendelian and quantitative genetics


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Article reads: I find that it is often useful to see the deep logics behind evolution and genetics laid bare. Some of the issues which we grapple with today in the “post-genomic era” have their intellectual roots in this period, and Fisher’s work which showed that quantitative continuous traits and discrete Mendelian characters were one in the same. The “missing heritability” hinges on the fact that classical statistical techniques tell us that Mendelian inheritance is responsible for the variation of many traits, but modern statistical biology which has recourse to the latest sequencing technology has still not be able to crack that particular nut with satisfaction. Perhaps decades from now biologists will look at the “missing heritability” debate and laugh at the blindness of current researchers, when the answer was right under their noses. Alas, I suspect that we live in the age of Big Science, and a lone genius is unlikely to solve the riddle on his lonesome.

This is a very worthy review of Mendelian and quantitative genetics. But I am afraid there are many more problems with the modern synthesis (neo-Darwinism) beyond the issue of missing heritability. For one, quantitative genetics assumes many genes with small effects, but the human genome only has 25,000 genes that interact with an unanticipated complexity that is far from the additive genetic variation taken for granted in quantitative genetics; pointing not only to missing heritability but to the weaknesses of strong genetic determinism and the stilted framework offered by quantitative genetics.

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