Monday, January 24, 2011

Your friends? You pick them by the cut of their genes, not jeans. You didn't know?

In "Friends connect on a genetic level: Social scientists reveal genetic patterns in social networks," Amy Maxmen reports for Nature,
Groups of friends show patterns of genetic similarity, according to a study published today in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings are based on patterns of variation in two out of six genes sampled among friends and strangers. But the claim is a hard sell for some geneticists, who say that the researchers have not analysed enough genes to rule out alternative explanations.

[ ... ]

"If this was a study looking for shared genes in patients with diabetes, it would not be up to the standards of the field," says David Altshuler, a geneticist at the Broad Institute in Cambridge. "We set these standards after 10 years of seeing so many irreproducible results in gene-association studies."
Evolutionary psychologists have jumped on this "friends 'r genes" thesis because it shores up their slender database, but if it is true it probably means that humans have "jumping genes" and perhaps that there is a shared gene field, similar to Rupert Sheldrake's proposed morphic fields. But, to the extent that the proponents of evolutionary psychlogy would be strict Darwinian natural selectionists, they can't now break the rules and accept this without courting even greater disrepute.