Genetic revisionism

The human genome is not a book, and this metaphor is now becoming an obstacle

By Philip Ball   125

The latest findings in genetics and molecular biology are revealing the so-called “book of life” to be messy to the point of incomprehensibility. Each copy is filled with annotations that change the meaning, there are some instructions that the book omits, the words overlap and we don’t have a clue about the grammar.

Or maybe we simply have the wrong metaphor. The genome is no book, and the longer we talk about it in that way, the harder it will be to avoid misconceptions about how genes work.

But it’s not just the notion of the genome as a “list…

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