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Saturday
Jan262019

sticky genes and the baby's bathwater

You might reasonably ask that in the fifteen years since the human genome has been fully sequenced and other great genetic leaps forward have been made that the oat problem could have been solved. The humble oat, beloved of all porridgemen and not a few others, can grow in some fairly poor and unpleasant conditions. You can grow oats on a windblown Orkney isle and eat your porridge just fine. Just not that much porridge. Tough oats have a low yield. There are othr places, the fair south, where oats grow lush and resplendent, but they need good weather and a bit of coddling. Now the obvious thing is to add the gene for hardiness with the gene for yield. But try as hard as they can at Hovis and other places where more oats mean more groats, they simply haven't managed to do it. These are what are called 'sticky genes' low yield sticks to hardiness and high yield sticks to fragility and that's that. 

An intuitive grasp of entropy suggests this is right and proper. If we could keep growing bigger and lusher plants in worse and worse places we'd have a nightmare feedback loop with the world engulfed in triffid like luxuriance. So it isn't that surprising. But it does provide a salutary example of how some things just go together and won't be separated.

Think about the people you know who have some infuriating habits. But they're also great people. If only they could change a bit. Think about so called masculine and feminine virtues- wouldn't it be great if they could be combined? 

And then there are issues- it would be nice if we could have freedom of speech without hate speech, meritocracy without a braindrain of the disadvantaged, scale savings without organisational bureaucracy.

Like babies and bathwater. They look very different but it takes real effort to not throw out one with the other. It has always struck me how in recent times almost all important issues divide the public 50/50. It's astonishing how many public votes are only a few points either side of the middle. Reason: because both are right! When you have to decide by a vote there are usually equally good reasons for each side, which means we have a baby with its bathwater and you just can't separate them.

Sticky genes- they just go together. Live with it. Work around it. Accept you can't have everything in the exact manner which you just might want it...

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