Varieties of causation in genetics

Start - End 
2014 - 2018 (ongoing)



Classical genetics, molecular genetics and population genetics are the main subdomains of genetics. Each of these subdomains contains many causal claims. These claims belong to different types: classical genetics makes claims about (among others) the effect of genotypes on phenotypes; molecular genetics makes claims about (among others) how the genetic code determines protein synthesis; and population genetics makes claims about (among others) the causes of micro-evolutions in populations.

Our aim is to offer a comprehensive analysis of the meaning of causal claims in these three domains. The variety of causal claims, together with the fact that there is no straightforward way to understand the meaning of any of these types (this is substantiated in the Methodology section of the project proposal), makes this aim a challenging one.

Genetic knowledge influences our lives in many ways. For many diseases it is now known to what extent they can be explained by genetic factors (and to what extent they are instead determined by environmental, social, and other factors). Genetic manipulation has become a widespread practice. Moreover, the pharmaceutical industry increasingly relies on genetic knowledge (personalized medicine, gene-based medicine, etc.). Genetics’ causal claims are at the heart of these practices of explanation, manipulation and health care. This makes our analysis relevant for both practitioners and the general public.