in Genomes and What to Make of Them

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780226172958
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226172965 | DOI:

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This chapter provides a general and wide-ranging overview of genomics. It begins with a discussion of what genomes are, or more precisely of the various ways in which scientists refer to them and seek to define them. It then considers what genomes are like as objects, touching upon their shape and internal structure and how they vary, and stressing especially how very much more is found in (most of) them than “coding” DNA. It also looks at epigenomes, which create problems for the view of genomes as molecules in organisms, since epigenomes are in truth those molecules, and of epigenetics, which constitutes a fascinating enrichment of our understanding of inheritance, of ontogeny, and of the chemical functioning of DNA in the cell. Any new science identifies new similarities and differences between things that can be used to classify them and order them into taxonomies; that is indeed the case with genomics. The chapter discusses some important general problems associated with similarity and difference and gives warning of a need for caution in the face of claims of this sort. It concludes with a brief description of two of the main directions in which research is currently moving.

Keywords: genomics; epigenome; epigenetics; DNA

Chapter.  15534 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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