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A new genetics or an epiphenomenon? Variations in the discourse of epigenetics researchers

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Epigenetics is a field on the rise that seeks to explain phenotypic variance despite a stable and enduring DNA sequence. The hopes for the field are high, and claims about its revolutionary potential abound. Some scholars in the humanities and social sciences see the field as potentially replacing reductionism and genetic determinism, bringing social life and environment more firmly into view. This paper attends to the discourses of epigenetics researchers themselves. Through qualitative interviewing and analysis, I classify these scientists into three groups based on the claims they make about the impact and future of their field: champions, those who take the middle ground, and skeptics. The variance in discourse about epigenetics suggests a far more complex and contested trajectory for the field, one that may or may not support anti-deterministic views.
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Keywords: epigenetics; genetics; gene–environment interaction

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Science & Technology Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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