That’s what Geoffrey Miller, writing in the Economist, would have us believe:
…the new genetics will reveal much less than hoped about how to cure disease, and much more than feared about human evolution and inequality, including genetic differences between classes, ethnicities and races.
…In 2010, GWAS [Genome-Wide Association Studies] fever will reach its peak. Dozens of papers will report specific genes associated with almost every imaginable trait—intelligence, personality, religiosity, sexuality, longevity, economic risk-taking, consumer preferences, leisure interests and political attitudes….
GWAS researchers will, in public, continue trumpeting their successes to science journalists and Science magazine. They will reassure Big Pharma and the grant agencies that GWAS will identify the genes that explain most of the variation in heart disease, cancer, obesity, depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and ageing itself. Those genes will illuminate the biochemical pathways underlying disease, which will yield new genetic tests and blockbuster drugs. Keep holding your breath for a golden age of health, happiness and longevity.
In private, though, the more thoughtful GWAS researchers are troubled. They hold small, discreet conferences on the “missing heritability” problem: if all these human traits are heritable, why are GWAS studies failing so often? The DNA chips should already have identified some important genes behind physical and mental health. They simply have not been delivering the goods.
Our natural instinct is to reject this prediction — but we suppose the trait for skepticism was inherited as well.
More from the Economist…