How Genes Refract Chance - Facts So Romantic

How Genes Refract Chance - Facts So Romantic

How remarkable, I thought, that science is fulfilling, in some sense, that ancient aspiration to decipher some measure of our personal nature and fate.

In February, for my birthday, I was gifted a 23andMe genetic test kit. I enjoyed this coincidence: Here was a technology, contra astrology, that would have some real purchase, however limited, on who I am. Holding the small cardboard box containing a tube for my saliva, I considered my sign, Aquarius, which my mother would bring up from time to time to explain or predict my youthful behavior. How remarkable, I thought, that science is fulfilling, in some sense, that ancient aspiration to decipher some measure of our personal nature and fate.

My results weren’t too surprising—no health scares or rude ancestry awakenings—though the report on my muscle composition resonated with me: I’ve got a gene variant common among elite power athletes—sprinters as opposed to endurance runners—who tend to have fast-twitch fibers. Perhaps this explains, by some degree, why I played sprint-heavy sports like football and basketball and hated jogging long-distance.

The geneticist Siddhartha Mukherjee has a metaphor for this: Our genes are like lenses through which chance is refracted. Genetics “allows plenty of space for us…
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