A celebration (and mocking) of ridiculously useless research

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Siblings and Twins and Clones, Oh My!

Gentle Readers,

Our first Duh!scovery comes to us from the British Isles, in the form of this news report from the BBC.

It appears that Drs. Barbara Prainsack and Tim Spector, the latter from the Twins Research Unit of St Thomas' Hospital and the author of dozens of fascinating, real-science studies on twins, have published a study that suggests a "cloned human would probably consider themselves to be an individual."

Based on interviews with identical twins (Dr. Spector has bunches of them just lying about), they've determined that genetic clones (such as identical twins) amazingly consider themselves to be distinctly separate individuals! They apparently don't have eerie telepathic powers or share custody rights to their single, DNA-bonded "soul".

All of you worried about armies of soulless, zombie clones wreaking havoc on the Republic will have to find some other, non-Star Wars-related reason to oppose cloning. The clones themselves will look, think and act just like any of the other freaks of nature we call "humans".

Judging from the news article, this study may have hit a Duh!scovery trifecta:

  • The study is a social science study, but on a "real" science topic (cloning)
  • It appears to have been done primarily to allow researchers to comment about a controversial subject within the "hard news" section, rather than in the opinion pages
  • The study is so small (17 pairs of siblings - identical twins, fraternal twins and non-twins) that it's statistically meaningless

The article is so filled with weasel words ("might", "probably", "suggests") that it seems like an op-ed anyway. It's mostly just an appeal to authority, a way to tell us that:

[T]his...reveals how we should not have any prejudiced feelings about the idea of genetically identical individuals living amongst us.

I think those of us who've ever known identical twins (not necessarily in the biblical sense, although that would be...hot!) could have told you everything revealed in this Duh!scovery. It can pretty much be summed up in eleven words:

Identical twins are clones. You aren't afraid of twins, are you?

Actually, identical twins are even "clonier" than the Dolly the Sheep-type clones the "rubes" are apparently all freaked out about. Dolly-type clones only share nuclear DNA (the type floating around the cell's nucleus). Other types of DNA (like mitochondrial), RNA and already-expressed proteins come from the egg donor, not the clonee. The clone also is raised in a completely different uterine environment - different levels of maternal hormones, antibody factors, nutrition and the like will undoubtedly make "clones" even less like each other than identical twins who shared all of the above but still look (fingerprints, irises, freckle and mole patterns) and act differently.

No matter how hard we try, we'll never be able to mass-produce copies of Jango Fett. Which is hella sweet, as it means my first edition, shrink-wrapped action figure will totally keep its value!


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