Keith Tyson

Haunch of Venison | New Bond Street

Probably only a muddleheaded art critic would ask such a question about genetics, but here goes anyway: What’s the ontological status of a genotype? If a genotype is an organism’s genetic coding and a phenotype its genetically determined physical properties (brown eyes, big ears, etc.), then, given that genes themselves are physical, observable, genetically determined entities, isn’t a genotype a type of phenotype? Alternatively, if genotypes should be understood as pure information, an essentially intellectual construct, doesn’t this make them something of a linguistic, even metaphysical, quagmire for the geneticists investigating them?

The likely upshot of the above Keith Tyson–inspired ramble is that half-baked language philosophy plus scrambled science equals frittered brains: Tyson’s predilection is for stuff that, in his words, “messes with your noodle,” specifically the problem of

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