Social genomics holds great promise but may run the risk of naturalizing human difference.
Since the mapping of the genome in 2000, scientists have sought to uncover what makes us tick by putting our genes under the microscope. Trait after trait has been subjected to genomic testing, and the fruits of that research have been splashed across headlines: “‘Gangsta Gene’ Identified in US Teens,” trumpeted one article in the New Scientist; “Happiness is in your DNA,” heralded The Economist. This avalanche of research has emerged from a new form of science, what I call “sociogenomics,” which melds genetic and social science approaches to understand the gene-environment interactions that make up various phenomena in our lives. Sociogenomics is practiced by lots of different scientists, geneticists, sociologists, economists, and behaviorists, but a new field that is driving its innovation is that of social genomics.
An avalanche of research has emerged from a new form of science, what I call “sociogenomics,” which melds genetic and social science approaches.
Social genomics focuses on social behavior and outcomes, things like making it through school and going to the polls to vote. Social genomics is not just interdisciplinary. It is transdisciplinary. It goes beyond adding natural and social science methods to blending them and coming up with new ones. It holds great potential for transforming science in important ways, because it has the power to pull together the best practices of all its disciplinary home bases. As the old adage goes, it is greater than the sum of its parts.