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Oh dear [Sep. 15th, 2005|11:42 am]
As the debate over whether "humanities graduate" is an insult or not continues at www.badscience.net, Nature features a letter on the genetics of Harry Potter.


"[A previous letter recommends] the use of analogies as tools for introducing young people to scientific concepts. Taking their example from J. K. Rowling's stories about the young wizard Harry Potter, they suggest that wizarding is a monogenic trait, with the wizard allele (W) recessive to the muggle allele (M). We believe the assumption that wizarding has a genetic basis to be deterministic and unsupported by available evidence.

Following Craig and colleagues' analogy, Hermione, as a muggle-born witch, must have WM parents. However, as Rowling fans could point out, Hermione's parents were muggle dentists who lack any family history of wizarding. It's true, of course, that chance may not have thrown up a witch or wizard for many generations, or that any who did have magical powers may have kept them secret to avoid a witch hunt."

Er...how very important. It's one thing to look at the science behind science fiction, quite another to look at the science behind magic in a children's fantasy book. Even if it is the greatest piece of literature ever written.

Just in case we're not being hypocritical enough already, we do note that JK Rowling never tries to explain the genetics behind the inheritance of magical ability in her book. We also noticed that the wizards and witches in the Harry Potter books have different levels of magical ability, suggesting that if it is genetic, the trait is polygenetic (like height) rather than controlled by one gene.

Perhaps we should write to Nature to tell them this rather than putting it in a blog nobody reads? We're not sure if they would print a letter from some drunk single-celled organisms though. Sob.

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