Mr. Thursday has long believed that scientists are secretly hilarious people. Being locked away from the rest of society in spotless labs playing with chemicals and noxious fumes all day can have an affect on your personality, and while they’re all shy in front of cameras, behind closed doors it’s a spectacular Geek Party.
All that said, it was reported recently in Nature and in The New York Times that the genome nomenclature committee of the Human Genome Organization (HGO) would be renamed a number of genes found in humans, flies, and whatever else has genes. Why? Because, apparently, it’s a bit awkward for a doctor to explain to a heartbroken patient that they have a defective Death Executioner BCL-2. So, the HGO will set about renaming all these terms, likely giving Sonic Hedgehog, Sex Lethal, Fear of Intimacy and Groucho new, Latin names–or at the least, names that sound foreign enough to have no real meaning for the patient who doesn’t have a working one.
Mr. Thursday advocates for keeping the original gene names. First, because the scientists who discovered them deserve the naming rights. Scientists don’t make money off gene naming or discovering–outside of the fact that gene discovery probably leads to more grant money–so the real pride is knowing that you named the Faint Sausage. Second, the fabled “bedside manner” of an average doctor nowadays is somewhere between indifferent and criminally negligent. This isn’t meant on a mark on doctors–most doctors are very good at their jobs. However, most doctors are also extremely busy and unable to spend a lot of time with individual patients to explain to them exactly and clearly what’s happening to or in them. We have reached an era in which a patient is told what they have, and to find out what that means, they go home and Google it or look it up on WebMD. Giving potentially defective body parts potentially offensive names obligates doctors to be more patient and to really give each patient with a genetic defect some quality attention.
Keep the names, we say! On with science, but leave political correct-ness in the dust!