Genetics – I just can’t get it!

So what color will the offspring be? And how many calves before the solid brown one?

Well, I promised to tell the rest of this story. So here it is.

But what’s with genetics? I’ve got the mind, the ability and the desire to understand it. And I’ve tried to force an understanding. But can’t.

Several times, I’ve picked up a college genetic text book and tried to master the basics. I’ll make it through the first half which covers the jargon and a few simple concepts. No problem.

Then I get into the second half and find myself stuck and befuddled, going from back to front until I’ve completely lost both the jargon and the concepts. My eyes gloss over and my mouth hangs open. I just can’t get it.

How can this be? I graduated from a top flight science, math, engineering school. And when people find out, that alone is enough to impress them. But the truth of the matter is, I never rose to the top of those skimmings. Rather, I bumped along the bottom of the pan until I was dumped out with the rest of the graduates.

Back then, I preferred my Walden like existence where I lived a simple life in a cabin in the woods. I found more inspiration reading a textbook in a good library, where my mind could freely soar and resources abounded, than almost all my classes combined. I preferred the experiences of nature to that of the classroom. And I enjoyed thinking of the possibilities and not simply responding by rout, which has made my life much more difficult than I’d like to admit.

No, I wasn’t a hippie and I didn’t smoke pot. In short, I’m not sure why I went to college. All I ever wanted to be was be a commercial beekeeper. And live a simple country life.

So what’s with the genetic thing? Why can’t I make myself climb this hill? I was clueless until I tried to help my son get through some mathematics. In the process, I realized it wasn’t ability or desire but emotion that was the key.

In early elementary school, we studied Mendel’s peas. And I was asked if one cow was white and the other black, what color would the calves be? Well, I was a from a small farming community and knew something about cows. So, I thought of the possibilities. I remember my grandfather’s Angus cattle. And I thought about the Hereford’s that we butchered for our meat. And my mind pondered the marvelous and wondrous cow colors that fascinated me so much every spring. I’d think of the range cattle with all their spots and patches of color. I just couldn’t tell what color the calves would be! How could anyone know?

Really! Life should be so simple.

As a result, I was publicly ridiculed and pronounced the class dunce. Determined to prove my classmates wrong, I set my mind to it. But no matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t get it. And I had lots of opportunities. Lessons on Mendel’s peas were taught in every grade through high school. And the standardized intelligence tests, which included this question, were administered every few years. Only later, did I discovered this game wasn’t about cows and calves, but was more like a board game of checkers. Maybe those intelligence test were right. 🙂

I’m sure my classmates quickly forget the issue. But it’s one of only two vivid memory I have of my elementary years.

Today, my mind and will say, “do it.” But my heart, even after all those years  says, “don’t even go there.”

That’s why I’m so thankful for people like Randy Oliver who take the time and effort to understand bee virus genetics. And make it simple enough for a guy like me who will never, ever, not in a thousand years get it on his own.