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via Flickr user Global Panorama

[DIGEST: New York Times, Washington Post, Hopkins Medicine]

We like to think that disease is simple. Medical researchers and molecular biologists know better, of course, but that rarely filters out into our broader cultural imagination. The popular press is filled with stories about toxins or disease-causing genes because we want simple answers to complicated questions. If there is a gene for cancer, then it’s easy to explain, right? The gene causes the cancer, just like a gene might give you blue eyes or red hair. Toxins are even simpler: if you get poison in your cells, they might die. Nothing could be easier to understand.

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