#Badomics word of the year already? Yup. The ‘Consciousome’ from Deepak Chopra

Oh my.  As many out there know I have a thing with “badomics” words.  These are words someone has invented where they have added the ome suffix on to the word to try and capture some of the hype of genomics.  And though many many people do this, the ones I call “badomics” words are the ones where the ome addition is all hype and no use.  And this AM I was informed of a doozy via Twitter:

And so I went to the link and found this: Self-Directed Biological Transformation Initiative — A New Frontier ‘Consciousome’ | Deepak Chopra and Rudolf E. Tanzi.  And what I found there was almost a textbook example of how to create a badomics word.  Here is the critical paragraph

The current frontier in brain research, to map the entire connectivity of the brain, the so-called connectome project, points to an even more exciting frontier, the “consciousome.” This takes the brain to the next level, where we need to explore how our conscious choices may liberate us from biology-as-destiny. Our conscious choices and reactions to life experiences remodel the neural circuitry of our brains and, now, we need to explore the effects on our genomes.

Just what is the consciousome?  I cannot tell.  But it has something to do with genomics.  And with consciousness.  Hmm.  They try to clarify later on

Where the connectome is like a diagram of all the telephone wiring in a city, the consciousome embraces the conversations taking place using the wiring.

Not really helping.  So – what does it have to do with genomics?  Unclear until later

By opening up the genetic doorway to consciousness, however, we take a leap forward. For example, recent studies indicate that meditation can have a strong effect on the length of chromosome telomeres, the nucleotide sequences that protect chromosomes from the deterioration linked to aging. That these beneficial effects occur immediately indicates just how responsive genetic activity is to mind-body interventions — something never previously suspected.

So – the consciousome is the affect of conscious thought on the genome?  Whether or not you think this is something worth studying, the slapping on of the ome term on the end of consciousness is a self directed thought that should never have been done.  There is no entity that is the consciousome.  The term makes no sense.  It is certainly a badomics word of grand magnificence.

I note – there is some seriously bizarre other stuff in this article like the following:

In our Self-Directed Biological Transformation Initiative, a 100-subject study to map biological transformation, leaders in the fields of healthcare, art, business, environment, sports, entertainment, science and technology will be given a protocol to measure new genetic activity, searching for positive evolutionary effects

What?  How exactly are they searching for “positive evolutionary effects” and what does that even mean?  And why do this with the “leaders in the fields …”. How are they supposed to be different?

And also

This “soft inheritance,” in which the parents’ life experiences and behavior may directly influence the genome of their offspring (transmitted via the epigenome), is arguably the most profound “living legacy” we can pass along to our children.

So now they have gone from a few studies in mice showing epigenetic inheritance of a few things to the “most profound living legacy we can pass along to our children”.  Uggh.  Talk about overselling genomics – this is overselling a word / field that does not even exist yet and the word certainly should not exist ever.  Personally, I think brain science is very very interesting and important.  Let’s not cloud it up by coining new fuzzy terms, trying to capture the hype of genomics, and overselling the science.  And for this, Deepak Chopra, Rudolf Tanzi and their coauthors Tara Sheahan, Gina Murdock, and
Glenda Greenwald are winners of the coveted “Worst New Omics word award.”

About Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis
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