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The telepath virus and genetics

Since the Psi Corps conspiracy has been on my mind a lot lately I decided to watch The Face of the Enemy again, and there are some things that stood out to me that seem kind of confusing. I don't know too much about genetics (though I seem to know more than most people), but what Edgars says about his virus seems to have a big flaw in it. Edgars says that the virus will only affect people with the telepath gene, so normals will be fine, and only telepaths will die and need his medicine. But in Dust to Dust, Bester and the dust dealer both say that dust works by affecting the telepath gene, which is in most humans, but too weak to do anything, so only those who actually have any telepathic ability, even someone as weak as Ivanova, are actually considered telepaths and are required by law to join Psi Corps or take sleepers.
So what I'm getting at here is that if this virus targets the telepath gene, then this means that there would be a lot of normals who would die of the virus as well, the majority of humanity it would seem, and since this gene was created by the Vorlons, it should logically spread to other species, requiring them to either make their own treatment, or possibly be dependent on Edgars Industries as well.
I seem to remember that in J. Gregory Keyes's Psi Corps trilogy, he says that rather than a single gene being responsible for telepathy, it's a series of genes, and they must all be present for someone to be a telepath, which sounds much more plausible to me, and it easily explains how there could be two normal parents with a telepathic child.

Also, is this an inconsistency about Lyta in the episode? She says that she was brought in by Psi Corps when she was three, but in The Gathering, she and G'kar comment on how she's a sixth generation telepath, though her identicard has a higher number. So it was already established that she comes from a long line of telepaths. In the Psi Corps trilogy, it's revealed that one of Lyta's ancestors was actually one of the key founders of Psi Corps, and we get a lot of detail about others in the Alexander line, but those books didn't exist yet when this episode was written of course, and it doesn't really matter when talking about this.
Anyway, if she's a sixth or higher generation telepath, then why would she have been taken in when she was three? Shouldn't her mother have also been a member of Psi Corps? Could it be that they missed her genetic marker at first, and so she was not part of Psi Corps for the first few years, when another genetic test confirmed that she too was a telepath afterall as well?


  • SeafroggysSeafroggys Ranger
    edited February 2017
    Maybe they have no way of testing young children. For example, Lyta's parents may be telepaths, but there's a chance she herself is not. Maybe all telepathy is latent, but comes into play for most at a very young age.
  • croxiscroxis I am the walrus
    Genes can have different variations (alleles), and they code for proteins. Depending on the type of virus it could target the dna strand itself, or bind to a variation of the telepath protine.
  • Do you know about genetics? I mean, I love this part of the story, but as I think about it, it just doesn't seem to make sense. Shouldn't it affect almost every human? Can you explain this a bit more how it would only be able to affect those with actual psi abilities?
  • DarthCaligulaDarthCaligula Elite Ranger
    edited February 2017
    I asked my brother about this since he knows a lot more than me about this sort of stuff. He told me that the idea actually does make sense, having to do with activated genes. Like hormones or other genes could activate the telepath gene, so if those conditions aren't met, the telepath gene wouldn't activate, and so the virus would only affect those that have those conditions. So it turns out that this telepath virus that Edgars and the Shadows came up with likely could work, so this part of the story I love seems to actually be pretty plausible.
  • croxiscroxis I am the walrus
    Aye, that is a newer field called epigenetics, which genes are expressed and how often. It's only been around for the past 15 years or so when we realized the human genome doesn't contain enough data for the variation observed in humans.
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