This attitude is highly irresponsible, feeding a fear of things genetic (as in GM food) that is second only to thing nuclear. People forget, or never knew, that genes don’t simply set you going as a human, with your parental inheritance etc. They are active all the time in every cell making the chemicals the body needs to function normally. In a healthy person, only a limited number of the 25,000 or so genes are active in any one type of cell. That way they can make just the chemicals needed to metabolize sugars, or create the light-sensing pigments of the eye, or grow nails or protect against infections. If a gene gets out of control a body function may be compromised or cancer may result.
As far as the human genome project goes, it is well known that a limited number of serious diseases are caused by a single gene errors (so-called snips – single nucleotide polymorphisms). Some of these are :Huntington's disease, neurofibromatosis type 1, Marfan syndrome, cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell disease, Tay-Sachs disease, Hemophilia A, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and Lesch-Nyhan syndrome as well as common and less serious conditions such as male pattern baldness and red-green color blindness. These are the low hanging fruit
Many other serious diseases – such as diabetes, heart diseases – Alzheimer’s, are multi-gene diseases and much harder to understand. Of course many conditions are caused by infective organisms or environmental toxins but these all still have to interact with the body’s genetic mechanisms. You can’t study these without taking the gene cascades into account.
I fear that Latham’s article will encourage the obscurantist tendency and greatly hinder medical research.