Title

Genetics Toolkit: Preventing Misuse of Genetic Science

Publication Date:
Updated:

Collection Editor(s):

Collection Editor(s)
Name & Degree
Robbee Wedow, PhD
Work Title/Institution
Assistant Professor of Sociology and Data Science, Purdue University, Department of Sociology; Adjunct Assistant Professor, Indiana University School of Medicine, Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics; Research Affiliate, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University

Introduction

The misuse and distortion of genetic science by white supremacists during the 20th century made genetic essentialism, the belief that genes can accurately predict complex behaviors and traits, a foundation of Western thinking. Today, essentialist assumptions remain embedded in US laws, policies, and cultural artifacts. To grow up in America is to be surrounded by many implicit and explicit messages that suggest genetic essentialism is ontologically accurate and to hear very few messages suggesting otherwise.

Geneticists, especially those who study complex social behaviors, have a duty to make sure that their work is communicated clearly and carefully. They must anticipate the potential misuse of their work for nefarious purposes, such as white supremacism. Genetic scientists have a responsibility to explain, provide context for, and clarify their findings for public audiences.

Those geneticists who wish to engage in public outreach will quickly find themselves combatting a mountain of essentialism. To effectively push back against this type of scientifically incorrect thinking, it is necessary to have the correct tools at one’s disposal. This collection aims to…

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The misuse and distortion of genetic science by white supremacists during the 20th century made genetic essentialism, the belief that genes can accurately predict complex behaviors and traits, a foundation of Western thinking. Today, essentialist assumptions remain embedded in US laws, policies, and cultural artifacts. To grow up in America is to be surrounded by many implicit and explicit messages that suggest genetic essentialism is ontologically accurate and to hear very few messages suggesting otherwise.

Geneticists, especially those who study complex social behaviors, have a duty to make sure that their work is communicated clearly and carefully. They must anticipate the potential misuse of their work for nefarious purposes, such as white supremacism. Genetic scientists have a responsibility to explain, provide context for, and clarify their findings for public audiences.

Those geneticists who wish to engage in public outreach will quickly find themselves combatting a mountain of essentialism. To effectively push back against this type of scientifically incorrect thinking, it is necessary to have the correct tools at one’s disposal. This collection aims to provide geneticists with a place to begin assembling their toolkit.

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Taking responsibility for the public interpretation of behavioral genetics
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Behavioral genetics, the ethical context
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  • Hepple, B., Bobrow, M., Baldwin, T., Karmiloff-Smith, A., McCall-Smith, S., Moffitt, T., Pharoah, P., Rawlins, N., Richards, M., Saini, P., Shakespeare, T., Thapar, A., & Wilkie, A. (2002). Summary and recommendations. In Genetics and human behaviour: The ethical context (pp. xix–xxxiii). Nuffield Council on Bioethics.
  • Hepple, B., Bobrow, M., Baldwin, T., Karmiloff-Smith, A., McCall-Smith, S., Moffitt, T., Pharoah, P., Rawlins, N., Richards, M., Saini, P., Shakespeare, T., Thapar, A., & Wilkie, A. (2002). Historical context. In Genetics and human behaviour: The ethical context (pp. 11–22). Nuffield Council on Bioethics.
  • Hepple, B., Bobrow, M., Baldwin, T., Karmiloff-Smith, A., McCall-Smith, S., Moffitt, T., Pharoah, P., Rawlins, N., Richards, M., Saini, P., Shakespeare, T., Thapar, A., & Wilkie, A. (2002). Genetics, freedom, and human dignity. In Genetics and human behaviour: The ethical context (pp. 119–130). Nuffield Council on Bioethics.
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Responsible conduct of genetic studies of intelligence
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Tackling the formation of genetic essentialism
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Science communication by scientists
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Tags
genetic essentialism
Behavioral Genetics
Scientists’ responsibility

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