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- September 10, 2021
- Event Category:
- Author Events
presenting Genomic Politics: How the Revolution in Genomic Science is Shaping American Society
Harvard Book Store’s virtual event series welcomes renowned political scientist JENNIFER HOCHSCHILD—the Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government and African and African American Studies at Harvard University and co-author of Do Facts Matter?—for a discussion of her latest book, Genomic Politics: How the Revolution in Genomic Science is Shaping American Society.
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About Genomic Politics
The emergence of genomic science in the last quarter century has revolutionized medicine, the justice system, and our understanding of who we are. We use genomics to determine guilt and exonerate the falsely convicted; devise new medicines; test embryos; and discover our ethnic and national roots. One might think that, given these advances, most would favor the availability of genomic tools. Yet as Jennifer Hochschild explains in Genomic Politics, the uses of genomic science are both politically charged and hotly contested. After all, genomics might result in bioterrorism, a demand for “designer babies,” or a revival of racial biology.
Political divisions around genomics do not follow the usual left-right ideological divides that dominate most of American politics. Through four controversial innovations resulting from genomic science—medicines for heart disease approved for use by only African-Americans, on the grounds of genetic distinctiveness; use of DNA evidence in the criminal justice system; the search for one’s roots through genetic ancestry; and the use of genetic tests in prenatal exams—Hochschild reveals how the phenomenon is polarizing America in novel ways. Advocates of genomic science argue that these applications will make life better, while opponents point out the potential for misuse—from racial profiling to “selecting out” fetuses that gene tests show to have conditions like Down syndrome.
Hochschild’s central message is that the divide hinges on answers to two questions: How significant are genetic factors in explaining human traits and behaviors? And what is the right balance between risk acceptance and risk avoidance for a society grappling with innovations arising from genomic science? Experts differ among themselves about who should make decisions about governing genomics’ uses, and Americans as a whole trust almost no one to do so. A deeply researched and original analysis of the politics surrounding one of the signal issues of our times, this is essential reading for anyone interested in how the genetics revolution is shaping society.
Praise for Genomic Politics
“The Genomics Revolution is all around us, and it is wise to watch carefully for both positives and negatives, both personal and global. This book is a superbly balanced and comprehensive guide to enable all of us to understand and engage with that watching, working together to prevent mishaps and ensure equitable access to benefits.” —George Church, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School
“The issues that genomics poses are too important, new, and complex to afford the luxury of one-sided or partial viewpoints,’ Jennifer Hochschild writes is this pathbreaking book about a new scientific revolution that inspires hope, awe and wonder as well as anxiety, uneasiness and even alarm. She lives up to her own standard by painstakingly, empathetically and engagingly explaining the arguments we are likely to have with each other while being upfront about her own nuanced views. Genomic Politics is an important achievement, a model of careful research, honest reflection and political savvy.” —E. J. Dionne Jr., author of Code Red and Our Divided Political Heart
“Nobody is talking about the science-fictionesque reality of gene editing and genetic prediction that has arrived. Nobody, that is, except Jennifer Hochschild in her wonderful book, Genomic Politics. Unlike most issues, currently genetic policy is not highly polarized—though that’s sure to change soon enough as charges of eugenics or ‘playing god’ start flying. Hochschild offers advice on how we might have a fruitful public dialogue as we approach this transformative technology. A must read for anyone concerned with science and society.” —Dalton Conley, Henry Putnam University Professor of Sociology, Princeton University