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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ethics: Taboo genetics

By Ericka Check Hayden
Nature.com
Originally published October 2, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

At the root of this caution is the widespread but antiquated idea that genetics is destiny — that someone's genes can accurately predict complex behaviours and traits regardless of their environment. The public and many scientists have continued to misinterpret modern findings on the basis of this — fearing that the work will lead to a new age of eugenics, preemptive imprisonment and discrimination against already marginalized groups.

“People can take science and assume it is far more determinative than it is — and, by making that assumption, make choices that we will come to regret as a society,” says Nita Farahany, a philosopher and lawyer at Duke University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina.

But trying to forestall such poor choices by drawing red lines around certain areas subverts science, says Christopher Chabris of Union College in Schenectady, New York. Funding for research in some areas dries up and researchers are dissuaded from entering promising fields. “Any time there's a taboo or norm against studying something for anything other than good scientific reasons, it distorts researchers' priorities and can harm the understanding of related topics,” he says.

The entire story is here.
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