with the Fluid Genome
One of the most persistent dogmas in western science is genetic determinism, the belief that our genetic makeup, or our birth, ultimately determines who and what we are.
Genetic determinism was the guiding principle in the development of the modern science of genetics, which in turn gave rise to the eugenics movement that lasted at least until the mid 1970s in the US and Europe. Not only were ‘inferior races’ persecuted, ‘inferior’ and ‘disabled’ individuals were also considered ‘unfit’ and targeted for elimination.
Eugenics is surfacing again as human ‘genomic’ science, spawned by the sequencing of the human and other genomes, is promising to identify all the ‘bad’ genes that cause diseases and disabilities, so they could be eliminated at conception or before birth, while the ‘good’ genes would be promulgated, and better yet, used for the ‘genetic enhancement’ of anyone who can pay for the privilege. This time round, eugenics will not be sanctioned by the state. It will be up to the ‘global market’ to decide. The poor will become a genetic ‘underclass’. Social inequality will be redefined as, and transformed into genetic inequality.
Fortunately, science as knowledge of nature is never just subject to our arbitrary whim and prejudice. We can delude ourselves, but only for so long. Nature has a way of fighting back, of puncturing our illusions.
The story of the ‘fluid genome’ tells how geneticists came face to face with scientific findings that completely undercut the old genetic determinist paradigm. It challenges all the eugenicist claims and promises, and exposes the futility as well as the hazards of genetic engineering for the health of human beings and the entire life-supporting system that’s our planet.
The book tells why the entire biotech enterprise, from GM crops and gene drugs to health genomics, is a waste of public finance and scientific imagination. Even the promise of huge financial payouts for its corporations is fast becoming an illusion.
Read this personal account to find out what it means to be liberated from the genetic determinist myth and to be living with the fluid genome.
About the author: Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, long-time critic of neo-Darwinism and pioneer of a ‘physics of organisms’, is Director and co-founder of the Institute of Science in Society and scientific advisor to the Third World Network.