Some Social Implications of the Molecular Biological Revolution (The Human Genome Project)

Troy Duster – New York University

Topics of Interest to the SENCER Community

A Deep Discussion of the Potential Uses and Abuses of Genetic Mapping Technologies

  • Includes a brief summary of basic genetic principles and the Human Genome Project.
  • Provides concrete examples of applications to which genetic mapping has been used.

Discusses the Scientific Background Against Which Controversies Like Mammalian Cloning, Stem-Cell Research, Interventions Against Genetic Profiling of Criminal Behavior

  • Informs the reader about projects taken up by the scientific community that have attempted to come to terms with the ethical implications of germline interventions against genetic disorders.
  • The social and ethical difficulty in addressing genetic realities of race against the unethical uses to which such information can be put.
  • A thorough discussion of these difficulties in the context of the UNESCO and American Anthropological Association’s statements about race.

Addresses the Implications of Race as a Social Category and the Biological Realities of Physical Difference

  • Blood phenotypes are used as a case study for illustrating the way that genetics plays a controversial role in the construction of race as a social category.
  • The use of DNA databases to create genetic profiles according to social categories of race that may be of potential help in addressing the specific afflictions and reactions to treatments and medications among particular ethnic groups.
  • The use of genetics to attempt to profile criminals and find root causes of criminal behavior despite spurious scientific links between genetic and behavior.

Full Report

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About the Author

Troy DusterTroy Duster, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology, New York University
295 Lafayette St., Rm. 4143
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-8882

Troy Duster is currently a professor of sociology at New York University and he also holds an appointment as Chancellor’s Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He is past chair of the Board of Directors of AAC&U, and a member of the AAAS Committee on Germ- Line Intervention. He is President-elect of the American Sociological Association. A former member of the Assembly of Behavioral and Social Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences, he has served on the Committee on Social and Ethical Impact of Advances in Biomedicine, Institute of Medicine. From 1996-98, he served as chair of the joint NIH/DOE advisory committee on Ethical, Le gal and Social Issues in the Human Genome Project (The ELSI Working Group). He is the former director of the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of California at Berkeley.

Troy’s books and monographs include The Legislation of Morality (1970), Aims and Control of the Universities (1974), Cultural Perspectives on Biological Knowledge (coedited with Karen Garrett, 1984), and Backdoor to Eugenics (Routledge, 1990), a book on the social implications of the new technologies in molecular biology. The second edition of Backdoor to Eugenics will be published in September (2003). He is also the author of a number of works including articles in Politics and the Life Sciences, The Genetic Frontier: Ethics, Law and Policy, and DNA and Crime: Applications of Molecular Biology in Forensics. His most recent publications on this topic are “The Sociology of Science and the Revolution in Molecular Biology,” in J. Blau, ed., Blackwell Companion to Sociology, 2001, and “The Social Consequences of Genetic Disclosure,” in Ronald Carson and Mark Rothstein, eds., Culture and Biology, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.