Dr. Dawg

The social consequences of science

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Since at least the 1605 publication of Francis Bacon’s The Advancement of Learning, scientific curiosity has been regarded as a positive emotion. But there are obvious downsides. While “curiosity-driven research” or “pure science” may sound abstract and detached from the so-called real world, it tends to find application down the road. It’s what led to the atomic bomb, grotesque wartime medical experiments, and, closer to home, horrific nutritional tests in residential schools.

Whether positively or negatively directed, curiosity is inextricably bound up in the social and even the political. The field of genetics is a clear case in point.

I review two books for the Literary Review of Canada on what may appear to be distinct topics: racism and CRISPR gene-splicing technology. But those subjects merge: speaking historically, racism and eugenics are inseparable ideologies, and CRISPR, whatever its therapeutic promise, has opened up a gateway to a genetic dystopia of inequality and selective breeding.

Comments are welcome, as always.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on June 25, 2020 9:27 AM.

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