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Friday, July 5 • 9:30am - 11:00am
The Sleep of Reason: Misuses and Distortions of Biology

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The panel will highlight two aspects of biological determinism.

1) "Stolen Voices: Who's Using the 'Science' of Race and Sex?"

In the 1960s and 1970s, there were fundamental debates about biological determinism.  Key figures in the debates included the inauguration of Science and Society and People's Science in India, including Marxist historian Irfan Habib, and and critiques of E.O. Wilson's work by Lewontin, Dobzhansky, Gould, Keller, and others.

In the contemporary context, since many of the scientific discussions about race and sex are happening off-stage in peer-reviewed studies, the most publicly available work involves work written deliberately for a broader audience. Someone who is looking for information about what biology has to say (if anything) about "race" and "sex" might find a plurality of references to sources including an increasingly obstreperous group of people in public journalism, science, and policy who want to make grand claims about race and sex as a biological variables that can predict behavior, intelligence, and so on. Even if peer reviewed studies are made available, there is the problem of 'translating' them for those not trained in scientific writing and assessment. Some of the current 'translations' are co-opting scientific work.

This is the perfect context for a return of Science for the People! The talk will include discussion of key SftP texts from the 60s and 70s, including Biology as a Social Weapon, and will conclude with a call to action for the current SftP.

2) "The Biotech Juggernaut and the Commodification of Human Biology"
Whether or not it can be accurately performed, the disassembly, reassembly, and reconfiguration of human organisms by CRISPR and other gene- and embryo-modifying technologies is underway. The relevant methods are being developed with anticipation of great wealth from the sale of new products. These could be replacement tissues and organs, model systems for testing the effects of new drugs or, more ambitiously, children with biological features that their parents are otherwise unable to provide. As with other organisms and their tissues, human parts and part-humans are now raw materials of the industrial system. And similarly to other high-stakes manufacturing and commercial ventures, there has been little democratic control over these technologies and no shortage of academic and other opinion makers (many of them financial beneficiaries) set on normalizing them and diverting attention from their potentially radical civilizational implications.

avatar for Lydia Patton

Lydia Patton

I work (increasingly) in climate organizing, and with Science for the People. Looking forward to talking about both.
avatar for Stuart Newman

Stuart Newman

Stuart Newman is a professor of cell biology and anatomy at New York Medical College. Hisresearch focuses on developmental biology and the evolutionary origin of biological forms. Hewas a member of the New University Conference, and Science for the People, at the Universityof Chicago... Read More →


Friday July 5, 2019 9:30am - 11:00am CDT
Field B/C