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Backdoor to Eugenics

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Considered a classic in the field, Troy Duster's Backdoor to Eugenics was a groundbreaking book that grappled with the social and political implications of the new genetic technologies. Completely updated and revised, this work will be welcomed back into print as we struggle to understand the pros and cons of prenatal detection of birth defects; gene therapies; growth horm Considered a classic in the field, Troy Duster's Backdoor to Eugenics was a groundbreaking book that grappled with the social and political implications of the new genetic technologies. Completely updated and revised, this work will be welcomed back into print as we struggle to understand the pros and cons of prenatal detection of birth defects; gene therapies; growth hormones; and substitute genetic answers to problems linked with such groups as Jews, Scandanavians, Native American, Arabs and African Americans. Duster's book has never been more timely.


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Considered a classic in the field, Troy Duster's Backdoor to Eugenics was a groundbreaking book that grappled with the social and political implications of the new genetic technologies. Completely updated and revised, this work will be welcomed back into print as we struggle to understand the pros and cons of prenatal detection of birth defects; gene therapies; growth horm Considered a classic in the field, Troy Duster's Backdoor to Eugenics was a groundbreaking book that grappled with the social and political implications of the new genetic technologies. Completely updated and revised, this work will be welcomed back into print as we struggle to understand the pros and cons of prenatal detection of birth defects; gene therapies; growth hormones; and substitute genetic answers to problems linked with such groups as Jews, Scandanavians, Native American, Arabs and African Americans. Duster's book has never been more timely.

30 review for Backdoor to Eugenics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mladen

    I've been reading this book and Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man simultaneously. While Gould focuses on more on the historical manifestations of eugenics, such as Social Darwinism theories, phrenology, misuse of IQ tests etc. Duster focuses more on contemporary issues of eugenics. Primarily, he focuses on genetics and how ideas of hereditary behavior influenced contemporary science and society. Contrary to popular belief the elements of the idea of hereditary behavior can be found all the I've been reading this book and Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man simultaneously. While Gould focuses on more on the historical manifestations of eugenics, such as Social Darwinism theories, phrenology, misuse of IQ tests etc. Duster focuses more on contemporary issues of eugenics. Primarily, he focuses on genetics and how ideas of hereditary behavior influenced contemporary science and society. Contrary to popular belief the elements of the idea of hereditary behavior can be found all the way back to the 15th century (probably even earlier). At that time the inquisition based their executions on the principle of "limprezza de sangre" (purity of blood). This meant that one could get killed based on who their ancestors were. Heresy, for instance, was considered an impurity of the blood which was hereditary and this meant you could be accused of heresy on the basis of who your parents were etc. Even if you look at the Indian caste system you can see similarities in beliefs since social mobility between castes was almost impossible. History is filled with examples of using explanations based on hereditary behavior. The most recent examples of using genetics to explain certain social behaviors can be found in Nazism, Social Darwinism, Eugenics in the USA etc. But these are mostly examples from the beginning of the century. There are much later examples of this issue. I'm just going to name a couple of scientist who brought back hereditary explanations in the seventies and eighties. Arthur Jensen, Edward Wilson, Robert Gordon, James Q. Wilson... If you google the mentioned scientists you will notice that none of them are actually molecular geneticists. And most of the people who revived the idea of hereditary behavior being relevant in the social sphere are sociologists, criminologists, psychologists... Most of them are people with roots in social sciences. Duster would call these scientists defenders of population genetics which have their roots in Social Darwinism. Actual geneticists don't dabble as much in connecting genetics with the social. Or at least that is what Troy Duster claims. Now, the question you might ask yourself is: "Why is using genetics to explain behavior wrong?" Well, it's not wrong, it's problematic in the sense that there has been a continuous trend in history of reaching the completely wrong conclusions. Mostly these were cases of using genetic, evolutionary, hereditary... explanations on superficial data to promote a certain worldview. Nazi Germany stands out, again, as the most obvious example. But, then again Nazi Germany constructed their eugenics program from the theoretical background of USA scientists, so that's troubling. Especially when we enter into the methodological side of things we find out how difficult it is to prove, for instance, that criminal behavior is hereditary based on genetics. We are bombarded with countless variables which are out of our control. And if a mistake slips by we are basically condemning a certain group of people to the metaphorical gallows (and possibly real). Troy Duster gives numerous accounts on research projects which failed precisely because of methodological issues. I won't go into them in this review. The second problem is that when you implant a certain idea into a population it spreads like wildfire. Especially if it's an idea that seems so common sense. And when that same idea is shielded with the authority of science you have a potentially dangerous situation on your hands. Again, Duster gives examples of this which I won't go into. Conclusion: I'd give this book 6/5. It's easily readable and covers the topic in precisely the amount of the detail that is necessarily to get the point through. I'd recommend it to people with an unwavering belief in science. I'd like to end this review with a quote from C. S. Lewis: "Man's power over nature is really the power of some men over others with nature as their instrument." Don't misunderstand me, I'm all for science. I'm just saying that it's not a blind, objective instrument uninfluenced by people. We should always be cautious.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Bediako

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tommy

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  5. 5 out of 5

    Maitreyee Singh

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tina Tran

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robert T.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gizem

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Yglesias

  10. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  12. 4 out of 5

    Roosa

  13. 5 out of 5

    jason girtman

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katrina

  15. 5 out of 5

    rose

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alondra Nelson

  17. 4 out of 5

    Howtobeterrell

  18. 4 out of 5

    Noël Ingram

  19. 5 out of 5

    Layla Greening

  20. 4 out of 5

    ne

  21. 5 out of 5

    Derek

  22. 5 out of 5

    Larry Hunter

  23. 5 out of 5

    Wende

  24. 5 out of 5

    Krystle

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Brooks

    The eugenic implications of biotechnology and assisted reproductive technology.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ruha

  28. 5 out of 5

    Colin

  29. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Rhude

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mark

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