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Genetic Linkage

I write about the history of genetics. Buffalo racially-motivated massacre refocuses attention on the dark side of the 100-year old eugenics movement

Whenever I work on a new edition of my human genetics textbook and reach the section on eugenics, which flourished in the United States in the 20th century well into the 1930s, I'm relieved that it's history. But in the summer of 2017, as I wrapped up the 12th edition, the eugenics coverage took on a frightening new reality with the attack in Charlottesville, where white supremacists bellowed "Jews will not replace us!" A president noted at the time, "there are very fine people on both sides."


It's now 2022. I've just finished revamping the section in my textbook on eugenics for the 14th edition. And once again, eugenics is in the headlines, with the attack on Black shoppers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. 


As another president once said, "here we go again."


To continue reading, go to Genetic Literacy Project, where this post first appeared.

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Genetic Testing For All: Is It Eugenics?

In recent weeks, there’s been talk of three types of genetic testing transitioning from targeted populations to the general public: carrier screens for recessive diseases, tests for BRCA cancers, and non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) to spot extra chromosomes in fetuses from DNA in the maternal bloodstream.

Are these efforts the leading edge of a new eugenics movement? It might appear that way, but I think not.

When I began providing genetic counseling 30 years ago at CareNet, a large ob/gyn practice in Schenectady, NY,  Read More 
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JIM: More Compelling Than GATTACA

"Jim" the film is the brilliant brainchild of self-taught filmmaker Jeremy Morris-Burke.
For 15 years, the film GATTACA has been synonymous with “genetic dystopian future,” and has become a mainstay of genetics classrooms. But I’ve found a better film. It’s called, simply, JIM.

I never could connect with GATTACA, the dark tale of an assumed genetic identity in a society where the quality of one’s genome dictates all. Perhaps because in 1997, the pre-genome era, the idea of ordering a DNA test over the Internet was still science fiction. But ironically GATTACA’s “not-too-distant” future, in which a genetically inferior “invalid” impersonates a “valid” to achieve a dream, sets up a too-obvious conflict, with the details and resolution contrived. I know this from years of reading fiction and watching soap operas. Read More 
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