The Poetry of Genetics: On the Pitfalls of Popularizing Science

Hypatia 24 (4):247 - 257 (2009)
The role genetic inheritance plays in the way human beings look and behave is a question about the biology of human sexual reproduction, one that scientists connected with the Human Genome Project dashed to answer before the close of the twentieth century. This is also a question about politics, and, it turns out, poetry, because, as the example of Lucretius shows, poetry is an ancient tool for the popularization of science. "Popularization" is a good word for successful efforts to communicate elite science to non-scientists in non-technical languages and media. According to prominent sociobiologist E. O. Wilson, "sexual dominance is a human universal." He meant, of course, that men dominate women. Like sociobiology, genetic science is freighted with politics, including gender politics. Scientists have gender perspectives that may color what they "see" in nature. As the late Susan Okin Miller suggested in an unpublished paper tracing the detrimental impact of Aristotle's teleology on Western thought, scientists accustomed to thinking that men naturally dominate women might interpret genetic discoveries accordingly. Biologists have good, scientific reasons to fight the effects of bias. One must be critical of how scientists and popularizers of science, like "Genome" author Matt Ridley, frame truth and theory. Ridley's "battle of the sexes" metaphor and others have a doubtful place in serious explanations of science
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.2307/20618196
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,667
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Edward O. Wilson (2000). Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. Journal of the History of Biology 33 (3):577-584.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

17 ( #161,518 of 1,727,288 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #354,177 of 1,727,288 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.