3. The New Yorker: Can Progressives Be Convinced That Genetics Matters?
After reading this profile on Kathryn Paige Harden, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, I sent it to numerous friends. I was interested in Harden’s research “in the field of behavior genetics, which investigates the influence of genes on character traits (neuroticism, agreeableness) and life outcomes (educational attainment, income, criminality),” but was also skeptical. You could say that I am one of the “progressives” (although I don’t necessarily identify with the term) that is yet to be convinced.
This article offered a new perspective on genetics, but I see the perspective of “many of the left-leaning social scientists [who] seemed certain that behavior-genetics research, no matter how well intentioned, was likely to lead us down the garden path to eugenics.” I’m not claiming to be an expert on genetics or to understand, via this article, how they can influence life outcomes; I’m trying to say that I don’t trust that we—as individuals and a society—will interpret the research in a just and ethical way. As Dorothy Roberts, a University of Pennsylvania professor of law, sociology, and Africana studies, is quoted here saying: “There’s just no way that genetic testing is going to lead to a restructuring of society in a just way in the future—we have a hundred years of evidence for what happens when social outcomes are attributed to genetic differences, and it is always to stigmatize, control, and punish the people predicted to have socially devalued traits.”
For me, Harden’s research brings about conversations on the weaponization of science and how that has taken place historically, and who has been systematically targeted and harmed by it—which is why so many progressives have yet to be convinced.