Talking Biopolitics with Dorothy Roberts and Jonathan Marks

November 12

Please join Dorothy Roberts, Jonathan Marks and the Center for Genetics and Society for Talking Biopolitics 2014. In this live web-based conversation, Dorothy and Jonathan will assess the reception of Nicholas Wade's controversial book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History. They'll discuss how they contest the endurance of scientific racism, and the lessons of the Wade episode for all of us as we move forward.

About the discussants

Photo of Jonathan Marks

Jonathan Marks is Professor of Biological Anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. His primary area of research is molecular anthropology the application of genetic data to illuminate our place in the natural order or more broadly, the area of overlap between (scientific) genetic data and (humanistic) self-comprehension. His research interests range from the relationships between genetics and society (especially as understood in earlier eras) to the relationships of humans to apes (both bio-historically and bio-ethically) and the relationships of human groups to one another. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Marks has published five books, including Why I Am Not a Scientist: Anthropology and Modern Knowledge (University of California Press, 2009);

What it Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and their Genes (University of California Press, 2002); and Human Biodiversity: Genes, Race, and History (Aldine Transaction, 1995).

Dorothy Roberts, an acclaimed scholar of race, gender and the law, joined the University of Pennsylvania as its 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, with a joint appointment in the Department of Sociology and the Law School, where she also holds the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mosell Alexander chair. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for Genetics and Society.

Her path-breaking work in law and public policy f
ocuses on urgent contemporary issues in health, social justice, and bioethics, especially as they impact the lives of women, children and African-Americans. Her major books include Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century (New Press, 2011); Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Books, 2002) and Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Pantheon, 1997).

Photo of Dorothy Roberts

About the controversy

A Troublesome Inheritance, by longtime New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade, was released in late spring to great fanfare. It argues that modern genetic science reveals "three major races" that are genetically distinct and diverge much as subspecies do. These genetic differences, it contends, underlie "the rise of the West." According to Wade, in other words, race is the biologically real result of Darwinian natural selection.

A Troublesome Inheritance has received extremely critical responses, nearly across the board, including a negative account in The New York Times. In a striking act of solidarity, 143 population geneticists wrote

a letter condemning Wade's interpretation of their work. Biopolitical Times contributor Pete Shanks has written about the book's reception here and here. But Wade remains adamant that everyone who disagrees with him is simply too intimated by "political correctness" to say what they really think.