Genetics and Society: An Introduction

Genetics and Society: An Introduction

Genetics and Society: An Introduction

Genetics and Society: An Introduction

Synopsis

"With panoramic coverage and accessible style, one cannot help but recommend this volume to students, lecturers and researchers. It will prove an indispensable textbook and source of reference. From science to ethics, medicine to agriculture, and disability to cloning, Alison Pilnick provides a highly readable and truly informative account of the impact of modern genetics on contemporary social life." - Lindsay Prior, Reader in Sociology, Cardiff University, and Director of the Health and Risk Programme at the University of Wales College of Medicine
  • What impact do advances in genetic science have on the relationships between humans and the world in which they live?
  • How does social context affect the development and implementation of genetic research?
  • How can the social sciences be used to develop a critical perspective on advances in genetics?
This is a book about contemporary developments in the scientific understanding of genetics, and the ways in which these are transforming possible relations between humans and the world around them. It is the first book of its kind, aiming to encourage readers to critically examine social issues that relate to genetic science and practice, and to consider the links between social theory and the research and practice of genetic science.

The focus is mainly, though not exclusively, on human genetics, exploring those developments which are seen as most significant in terms of public perceptions, social impact, or public policy. It covers a wide range of current and potential applications of genetic science and is clearly and accessibly written, assuming no prior biological knowledge on the part of the reader. Instead, genetic knowledge is placed in its social context.

Excerpt

Just as the genie escaped from the bottle, the gene is now out of the
test tube, and we cannot put it back.

(Lenaghan 1998: 129)

This is a book about contemporary developments in the scientific understanding of genetics, and the ways in which these developments are transforming the possible relations between humans and their natural environment. Since the discovery of the structure of the DNA molecule in the 1950s, the science of molecular genetics has developed rapidly and has had far-reaching consequences. Recent advances in the applications of genetic science, often termed 'the new genetics', raise important sociological issues and have significant policy implications. This text uses a series of examples to draw out these issues and implications, beginning with some of the lessons to be learned from recent historical applications of biological information and ending with contemporary developments such as cloning and genetically modified food. The focus is mainly, although not exclusively, on human genetics; there is some consideration of animal and plant genetics as appropriate in specific areas.

Although the focus of the text is on key issues raised by the application of new genetic technologies, it does not necessarily cover all the developments that a biological scientist would see as being at the cutting edge of scientific research. Instead, it focuses on those that are most significant in terms of public perceptions, social impact or public policy. The substantive applications of genetic science that are covered are organized as a series of case studies. These case studies (for example, genetic testing, antenatal screening and pharmacogenetics) are used to address both the specific issues that the implementation of these particular technologies raise and the underlying sociological themes that are relevant to understanding their impact. Where possible, empirical data . . .

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