Genomics & Society Seminar Series - Adam Rutherford

Event time: 
Thursday, March 2, 2023 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library (SHM) See map
333 Cedar Street
New Haven, CT 06510
Calendar Speaker/Performer: 
Adam Rutherford, Ph.D.
Event description: 

Summary of Adam’s Talk:
The emergence and translation of Mendel’s discoveries about genetics into English coincided with the rise of eugenics, and provided its most devoted apostles with a biological mechanism to justify their bigotry. An ideological commitment to mendelian pedigrees formed the pseudoscientific basis for mass sterilisation and genocide. We now have a much more sophisticated understanding of human genetics, but this eugenic spectre limps on in our culture, reinforcing a view of biology that is simplistic, deterministic and wrong.
Summary of the Seminar Series:
Technological innovations are rapidly deepening our understanding of the human genome for both scientists and the public alike, emphasizing the need to explore the societal implications of the genomic revolution. This year’s series will explore the complex, changing relationship on what science can tell us about our ancestry, how this science can be performed more equitably, and how these genomic insights translate into the public’s understanding of race, medicine, and history. This years world-renowned thinkers include:
Adam Rutherford, (March 2): Author, scientist, and broadcaster, his books include How to Argue with a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality and the just released Control: The Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics.
Jennifer Raff, (April 6): Researcher and author of Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas, a detailed account of the peopling of the Americas, exploring the scientific, societal, and ethical implications of population research.
Keolu Fox, (April 20): Anthropologist, native Hawaiian, and National Geographic emerging explorer working to use population genomics to Indigenize biomedical research and better understand Indigenous history.
Amy Harmon, (May 4): Pulitzer Prize-winning NY Times journalist using narrative storytelling to illustrate the impact of science on American life, she has written extensively on the use (and misuse) of genetic data to fuel extremist and racist ideologies.

We’re hoping the series will attract diverse perspectives from scientists, authors, journalists, and historians, including trainees. We’re immensely excited to launch the series and hope to have your support to spread the word. As the academy, and especially Yale, continues to reckon with our histories in the eugenics movement and a rapidly changing societal understanding of genomics, we’re striving to generate forward-looking, timely discussions. It’s our hope that these seminars will be a catalyst to inform our research as we look towards the future. We’re also engaging historical collections at the Medical Library and the Peabody to anchor the conversation specifically to Yale. We want to thank those that provided support, including the Yale Genetics Dept, The Yale Center for Genomic Health, G-DAC, The Poynter Fellowship in Journalism, and The Yale Center for Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration.

The events will take place on the Thursdays listed above, at 4:15 pm in the Medical Historical Library at 333 Cedar Street. Related historical objects from Yale’s collection will be on view prior to the seminar, and a reception will follow.
Contact: Steven Reily,

Free but register in advance