The Doctrine Of DNA by Richard Lewontin

by stephenpalmersf

In The Doctrine Of DNA – Biology As Ideology, famed geneticist and evolutionary scientist Professor Richard Lewontin demolishes the widespread notion that human nature – including a whole panoply of social factors such as hierarchical societies – is determined by our genes. It’s a superb polemical attack on the crazed ideology of biological determinism, with more than a few swipes at how Western societies put the individual at the centre of things instead of having a more reasonable balance between individual and community.

The book is concise. Based on a series of lectures given in 1990, it develops the themes of skepticism, the uses of genetics, the scientific relationships between cause and effect, the social uses of science, and the relationship between the perception of science as pure and neutral and how it is actually used. Some pretty extraordinary examples are given of this latter relationship, showing how capitalist users of technology exploit both the environment and the people they leech off.

The author’s ire then falls on the human genome programme, pointing out the inherent flaws in a plan that involves creating a “normal human genome” description when we’re all genetically different. He concludes by pointing out how science education via textbooks simply repeats biological deterministic ideology as though it were proven fact.

A fantastic read, a devastating critique of the nonsense spouted by many, and a required read for anyone in the field of science. I almost never give 5* reviews: this is getting the full five.