chapter  8
Human Genetics, Evolutionary Theory, and Social Stratification
Pages 14

From its very inception in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the science of human genetics germinated in, was nurtured by, and was inextricably entangled with the social and political storm of evolutionary theory. There has been both strong continuity and notable change with today’s human genetic inquiry. Most commentators have chosen to emphasize the sharp differences from the past when it comes to the danger of eugenics. For example, the esteemed historian of science Daniel Kevles has argued that in today’s society, vulnerable and marginalized groups have greater access to strategies and mechanisms for fending off any eugenic resurgence. Despite this, there is a persistent search for “hard data,” for a biological or biochemical explanation for homelessness, mental retardation and mental illness, alcoholism and drug abuse, even unemployment, crime, and violent and abusive behavior. The change has come in a thick disguise of the old concerns, the promise of untold health benefits and the lessening of human suffering. Some of these promises will be fulfilled, and some remarkable strides have already been made in the detection of genetic disorders.