Article ID: CBB104627956

Expectation and futurity: The remarkable success of genetic determinism (2017)


Genetic determinism is nowadays largely questioned and widely criticized. However, if we look at the history of biology in the last one hundred years, we realize that genetic determinism has always been controversial. Why, then, did it acquire such relevance in the past despite facing longstanding criticism? Through the analysis of some of the ambitious expectations of future scientific applications, this article explores the possibility that part of the historical success of genetic determinism lies in the powerful rhetorical strategies that have connected the germinal matter with alluring bio-technological visions. Indeed, in drawing on the recent perspectives of “expectation studies” in science and technology, it will be shown that there has been an interesting historical relationship between reductionist notions of the gene as a hereditary unit, coded information or functional DNA segment, and startling prophecies of what controlling such an entity might achieve. It will also be suggested that the well-known promissory nature of genomics is far older than the emergence of biotechnology in the 1970s. At least from the time of the bio-utopias predicted by J.B.S. Haldane and J. S. Huxley, the gene has often been surrounded by what I call the “rhetoric of futurity”: a promissory rhetoric that, despite momentous changes in the life sciences throughout the 20th century, has remained relatively consistent over time.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Chapter Morteza Gharib; Francis C. Wells; (2020)
Anticipating the Future: Leonardo’s Unpublished Anatomical and Mathematical Observations (/isis/citation/CBB245679851/)

Book Kilgore, De Witt Douglas; (2003)
Astrofuturism: Science, Race, and Visions of Utopia in Space (/isis/citation/CBB001032652/)

Article Davide Battisti; (2019)
Genome editing: slipping down toward Eugenics? (/isis/citation/CBB945724739/)

Thesis Stickgold-Sarah, Jessie; (2011)
The Textual Body: Genetics and Dystopia in American Fiction (/isis/citation/CBB001562734/)

Book Peter J. Bowler; (2017)
A History of the Future: Prophets of Progress from H. G. Wells to Isaac Asimov (/isis/citation/CBB074226848/)

Article Clayton, Jay; (2013)
The Ridicule of Time: Science Fiction, Bioethics, and the Posthuman (/isis/citation/CBB001200682/)

Article Michel Morange; (2017)
Human Germline Editing: A Historical Perspective (/isis/citation/CBB176490993/)

Book Gavin Miller; (2020)
Science Fiction and Psychology (/isis/citation/CBB151529928/)

Chapter Brandt, Christina; Casser, Anja; (2007)
Populärkultur und Wissenschaft: Science-Fiction und populäres Bild als Medien der Wissenschaftskommunikation (/isis/citation/CBB001023696/)

Article Brandt, Christina; (2010)
Zeitschichten des Klons. Anmerkungen zu einer Begriffsgeschichte (/isis/citation/CBB001021197/)

Thesis Elhefnawy, Nader; (2006)
The Promise and the Peril: Science Fiction's Depiction of Technology (/isis/citation/CBB001560992/)

Book Watson, James D.; Berry, Andrew; (2003)
DNA: The Secret of Life (/isis/citation/CBB000630773/)

Book Hopwood, David A.; (2007)
Streptomyces in Nature and Medicine: The Antibiotic Makers (/isis/citation/CBB000930527/)

Book Boris Groĭs; (2018)
Russian cosmism (/isis/citation/CBB764024749/)

Book Javier Pérez-Jara; Lino Camprubí; (2022)
Science and Apocalypse in Bertrand Russell: A Cultural Sociology (/isis/citation/CBB059801832/)

Book Hashim Sarkis; Barrio, Roi Salgueiro; Gabriel Kozlowski; (2019)
The world as an architectural project (/isis/citation/CBB233843863/)

Article Wendy Sims-Schouten; Paul Weindling; (2022)
“All emigrants are up to the physical, mental, and moral standards required”: A tale of two child rescue schemes (/isis/citation/CBB223596464/)

Authors & Contributors
Brandt, Christina
Hashim Sarkis
Battisti, Davide
Wells, Francis C.
Javier Pérez-Jara
Wendy Sims-Schouten
Medicina Historica
Technikgeschichte: Beiträge zur Geschichte der Technik und Industrie
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
History and Technology
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
The MIT Press
University of Miami
University of Pennsylvania Press
University of Chicago Press
University of California Press
Oxford University Press
Science fiction
Science and literature
Genetic engineering
Fedorov, Nikolai
Sterling, Bruce
Russell, Bertrand Arthur William
Leonardo da Vinci
Gibson, William
Clarke, Arthur Charles
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
21st century
20th century, late
Early modern
20th century, early
United States
San Francisco (California)
Great Britain
Stanford University

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment