Culture and Genetics: Is Genetics in Society or Society in Genetics?

  • Evelyn Parsons


It was in 1962, during a row between F.R. Leavis and C.P. Snow, that the phrase ‘two cultures’ was used to distinguish what was defined as an ‘unbridgeable’ gulf between the grand dukes of science and the shabby curates of the arts. More recently, during a heated exchange at the British Association of Science (in 1994), Professors Francis Collins and Lewis Wolpert revisited the debate with the traditional arguments being made that art is too vague and it is scientists who really change the world. Science and ‘art’, or culture, have been perceived as non-intersecting, unrelated fields of study with science prevailing as the dominant paradigm. Dualism has been the traditional approach, science being associated with objective knowledge and the generation of ‘facts’ verified by empirical experiment, culture being relegated to the area of subjective experience. Capra argues that society, ever since Galileo, Descartes and Newton, has been so obsessed with rational knowledge, objectivity and quantification that we have become very insecure in dealing with human values (Capra 1982: 350).


Genetic Counselling Huntington Disease Medical Genetic Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Human Genome Project 
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© Evelyn Parsons 1997

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  • Evelyn Parsons

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