SkepTalk: The Continuing Relevance of America’s Eugenic Legacy
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The history of eugenics is often characterized as a cautionary tale of life in the bad old days, when assumptions about genetic determinism provided a respectable veneer of “pseudoscience” that enabled barely submerged racism, xenophobia, and blatant discrimination against those with disabilities to take root in American law. Some argue that today our science is sound, our attitudes enlightened; we need not be hobbled by fear of our long expired bad eugenic habits. This talk challenges such assumptions, asserting that the same tendencies that led to a century of eugenic law and policy are still alive and continue to inform our public debate over democratic values and the proper role of science as a tool for solving social problems.
WHO: Paul A. Lombardo, Regents’ Professor and Bobby Lee Cook Professor of Law, is a lawyer/historian at the Georgia State University College of Law who is best known for his work on the legal history of the American eugenics movement. His books include: A Century of Eugenics in America: From the Indiana Experiment to the Human Genome Era (2011), Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court and Buck v. Bell (2008), and Fletcher’s Introduction to Clinical Ethics (2005).
Lombardo advised the Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) Laboratory panel that assembled the digital Image Archive on American Eugenics Movement and was also a contributor and consultant for the U.S. Memorial Holocaust Museum exhibit, Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race. From 2010-2016 he served as Senior Advisor to the President’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues that reported on the US Public Health research scandal in post-WWII Guatemala.
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