Project:  Gene Myths


The Gene Myths series will feature incisive, succinct articles by leading scientists disputing the exaggerations and misrepresentations of the power of genes that circulate in both popular media and scholarly journals.  Recently published claims assert that genes exist for marital infidelity and for voting behavior, and that genetic tests can accurately predict children's success in particular sports. Articles in the series will provide accessible, science-based arguments against genomania in a range of areas, including behavior genetics, genetic medicine, genetic testing, reproductive technologies,and biotech agriculture.

Gene Myths


"The Human Genome and Human Health:  Will the Promise be Fulfilled?
Listen to this exciting panel presentation featuring Board members of CRG in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History

Introductory Essay:

The Mismeasure of the Gene  by Ruth Hubbard

Ruth Hubbard is a former Board member and founder of CRG and professor emerita of biology at Harvard University.  She currently serves on the editorial committee of GeneWatch. Among other books, she is the co-author with Elijah Wald of Exploding The Gene Myth: How Genetic Information Is Produced and Manipulated by Scientists, Physicians, Employers, Insurance Companies, Educators, and Law Enforcers. (Beacon Press)

Additional Essays:

Evolution Is Not Mainly A Matter of Genes by Stuart Newman

Stuart Newman is a professor of cell biology and anatomy at New York Medical College.  He has been a visiting professor at the Pasteur Institute, Paris, the Centre à l'Energie Atomique-Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, the University of Tokyo, and was a Fogarty Senior International Fellow at Monash University, Australia.  He was a founding member of the Council for Responsible Genetics, Cambridge, MA and is a Fellow of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future.

Some Problems with Genetic Horoscopes by Eva Jablonka 

Eva Jablonka is a professor at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University. With Marion J. Lamb, she wrote Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life (2006), and Epigenetic Inheritance and Evolution (1995). The former describes and discusses recent knowledge about genes, development and evolution which opens a broad and refreshing perspective on inheritance and evolution. For V2, she published Information Is Everything That Can Be Interpreted in 2007s Interact or Die!.

Jablonka publishes about evolutionary themes, especially epigenetics. Her emphasis on non-genetic forms of evolution has won her a great deal of interest and support from those attempting to expand the scope of evolutionist thinking into other spheres.

Genes as Difference Makers by Evelyn Fox Keller

Evelyn Fox Keller is an American physicist, author, and feminist and is currently a Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Keller has also taught at New York University and in the department of rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.

Keller received her B.A. in physics from Brandeis University in 1957 and continued her studies in theoretical physics at Harvard University graduating with a Ph.D. in 1963. She became interested in molecular biology during a visit to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory while completing her Ph.D. dissertation. Her subsequent research has focused on the history and philosophy of modern biology and on gender and science.

The Fruitless Search for Genes in Psychiatry and Psychology: Time to Re-Examine a Paradigm?
by Jay Joseph and Carl Ratner

Jay Joseph, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He earned his doctoral degree at the California School of Preofessional Psychology.  Since 1988, he has published many articles in peer reviewed journals focusing on genetic theories in psychiatry and psychology.  His list of publications include, The Gene Illusion:  Genetic Research in Psychiatry andPsychology Under the Microscope (2004), and The Missing Gene: Psychiatry, Heredity, and the Fruitless Search for Genes (2006).  For more information about this author, please visit .

Carl Ratner has been a professor of psychology for 31 years, has received two Fulbright awards, and has taught courses at UC Santa Cruz and Stanford University.  He has written about cultural psychology and qualitative methodology and is currently developing a coherent psychological theory known as macro cultural psychology.  His upcoming publications include Macro Cultural Psychology:  A Political Philosophy of Mind (2011).  Past publications include Cultural Psychology:  A Perspective on Psychological Functioning and Social Reform (2006). For more information about this author, please visit


Read the latest books from the Council for Responsible Genetics' Gene Myths program

Order from Amazon

A fascinating look at the history of contemporary biology from the Council for Responsible Genetics on its thirtieth anniversary.  For a quarter of a century, the Council for Responsible Genetics has provided a unique historical lens into the modern history, science, ethics, and politics of genetic technologies. Since 1983 the Council has had leading scientists, activists, science writers, and public health advocates researching and reporting on a broad spectrum of issues, including genetically engineered foods, biological weapons, genetic privacy and discrimination, reproductive technologies, and human cloning.

Biotechnology in Our Lives examines how these issues affect us daily whether we realize it or not. Written for the nonscientist, it looks at the many applications of genetics on the world around us by posing questions such as:

  • What should we know about genetics and childbirth?
  • Can our genes keep us from qualifying for health insurance?
  • Can gene therapy cure cancer?
  • Is behavior genetically determined?
  • Why would the FBI want our genes?
  • Are foreign genes in our food?
  • And much more

Ultimately, this definitive book on the subject also encourages us to think about the social, environmental, and moral ramifications of where this technology is taking us. 


“The beauty of this tome is how clear and concise the messages are from scholars, advocates, and scientists.” (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

“Important essays on one of the most important topics of our time. If you want to understand the 21st century, this is a good place to start!” (Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar, Middlebury College)




Order Straight from the Publisher

Order at Amazon

Can genes determine which fifty-year-old will succumb to Alzheimer’s, which citizen will turn out on voting day, and which child will be marked for a life of crime? Yes, according to the Internet, a few scientific studies, and some in the biotechnology industry who should know better. Sheldon Krimsky and Jeremy Gruber gather a team of genetic experts to argue that treating genes as the holy grail of our physical being is a patently unscientific endeavor. Genetic Explanations urges us to replace our faith in genetic determinism with scientific knowledge about how DNA actually contributes to human development.

The concept of the gene has been steadily revised since Watson and Crick discovered the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953. No longer viewed by scientists as the cell’s fixed set of master molecules, genes and DNA are seen as a dynamic script that is ad-libbed at each stage of development. Rather than an autonomous predictor of disease, the DNA we inherit interacts continuously with the environment and functions differently as we age. What our parents hand down to us is just the beginning. Emphasizing relatively new understandings of genetic plasticity and epigenetic inheritance, the authors put into a broad developmental context the role genes are known to play in disease, behavior, evolution, and cognition.

Rather than dismissing genetic reductionism out of hand, Krimsky and Gruber ask why it persists despite opposing scientific evidence, how it influences attitudes about human behavior, and how it figures in the politics of research funding.



“A welcome contribution, Genetic Explanations will be a valuable resource for those seeking to sort exaggerated claims about genetic causation from solid scientific achievements.”—Troy Duster, author of Backdoor to Eugenics


“Important and optimistic, Genetic Explanations clears the way for an open discourse on human identity in the age of DNA, clearly demonstrating the many ways in which the information in our DNA interacts with our experience over the course of a lifetime.”—Robert Pollack, Professor of Biological Sciences and Director of the Center for the Study of Science and Religion, Columbia University

"Science is an interpretation of nature and, like other forms of interpretation, fits into the cultural framework of its time.  I shall illustrate this fact by tracing some of the threads that, in the course of the twentieth century have led to the notion that genes determine virtually all physical and social characteristics of human and other animals.
GeneWatch: Current Issue
Lobbying and propaganda around gene drive technologies threaten to erode public trust in science. By Christophe Bo√ęte
Review of the film A Dangerous Idea: Eugenics, Genetics and the American Dream. By Jaydee Hanson
Book review: Making Sense of Genes by Kostas Kampourakis. By Stuart A. Newman
GeneWatch: Archives