Skip to content
BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access May 8, 2021

Good, bad and ugly genes? Science matters, also in terms of terminology and word usage

  • Claus-Christian Carbon EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Psychology

Abstract

Our words shape our thinking, our thinking creates action. Scientific terms can be particularly influential when used in everyday language in terms of allegedly scientific arguments that back certain views or actions. Such use can be especially toxic when the terms refer to concepts that are ill-defined, outdated or questionable themselves. The term “good genes” represents an exemplary case in this regard. It refers to the belief system of eugenics and implies a moral perspective. The latest political debates demonstrate how easily such terms and concepts are employed to induce racist thinking and action; in the end it may even result in specific medication, selective investment in medical treatment, and so ultimately impacting the life and death of patients. Science has the obligation to explicitly opt-out from such lines of argument, and to routinely check and re-think its theories, concepts and vocabulary.

References

Ahearn, L. M. (2011). Living language: An introduction to linguistic anthropology: John Wiley & Sons.10.1002/9781444340563Search in Google Scholar

American Psychological Association. (2020). APA Dictionary of Psychology. Retrieved from https://dictionary.apa.org/good-genes-hypothesisSearch in Google Scholar

Bashford, A., & Levine, P. (2010). The Oxford handbook of the history of eugenics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195373141.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Belke, B., Leder, H., & Carbon, C. C. (2015). When challenging art gets liked: Evidences for a dual preference formation process for fluent and non-fluent portraits. PlosOne, 10(8), e0131796. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.013179610.1371/journal.pone.0131796Search in Google Scholar

Bronowski, J. (1978). The common sense of science. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Dawsey, J. (2018, 12 January 2018). Trump derides protections for immigrants from ‘shithole’ countries. The Washington Post.Search in Google Scholar

Dhole, S., Stern, C. A., & Servedio, M. R. (2018). Direct detection of male quality can facilitate the evolution of female choosiness and indicators of good genes: Evolution across a continuum of indicator mechanisms. Evolution, 72(4), 770-784. doi:10.1111/evo.1346610.1111/evo.13466Search in Google Scholar

Fisher, R. A. (1915). The evolution of sexual preference. The Eugenics Review, 7(3), 184-192.Search in Google Scholar

Galton, F. (1904). Eugenics; its definition, scope and aims [abridged from a note read before the Sociological Society on 16 May 1904). Nature, 70(1804), 82-82. doi:10.1038/070082a010.1038/070082a0Search in Google Scholar

Hald, A. (2004). A history of parametric statistical inference from Bernoulli to Fisher, 1713 to 1935. New York: Wiley.Search in Google Scholar

Haltiwanger, J. (2020). Trump told a crowd of nearly all white supporters that they have ’good genes’. Business Insider. Retrieved from https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-told-a-crowd-of-his-nearly-all-white-supporters-that-they-have-good-genes/ar-BB19gJUYSearch in Google Scholar

Hansen, R., & King, D. (2001). Eugenic ideas, political interests, and policy variance: Immigration and sterilization policy in Britain and the U.S. World Politics, 53(2), 237-263.10.1353/wp.2001.0003Search in Google Scholar

Harsanyi, G., & Carbon, C. C. (2015). How perception affects racial categorization: On the influence of initial visual exposure on labelling people as diverse individuals or racial subjects. Perception, 44(1), 100-102. doi:10.1068/P785410.1068/p7854Search in Google Scholar

Pearson, K. (1909). The groundwork of eugenics. London: Dulau & Co.Search in Google Scholar

Pohl, R. (Ed.) (2004). Cognitive illusions: A handbook on fallacies and biases in thinking, judgement and memory. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.Search in Google Scholar

Raab, M. H., Auer, N., Ortlieb, S. A., & Carbon, C. C. (2013). The Sarrazin effect: The presence of absurd statements in conspiracy theories makes canonical information less plausible. Frontiers in Psychology, 4(453), 1-8. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.0045310.3389/fpsyg.2013.00453Search in Google Scholar

Rivara, F. P., & Fihn, S. D. (2020). Call for papers on prevention and the effects of systemic racism in health. JAMA Network Open, 3(8), e2016825-e2016825. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.1682510.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.16825Search in Google Scholar

Schoormans, J. P. L., Carbon, C. C., & Gattol, V. (2011). “It’s time to take a stand”: Depicting crosshairs can indeed promote violence. Perception, 40(3), 371-372.10.1068/p6942Search in Google Scholar

Spektorowski, A., & Ireni-Saban, L. (2013). Politics of eugenics: Productionism, population, and national welfare. London: Routledge.10.4324/9780203740231Search in Google Scholar

Spencer, H. (1884). The man versus the state. London: Williams and Norgate.Search in Google Scholar

von Humboldt, W. (1836). Über die Verschiedenheit des menschlichen Sprachbaus und ihren Einfluss auf die geistige Entwicklung des Menschengeschlechts. Bonn: Dümmler.Search in Google Scholar

Wallance, G. J. (2020). Trump’s ‘good genes’ speech echoes racial eugenics. The Hill. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/opinion/civil-rights/518031-trumps-good-genes-speech-echoes-racial-eugenicsSearch in Google Scholar

Webb Hooper, M., Napoles, A. M., & Perez-Stable, E. J. (2020). COVID-19 and racial/ethnic disparities. JAMA, 323(24), 2466-2467. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.859810.1001/jama.2020.8598Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2020-10-22
Accepted: 2021-04-01
Published Online: 2021-05-08

© 2021 Claus-Christian Carbon, published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Downloaded on 24.9.2023 from https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/psych-2020-0109/html
Scroll to top button