The birth of scientific racism coincided with the age of exploration, exploitation, and plunder. As Europeans built empires, the subjugation and othering of people in invaded countries was facilitated and justified with new and pseudoscientific taxonomies of humans, almost exclusively based on pigmentation. These ideas were propagated by some of the most influential thinkers in modern history. For all their achievements in philosophy and spreading goodwill to all men, some of these figures were themselves profoundly racist – even for their time – including Immanuel Kant, and that great voice of Enlightenment thinking, François-Marie Voltaire. Their voices echo loudly into the present.
Now, in the age of personal genetic genealogy, race science is once again part of the public discourse, and real genetics is being misrepresented and co-opted by white supremacists.
About Adam Rutherford
Dr Adam Rutherford is the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s flagship science radio programme, Inside Science, as well as many documentaries, on the inheritance of intelligence, on MMR and autism, human evolution, astronomy and art, science and cinema, scientific fraud, and the evolution of sex. On TV, Adam presented the award-winning Horizon: Playing God (BBC2, Jan 2012); The Gene Code (BBC4, Apr 2011); and the award-winning The Cell (BBC4, Sept 2009). Adam is a movie geek, and has been scientific advisor to Björk’s movie Biophilia Live, and worked on World War Z, The Secret Service and Ex Machina. His critically acclaimed first book, Creation – on the origin and future of life – was published in 2013, and was nominated for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize. He is also the author of A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, Genetics: A Ladybird Expert Book, and The Book of Humans.
Adam has a PhD in Genetics, a degree in evolutionary biology, is an honorary Research Fellow at UCL, and is a former Editor at the journal Nature.
About Alice Roberts
Professor Alice Roberts is an acclaimed anatomist, science writer, broadcaster, author, and president of Humanists UK.
During her career Alice has combined academia with broadcasting and has presented a wide range of biology and archaeology programmes on television, including a landmark series on BBC2, The Incredible Human Journey,as well as Origins of Us. She presents the long-running archaeology series Digging for Britain on BBC4, and Britain’s Most Historic Towns on Channel 4. She presented the 2018 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, exploring identity from a biological, evolutionary and genetic perspective.
She is the author of nine popular science books including The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being which was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2015. She recently compiled a selection of science writing for the Folio Book of Science; the first such compilation to contain equal representation from male and female science writers.
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