Biology as Means of Production and Ideology

A presentation by Stuart A. Newman, New York Medical College

Biological science is simultaneously the hegemonic narrative for understanding the living world in industrial societies and the basis for potential technological transformations of the biosphere and our own species. The 20th century notion of the gene as the primary determinant of living systems has supported rampant privatization of food production and medical and natural resources. With the increasing precision of gene alteration by the CRISPR DNA editing technique, genetic determinism is now generating proposals for ecological engineering and eugenicist manipulation of future humans. This talk will report on the current biotechnological landscape and describe challenges to its enabling genetic determinist ideology from dialectical and multi-causal explanatory modes within the emerging field of evolutionary developmental biology.

Stuart A. Newman is a professor of cell biology and anatomy at New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York. He has contributed to several scientific fields, including biophysical chemistry, developmental biology, and evolutionary theory. He has been a critic of genetic determinism in biology and an opponent of eugenic applications of biotechnology since his student days in the 1960s. Newman was a founding member of the Council for Responsible Genetics and is a columnist for Capitalism Nature Socialism.

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Day 4, Session 4—Approaching Science from the Left

Approaching Science from the Left: Uses and Abuses of Knowledge in the Planetary Crisis
Rebecca Boger, Stuart Newman, Dave Schwartzman, moderated by Fred Murphy

As awareness has grown – among both working people and the global capitalist class – about the scope and complexity of the multiple crises facing the planet and its biosphere, a wide gamut of solutions and palliatives have been put forward across the physical and biological sciences. These range from dystopian geoengineering projects to genetic modification schemes to renewable and sustainable forms of energy use and agriculture. With this closing panel we aim to open a conversation among scholars and activists about how scientific knowledge and practice can help point the way forward, as well as about how science is abused in efforts to preserve and extend capitalist power over labor and resources.

Rebecca Boger has a background in geospatial technologies, marine science, and science education. Before coming to Brooklyn College, she worked for an international science and education program, GLOBE, where she worked with teams of scientists and educators to develop classroom materials, conduct workshops, and facilitate international collaborations. She continues to work with GLOBE to develop online training materials and a citizen science network. At Brooklyn College, CUNY, she teaches geospatial technologies and works with anthropologists and archaeologists in Barbuda on socio-ecological resilience research, community based mapping, and environmental modeling. In the NYC area, she works with NYC Parks and Gateway National Recreation on historical mapping and trends analysis of marshes and shoreline. She continues her education work with a greater emphasis on sustainability, resilience, and climate change topics where she is helping to build an urban sustainability program and online materials.

Stuart Newman is a professor of cell biology and anatomy at New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York. He has contributed to several scientific fields, including biophysical chemistry, developmental biology, and evolutionary theory. He has been a critic of genetic determinism in biology and an opponent of eugenic applications of biotechnology since his student days in the 1960s. Newman was a founding member of the Council for Responsible Genetics and is a columnist for Capitalism Nature Socialism.

David Schwartzman is Professor Emeritus, Howard University (biogeochemist, environmental scientist, PhD, Brown University). An active member of the DC Statehood Green Party/Green Party of the United States. Website with his older son Peter Schwartzman is www.solarUtopia.org. Publications include: Life, Temperature and the Earth (2002), several recent papers in Capitalism Nature Socialism (CNS). Member of the following Advisory Boards: Science & Society, Capitalism Nature Socialism, Institute for Policy Research & Development.

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