Scientific Outsiders and the Human Genome Project. Review of Timothy F. Murphy and Marc A. Lappé, Justice and the Human Genome Project; Robert F. Weir, Susan S. Lawrence, and Evan Fales, Genes and Human Self-Knowledge: Historical and Philosophical Reflections on Modern Genetics; Tom Wilkie, Perilous Knowledge: The Human Genome Project and Its Implications

Thumbnail Image
Penn collection
Departmental Papers (HSS)
Degree type
Genetics and Genomics
History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
Science and Technology Studies
Grant number
Copyright date
Related resources

The Human Genome Project, the international effort to map and sequence the genetic material of Homo sapiens, has by now generated a mass of information about DNA sequences. It has also generated an independent, but related, mass of texts exploring the philosophical, historical, sociological, and legal implications for medical care, human identity, law, politics, and reproduction that the project raises. Indeed, the Human Genome Project is perhaps most noteworthy for its status as the first and only scientific project to fund independent studies of its own social implications. The genome project budget in the United States, which is divided among several federal agencies including the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy, includes a generous amount set aside for bioethicists, policy planners, historians, philosophers, and other scholars. Of the three books reviewed here, only one (Justice and the Human Genome Project) has any connection to this funding mechanism. But all reflect the popular and political interest that the genome project has provoked. Few of those commenting on the genome project in these studies are laboratory molecular biologists familiar with polymerase chain reaction, in situ hybridization, or any of the other technologies for manipulating DNA that have been so important to the project. They are, instead, scientific outsiders who are expected to shed light on the long-term social implications of the access to hereditary information that the genome project promises to make possible.

Date Range for Data Collection (Start Date)
Date Range for Data Collection (End Date)
Digital Object Identifier
Series name and number
Publication date
Journal title
Medical Humanities Review
Volume number
Issue number
Publisher DOI
Journal Issue
Recommended citation