Friday 25 September 2015, Rossa Minogue

Eugenics: myth and reality

Podcast: Rob Lyons speaks to Sandy Starr about the history of eugenics and whether the term is useful today

Using techniques like mitochondrial donation - ‘three-person IVF’ - we can alter genes to resolve congenital medical conditions. Other techniques that change our heritable characteristics will follow. But such developments often inspire resistance: the ability to manipulate our germlines is sometimes described as ‘eugenics’, invoking the horrors of Nazi racial policies, although the term was coined by Francis Galton in 1883. Are we going too far in altering our genes or should we embrace the ability to conquer illness? Should we worry about attempts to ‘improve’ human beings?

In this week’s podcast Rob speaks to Sandy Starr from the Progress Educational Trust and convener of the Battle over Life and Death strand at this year’s Battle of Ideas about the dark history of eugenics and the use and abuse of the term today ahead of a session he’s chairing called Eugenics: myth and reality.

To find out more about this year’s festival and buy tickets visit the Battle of Ideas website.

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