Understanding Heredity: What We Know, And What We Don’t

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Duration 00:59:24

Yale University

Carl Zimmer is a columnist for The New York Times and professor adjunct in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University. His books include She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity, which won the National Academies Communication Award and the Science in Society Award from the National Association of Science Writers.


Heredity is a word that we understand—or at least think we do. It’s how we define ourselves and link our identity to our ancestors. We obsess over our heredity, either by poring through genealogical records or by getting our DNA sequenced. But scientists are shattering our conventional notions of heredity, discovering new channels through which the past can shape the future. Neanderthal genes influence our health and our brains. Culture and epigenetics allow our lived experience to shape posterity. In this lecture, Carl Zimmer will explore the history of heredity and its scientific frontiers, explaining how we are learning how to control heredity with tools such as CRISPR. It is an awesome, even dangerous power: history shows us that heredity has been abused over and over again to justify racism and rigid systems of class—even forced sterilization and genocide. We can’t afford to let that happen again.



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