The Normative Implications of Biological Research

Peter K. Hatemi, Rose McDermott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


One of the concerns that has plagued research on the biological and genetic underpinnings of social behaviors and individual differences is the fear that such information can be used for ill. This fear rests on a foundation of good reason. Early abuses involving the use of selective phrenology and other purportedly “scientific” methods to establish moral hierarchies among races or between sexes have exerted profound and lasting damage on society, as well as affecting later attempts to more productively examine the biological bases of individual difference. And yet, many policies that have focused exclusively on social factors have created equal pain and suffering, although these approaches have rarely fostered as much discussion. However, despite these negative outcomes, biological research can also attack diseases, alleviate suffering, and dispel social myths that wrongfully assign blame to the victim or otherwise oversimplify behavior. Here, we argue for a similar positive valuation of such an approach in political and social research. We concentrate not on the ethics of conducting this research, but rather the ethical need for this research to be conducted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-329
Number of pages5
JournalPS - Political Science and Politics
StatePublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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