Adam Rutherford on Science Communication


0:00 Adam Rutherford, pugnacious bar brawler on behalf of science, explains why he wrote the book

6:00 "How to Argue With a Racist" addresses several areas where people see biological differences, including skin color and sport.

10:00 Using skin color to define populations? It’s a relatively recent development, Adam explains. Of the differences we can observe, which ones are meaningful, and which are inventions from the recent past?

19:25 Adam explains how testing has clarified that African-Americans are a group defined by culture and history rather than genes – and yet within their diverse genetic mix of African and European ancestors, patterns of inheritance help tell the story of Africans brought to America, illustrating and confirming what we have long known about the harsh realities of slave life.

25:00 Adam discusses the implications of publishing this book in 2020 – in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the resulting moment of reckoning around the world.

34:25 Is ancestry testing inherently racist? Adam says that ancestry testing kits sell you a basic deceit that plays to our desire for a simple narrative. Not false but “very limited validity in terms of the information that they can convey.”

40:55 Adam reveals what you can learn if you lurk on Stormfront and other white supremacist websites (but please, kids, don’t try this at home). What if you’re not that “white” after all?

45:00 What can genetic professionals do if they want to help?

Today’s podcast features Adam Rutherford, a geneticist trained at University College London who has spent much of his career as a science communicator: as an editor at Nature, as a radio and television commentator for the BBC, and as the author such books with delightful titles, including "Creation: the Origin of Life/The Future of Life" and "A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived." Adam joins us to discuss his timely and excellent new book, "How to Argue With a Racist."

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