Event: genetic medalling

You are invited to attend the event ‘GENETIC MEDALLING‘ from 6.30pm to 8.30pm in central London on Tuesday 7 June. This event – which is being organised by the Progress Educational Trust in partnership with and hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine, and which forms part of the series ‘GENES, ANCESTRY AND RACIAL IDENTITY: DOES IT MATTER WHERE YOUR GENES COME FROM?’ – will address sporting achievement in relation to genetics and race ahead of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The remarkable success of East African endurance athletes and sprinters of West African descent fascinates scientists and the public alike, and research to determine the role of genetics in athletic prowess is currently underway. Such work is controversial, because it could bolster arguments that performance is dependent upon race and different between races, thereby perpetuating racial stereotypes. Moreover, some commentators have questioned the entire biological paradigm that prompts us to anticipate genetic factors in sporting achievement.

If we do find performance-related genes, how might this affect our attitude to sporting ability, fairness, equity and justice? To take an extreme scenario, would it be fair to segregate some sporting events based on ‘race’ if it turns out that certain ‘races’ have a genetic advantage? To what extent would such segregation be analogous to the male/female divide, which is also based on a genetic difference, and which is not without its own controversies (for example the recent case of champion runner Caster Semenya, whose gender became a matter of dispute).

The GENETIC MEDALLING‘ event will see JOHN DUPRÉ (Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Exeter), CONNIE ST LOUIS (science writer and producer/presenter of the radio programme ‘Ethnic Drugs: The Magic Bullet?‘) and DR ALUN WILLIAMS (sport geneticist at Manchester Metropolitan University) debate these issues, with DR ANAND SAGGAR (Senior Consultant in Clinical Genetics at St Georges NHS Trust) chairing.

In the Progress Educational Trust tradition, following introductory presentations, the bulk of the event’s running time will be devoted to soliciting questions and comments from the audience. Attendance is FREE, but advance booking is required. If you should like to attend, please RSVP to sstarr [at] progress.org.uk.

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