Illich, education, and the Human Genome Project: Reflections on paradoxical counterproductivity

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4 Scopus citations


The Human Genome Project (HGP) brings genetics and genetic knowledge to the point of paradoxical counterproductivity. Population-wide genetic screens, replacing specific tests intended for and useful to those at risk, become counterproductive when the HGP's "normal human" defines everybody as at risk. Moreover, the knowledge generated by the HGP disables those whom it is meant to serve: We are rendered impotent as a laity, subject to expertise regarding the truth of our being. The standard response here is that we need more science education and easier access to scientific knowledge. But that is simply to beg the question. The question to ask about knowledge is not whether it is true or properly scientific (which it may very well be) but rather whether it is good. The good of knowledge must be demonstrated and not uncritically assumed. Thus, more education can, too, be paradoxically counterproductive. What, then, are our prospects?

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-239
Number of pages12
JournalBulletin of Science, Technology and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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