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Will the field of genetics be detrimental to my personal beliefs?

Asked Smith Island, Maryland

I am planning to pursue a #stem degree in either #genetics or #molecular-biology, but I am afraid that my field will be filled with people who are actively trying to cure #autism which is not something that can be cured, but is just a different mind type with a wide range of symptoms and effects. I also do not agree with the search for a so-called "gay gene" because I feel that is only motivated by the want to edit said gene out of the population. Are there places to conduct #research that aren't as biased/bigoted? I know that #johns-hopkins-university is out of the question because their magazine had both of the above "studies". Is there a safe alternative for me, or do I have to deal with intolerance and ignorance anywhere I go?

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Sandra’s Answer

Updated Houston, Texas

It's good you're thinking about this now --no one should enter a field in which they find the fundamental aspects displeasing. And everyone should certainly look at the overall ethos of any company they work for, whether private or public, and consider moving on as needed if attitudes in colleagues or leaders become unacceptable. That said, there are whole areas of molecular bio and genetics which will never ever study autism or homosexuality or similar issues--- areas such as improving crop yield, mathematical theory on mapping supernovas, or bio-evolution of bone structure as it relates to prosthetics, for instance. You could specialize in one of those.


I also would like you to investigate your current beliefs a bit deeper on two fronts. (1) The academic STEMs in general are widely viewed as more tolerant than many other careers such as big law or big finance. Hopkins as an institution disavowed the McHughes study within days of its release and continues to be a leader in ethical research and minority representation on staff-- while tenure and its upside/downside are debatable, good data does drive out bad data. What makes you think STEM across the board is worse than other areas? (2) Recognize your experience and beliefs may not be the same as some one else's. To many, autism is much more than a "just a mind type" --on its severe end, people are completely unable to self-care or communicate. And even if it were always "just a mind type", many people have mild conditions which might not seem to need treatment but society still views the research that led to eyeglasses, insulin and anti-depressants as good things, as are all treatments that offer hope for easier and longer lifespans for those with mental and physical conditions. Much autism research is funded by families with adult children with severe autism in hope for a treatment that will provide a better life for future generations.

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