Does our DNA define us?

January 31, 2019

A recording of a debate at the Battle of Ideas Festival 2018 at The Barbican, London on Sunday 14 October. 

In Blueprint: how DNA makes us who we are, the world’s leading behavioural geneticist, Robert Plomin, argues that our inherited DNA differences make us who we are as individuals. This conclusion is at odds with the importance ascribed to our education and the environment in which we grow up in shaping the person we become. But are there scientific or other good reasons to doubt Plomin’s conclusions? If we start making predictions about people’s lives and potential on the basis of their DNA, does this risk reducing their autonomy? How much can our DNA tell us about who we are?

DR PHILIP BALL
science writer; broadcaster; author; presenter, BBC Radio 4, Science Stories

ROBERT PLOMIN
professor of behavioural genetics, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience; author, Blueprint: how DNA makes us who we are

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