October 3, 2005

Eugenics conference explores topic
of genetic engineering

Eugenics and its controversial role in California history is the topic of the Sacramento State symposium "From Eugenics to Designer Babies: Engineering the California Dream" set for Friday, Oct. 21 at the University. The symposium will offer insight into past practices of state-endorsed eugenics and current efforts to promote genetic engineering, while addressing the field's political and social ramifications.

The free symposium will feature information about the foundations of the eugenics movement in California and ideas surrounding human modification, as well as ethical issues in genetic research. Former State Sen. Dede Alpert, who chaired the Genetics, Genetic Technologies and Public Policy Committee in the state Legislature, will discuss the recent apologies made by state officials for state-condoned eugenics practices. Other topics include the role of race and gender discrimination in the eugenics movement, the influence of plant and agriculture modification on eugenics, and the stem cell research debate in light of the recently-passed Prop. 71. A full schedule is available at www.csus.edu/cshpe/symposium05.

The symposium will be the culmination of a series of University lectures and exhibits on eugenics, starting with the "Human Plants, Human Harvest: Hidden History of California Eugenics" exhibition running through Oct. 21 in the University Library Gallery. An opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 4 in the gallery will feature a lecture by Paul Lombardo, director of the Program in Law and Medicine at University of Virginia's Center for Biomedical Ethics. Former State Sen. Art Torres will be the guest of honor for his work in overturning California's sterilization law in 1979.

Another display, "Influence of Eugenics," will be available for viewing through Oct. 31 on the first floor of the Library.

A third exhibit documenting philanthropist Charles M. Goethe's role in eugenics from the 1920s through the '60s, his support of Sacramento State and the development of Sacramento will be open through Nov. 15 at Special Collections and University Archives in the Library. The opening reception will be from 5 to 7 p.m., Oct. 11.

A presentation and discussion on feminism and community health will feature eugenics researcher Wendy Kline, who is currently working on a project titled "Taking Their Bodies Back: A History of the Women's Health Movement," from 6 to 8 p.m., Oct. 20 in the Women's Resource Center in the Library. She will be a speaker the following day at the symposium.

Early in the last century, the scientific trend of genetic selection and "better" reproduction - dubbed "eugenics" - led to support of practices such as involuntary sterilization, immigrant restriction and racially biased IQ testing. California's state government authorized about one-third of the 60,000 sterilizations in the United States from 1910 to 1970.

For more information about the symposium, contact Sacramento State professor Chloe Burke, director of the Center for Science, History, Policy and Ethics, at (916) 278-5631 or visit www.csus.edu/cshpe/symposium05. For media assistance, contact the Sacramento State Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.

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