1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Genomics Forum · Publications

The biology of identity

Sturdy, Steve.


December 2009

Publication type

Journal articles


TPM: The Philosphers' Magazine

Author(s) or editor(s)




Recent developments in the science of genomics have had important implications for how we think about personal identity. One effect has been to underwrite our sense of individual uniqueness. With the exception of identical twins, we all possess unique genomes. Practically, this fact has been exploited through the development of new technologies of identification – most notably for forensic purposes – that in effect instrumentalise the idea that personal identity is rooted in biological individuality. More generally, the hype surrounding the identification of growing numbers of genes that supposedly predispose to a diversity of biological traits – everything from disease susceptibility to temperament to sexual orientation – has fostered a climate in which it is increasingly easy to suppose that our genomes embody our unique destinies: we are our genomes, and our genomes are us.

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