BioFutures : Where futurists and biologists meet

Gatherer, Derek (2021) BioFutures : Where futurists and biologists meet. In: Routledge Handbook of Social Futures :. Routledge, London. ISBN 9781138340336

[thumbnail of DG_BioFutures_v4]
Text (DG_BioFutures_v4)
DG_BioFutures_v4.docx - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial.

Download (66kB)


In 1798, Thomas Robert Malthus published An Essay on the Principle of Population, the first example of Futures written from a biological standpoint. Malthus’s deeply dystopian vision of an overpopulated planet ravaged by famine, war and plague, was a major influence on Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection and has inspired neo-Malthusian works down to the present day. More recent dystopian thought within biology has widened its focus from humans to the entire ecosphere, providing some of the theoretical background to contemporary activist groups such as Extinction Rebellion. Juxtaposed to this dystopian strand in biology, a more utopian view has been fostered by the discovery of antibiotics, the implementation of mass vaccination programmes, organ transplantation, in vitro fertilization, regenerative medicine and genetic modification among other technologies. This chapter proposes that Futures activity within biology may usefully be collated under the rubric of BioFutures – a retrospective hash-tagging of numerous contributions to the area, whether consciously futurological or not, whether utopian or dystopian. As well as considering the contribution of biology to Futures, it also considers how Futures is expressed by biologists and seeks to identify areas within the field where the potential for a BioFutures contribution remains unrealised. Keywords: Malthusian, dystopia, utopia, evolution, biology, eugenics, genetics, biotechnology.

Item Type:
Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings
Additional Information:
This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge/CRC Press in Routledge Handbook of Social Futures on 23/11/2021, available online:
?? malthusiandystopiautopiabiologyevolutionbiotechnologyeugenics ??
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
14 Jan 2022 17:42
Last Modified:
17 Apr 2024 23:44