Redesigning Humans: Choosing Our Children's Genes

 
9781861972422: Redesigning Humans: Choosing Our Children's Genes
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A scientist at the cutting edge of germ line engineering (changing the genes of our descendants) shows how this technology is evolving so rapidly that it is becoming unstoppable - but it is also something that should be embraced rather than feared. All the research being done on changing our genes is to prevent the many genetic diseases that afflict people from Alzheimer's to common cancers. The gene technology for preventing these diseases also enables scientists to make people taller, to determine their eye colour, and soon, their intelligence. There is already a huge demand for these changes in the Far East. So genetic engineering is inevitable and coming soon. And there is nowhere to draw the boundary - should we ban it when it saves lives...when it prevents suffering? when children will be more cherished? There is no line to draw in the sand to say 'stop - no more of this amazing new medical science'. So, argues Gregory Stock, we should instead make sure that the science helps people achieve the best lives for their children - and to make the world a better place.

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Review:

Scientist Gregory Stock's Redesigning Humans was published simultaneously with Francis Fukuyama's Our Posthuman Future and while they both discuss aspects of the biotechnology revolution--including the ethics of stem cell research, human cloning and germ-line engineering--they take diametrically opposed views. Fukuyama argues that if we are to avoid some of the worst political consequences of the biotech revolution then sweeping national and international regulation is required. For Stock the very idea of sweeping regulation is misconceived. Our collective challenge, Stock argues, is not to figure out how to block these developments, but how best to realise their benefits while minimising our risks and safeguarding our rights and freedoms. The best way to do that is to inform ourselves about the technologies while realising that we are not in need of special ethical or political training to face up to the choices those technologies will eventually offer us.

What's really interesting about this book is that Stock has managed to write something of a quest romance while discussing the nitty-gritty details of the technologies themselves. The tone of the book from the opening Marcus Garvey quotation--"God and Nature first made us what we are, and then out of our own created genius we make ourselves what we want to be"--encourages us to think of the biotech revolution as a kind of New Frontier. But by keeping his discussion largely focused upon the technologies themselves, he steers the reader away from, on the one hand, the false hope that we are on the threshold of creating super-humans, or the unjustified fear that liberal democratic culture will be undone by the new developments.--Larry Brown

About the Author:

Gregory Stock is director of the medicine and society department at UCLA. He has a PhD in biophysics and and MBA. He was an advisor to President Clinton and is the author of the bestselling Book of Questions which is translated into 17 languages and has had 55 printings. He has written numerous newspaper articles and is regularly on television throughout the world. For more information please look at his website: http://research.mednet.ucla.edu/pmts/Stock.htm

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