From Publishers Weekly
Silver, a molecular biologist at Princeton, examines new dimensions of the contentious debate between science and religion over cloning and other biotechnologies, and brings fresh insights to it. Many Western religious people believe biotechnology is an attempt to play God and that human clones would be created not in God's image but in the image of humankind. Such arguments rest on the nature of humanity, and Silver points out that the only characteristic that makes us human is not that we have a soul but that we have human parents. Silver also explores the debate over genetically modified foods and synthetic crops. He argues that the organic and natural foods movements make their case on spiritual grounds, imbuing Mother Nature with a spiritual force equal to the force of the Christian God. Silver points out, however, that Mother Nature is a violent, not a benevolent, deity, and can cause more disasters than the making of synthetic foods ever will. Finally, Silver points out that biotechnology presents little problem for Eastern religions that believe in reincarnation. In the words of one Buddhist scientist, therapeutic cloning "restarts the cycle of life." Silver's provocative ideas and his graceful prose open new avenues for discussion of the challenges that face science and spirituality. (June 1)
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The archetype of mortal defiance, Prometheus has found a new champion. Outspoken molecular biologist Silver argues that only scientists willing to join Prometheus in challenging divine prohibitions will ever deliver on the promise of new genetic technologies. Although despairing of ever expunging spiritual beliefs from liberal democracies altogether, Silver hopes that a truly open and rational public dialogue will expose the folly of continuing to allow religious fundamentalists to impose needless restrictions on scientific research. It particularly galls Silver that such religionists often confuse an ill-informed public by cleverly wrapping their religious objectives in scientific rhetoric. Surprisingly, Silver sees the Christian obstructionists of the Religious Right finding allies among the left-leaning, post-Christian devotees of nature. Both groups recoil from the prospect of using new science to improve human genes or to reengineer the plants and animals humans rely on for food. Both groups, Silver asserts, fail to realize that humans have been productively intervening in natural reproductive processes for millennia--and should now use available tools to do so more aggressively, both to minimize human suffering and to maximize ecological health. The relentlessness with which Silver disputes the views of his opponents will impress many readers--and alienate others. But this book will surely fuel precisely the kind of debate Silver recognizes as essential in a democracy sorting out perplexing scientific possibilities. Bryce ChristensenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved