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Genetic Maps and Human Imaginations: The Limits of Science in Understanding Who We Are Hardcover – October 17, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (October 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393047032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393047035
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,209,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Contemporary media has gone "gene crazy," producing endless reports on genes that make people fat, gay, criminal, sad, happy or ill, according to Rothman. In this updated version of her 1998 book, this astute and opinionated social critic offers a commonsense exploration of the intersection of science, ethics and politics, separating the science from the politics and hype. "Genetics isn't just a science," she declares. "It's a way of thinking, an ideology." Although she discusses new advances in human gene research, Rothman is equally concerned with narrating the intellectual history and political implications of genetics. She ably navigates a wide range of complex topics, including anti-Semitic conceptualizations of Jews as a race; the idea of a "gay gene"; Susan Sontag's discussion of the waning metaphorical power of cancer; and the controversial theory that men with XYY chromosomes are likely to become violent. Rothman is frank about her progressive politics, calling The Bell Curve (Charles Murray's polemic on genes, race and intelligence) "disgusting" while she systemically and convincingly exposes its scientific and logical fallacies. Throughout, she approaches the ethical parameters of her topic with zest, humanity and caution. Even when Rothman's approach is quirky (e.g., she explores cultural and scientific myths about cancer via Thomas Aquinas's proof of God's existence), she can be both playful and illuminating. At her best for example, when charting how changing social ideas about women as well as cancer radically reshaped current understanding of breast cancer, or looking at the theological implications of DNA or eugenics she inserts an incisive and fresh voice into the debate on genetic science, ethics and politics.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Booklist

Millions are excited by what scientists promise as they crack the genetic code: the secrets of human evolution, new treatments of terrible diseases, a generation of superbabies. But for Rothman, these promises stir less excitement than fear. Fear that a twisted genetics will kindle a new and respectable racism. Fear that biological technospeak will displace ethical dialogue. Fear that genetic engineering will turn beauty and intelligence into market commodities. Fear that the mystery of human identity will dwindle into memorized formulas. These fears spring not from ignorance but from an anxious wrestling with the latest genetic research and from a deeply personal engagement with the people at risk of losing their dignity at the hands of DNA specialists. To protect a dignified future for the not-so-ordinary people we know as children, parents, siblings, and spouses, Rothman sounds an urgent warning about how genetic maps can be used to build dangerous cultural highways. Lucid arguments informed by honest emotions make this a critically important book for those debating the construction of these highways. Bryce Christensen

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Katherine M. Rudoff on April 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I thought the book was generally well written, although as one reviewer stated, felt as though I was back in undergraduate lecture halls through some. She raises some interesting and thought provoking questions, but it sometimes takes her awhile to make her point. It was an interesting book, and certainly made me evaluate where I stand on some issues.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A former medical researcher and now a historian of medical ethics, I take a position between the two that have been expressed to date. We absolutely must consider the consequences of any new technology, and Rothman explores the possible deeper implications of the human genome-- which has at this point been deciphered. At times, her writing smacks of revised undergraduate lectures with all their attendant hyperbole, but for the most part she presents crucial questions in a clear and readable manner. I would recommend this book to persons who want to think responsibly about genome issues, but with the caveat that they should also read other points of view.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Donald P. Martin on November 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Very negative book that exaggerates dangers of a new technology. To demonstrate her exaggeration, turn to page 14 where she states "Every possible area of basic research has been cut, and cut again, and cut yet again. But genetics gets funded." Between the books that exaggerate the negative and those which ignore the dangers exist more balanced books. One such book is Lois Wingerson's "Unnatural Selection: The Promise and Power of Human Gene Research." Lois correctly points out on page x that "There are exaggeration and misinformation at both ends of that spectrum--and a wealth of important detail in between, steadfastly overlooked by both sides." In my opinion, "Genetic Maps" represents the pessimistic end of that spectrum, and should be avoided.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book helps us better understand the limits of genetic research and testing, and the dangers of believing that this magic new bullet will solve a host of social and medical "problems". For women especially, this book is must reading.
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