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Rapture: How Biotech Became The New Religion Hardcover – October 7, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (October 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738207616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738207612
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #929,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Everybody wants to live longer. Some are willing to go farther than others in pursuit of this dream, and in Rapture, Alexander tells the story of those who have gone the farthest. From the Extropians (who share "a Heinleinian philosophy of betterment through technology, and the creation of a posthuman future") and other fringe groups to researchers at the core of the scientific establishment, the book follows the various players and movements of bio-utopianism who all look forward to the moment of almost-religious rapture when humans can assert full control over their biology, in the process beating disease, aging and even death itself. Alexander, who covered biotechnology for Wired magazine, is at ease discussing the complexities of scientific research and is just as interested in the culture surrounding biotechnology as the biotechnology itself. In a roughly chronological narrative, he introduces the early pioneers of genetic research, building to the "biomania" that drove venture capitalists into biotech firms, such as Genentech, in the late 20th century, fleshing out the backstory behind recent controversies over genetic engineering, cloning and stem cell research. Though sympathetic to his subjects and their work, Alexander casts his tale in shades of gray rather than in black and white, and the result is a nuanced portrait of the intersection of idealism, capitalism, politics and science on the frontiers of biotechnology that will leave readers eager to see what the future might hold.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Written for the lay reader, this exploration of the fringe science of biotechnology is alternately spooky, silly, and scintillating. The author, who writes about biotech developments for Wired magazine, takes us back to the roots of biotech, to people like H. G. Wells and Jules Verne--people who thought and wrote about creating a new and better world and a new and better human being to live in it. Alexander writes about the different contemporary groups involved in biotech: extropians, transhumans, cryonicists, extro-punkians, life extensionists. He talks about hormone injection, gene splicing, cryonics, regenerative medicine--all intended, in one way or another, to create the new, improved human species. He shows us the people behind the movements, people with names like FM 2030 and R. U. Sirius, but the book's central character is someone less flamboyantly weird: William Haseltine, the former Harvard professor who now runs one of the world's biggest biotech companies. He may be operating on the fringes of science, but, as the author makes clear, what's fringe today could be mainstream tomorrow. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Turrell on November 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book has got the buzz and the facts clear. It is a book about the "pioneers" of transhumanism and what they did early on that has set the pace for the futurists today.
Who else is going to tell the story but a writer that admires the ideas of transhumanists and also can laugh with us? If you cannot laugh at yourself, what is the point of living a long and enjoyable life? There isn't, and this is to Brian Alexander's credit.
We owe a lot to the Los Angeles Transhumanists - FM Esfandiary, Natasha Vita-More, Eric Drexler, Max More, Ralph Merkle, Greg Fahy - the entire gang.
If you want to read a book that literally gets you to go to the frig and get a beer, kick back on the sofa, and dream of a long life - this is the book!
Left of Center - but thinking toward the future.
Jason Jefferson
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Rapture" is a truly interesting book, and worthy of serious consideration. It explores the bio-utopian impulse in modern America, charting the last thirty-some years of research into human biology and how it might apply to a range of issues. These include not only the decoding of the human genome for the improvement of human life, but also the possibilities of life extension for decades and perhaps centuries. Those who advocate life extension see a "brave new world," pun intended, in which all are healthy, happy, and wise. They view it as the next stage in human evolution. It is a heady goal, one that has consumed some billionaires and fueled a revolution in bio-technology. Public advocates in the United States range from billionaire William Haseltine to Ray Kurzweil, but include thousands more in a subculture known to few.

Advocacy of bio-utopian ideas opens a wide array of ethical considerations, and opposition to it has ensured a rollicking debate between the extreme positions. The bio-luddites, in author Brian Alexander's parlance, question the morality of altering the human body through genetics, chemicals, or technology. They recall images of Nazi eugenics and the selective breeding of humans. Those in favor, of course, emphasize the positive results of intervention in whatever form it might take.

My own interest in this subject comes from my study of the past, present, and possible future of spaceflight. For instance, one of the truly fascinating developments associated with interstellar spaceflight is the possibility of a trans-human migration. In fulfilling the spacefaring dream, the intelligent life to leave Earth and colonize the galaxy may not be entirely human in form.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Randolfe H. Wicker on October 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I know many of the people outlined in this book and am deeply involved in cloning. Alexander's portrayal of me and my activities was accurate & pithy but was unduly one-dimensional.
However, this is a brilliant work which ties together ideas that have combined within the past decade or so to become a movement called Transhumanism.
By connecting the thoughts of early scientific dreamers with the realities of modern day biotechnology, Brian Alexander deserves the glowing cover blurb by Glen McGee:
"Brian Alexander has turned the most important scientific revolution since Galileo into an adventure story that touches your mind and soul. No writer has ever dug this deep or looked forward this imaginatively. With Rapture, Alexander has become the voice of biotechnology for the 21st Century."
As a cloning activist, I usually end up debating McGee on the air. However, he is right on target here. Alexander is quite right that science and biotechnology have become a new religion for disparate groups that believe in cryonics, cloning, life extension, etc. Many don't like the label "religion" because religionists are usually the ones persecuting them. The historic philosophical roots of this religion versus science debate provide a useful perspective to the new debates we are having in this new age.
If I could give it ten stars, I would. It is really the most informative "connecting" book I have ever read.
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