Customer Review

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Political Philosophy meets Biology, July 5, 2000
This review is from: Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA (Paperback)
This book is exactly what the title implies - a treatise on how many people in the scientific community (including physical and social science) and in the general public have come to regard biology, or more specifically DNA, as The Answer. Just as religion had The Answer in previous ages, so now, we "know" that all the answers lie in understanding our DNA. This has spread to all aspects of human society, from justification of our capitalist monetary system to modern medicine. To emphasise the point, a quote from the text: "[An] editor of Science, what asked why the Human Genome Project funds should not be given instead to the homeless, answered, 'What these people don't realise is that the homeless are impaired.... Indeed, no group would benefit more from the application of human genetics.'"
This is a chilling statement, and we're fortunate to have books like these pointing out the ethical and scientific problems in such pronouncements. Prof. Lewontin debunks the myth that DNA is the be all and end all. In a wide ranging series of essays, he attacks the claims of the Human Genome Project scientists (I want to point out that he does not attack the science itself, which is fine, simply the rationale in doing it) and others who are trying to find a panacea in understanding genetics. He argues that while DNA is important, it does not define what it means to be human, any more than a pile of bricks defines a house, and it certainly can't be used to justify capitalism, fascism, or anarchical government systems, as claimed by some political philosophers. Or that people are homeless because they have defective DNA.
There are two minor points that I must make objection to. The first is that he seems to imply that scientists (specifically, those working on the human genome) make wild claims as to how much their research will benefit mankind, and society is duped into believing them. While this is undoubtedly the case some of the time, in my experience, the media often exaggerate the claims of scientists to make a better story. "This project will help us understand cancer better, and will lead to better treatments" becomes "Cause of cancer discovered!" Lewontin tends to blame the scientist entirely for these grandiose claims. Secondly, I believe basic research is valuable, thus the Genome Project is important, something Lewontin doesn't seem to want to admit.
Those two points aside, however, this is an interesting and important book, if a little one-sided. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 

Comments


Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 11, 2008 7:38:18 AM PST
Good review, and your minor points are worth noting. I believe that basic research is useful, if only because we don't know what we might find out. Perhaps in pursuing genetic differences we might learn some things that will help us cure diseases. Who knows?

Specifically, I agree with you that the media tends to distort statements until they become outright lies. Part of that is salesmanship, part is poor journalism, and part of it has to do with space limitations -- a shortened headline becomes a soundbyte that is quite often out of context with the "real" story.

It sounds like Lewontin is trying to shoot down some of the more grandiose (and stupid) ideas that some scientists have.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›

Review Details

Item

3.9 out of 5 stars (16 customer reviews)
5 star:
 (8)
4 star:
 (4)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (2)
 
 
 
$12.99 $9.74
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Reviewer


Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada

Top Reviewer Ranking: 14,335