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Remaking Eden: How Genetic Engineering and Cloning Will Transform the American Family (Ecco) Paperback – August 7, 2007
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About the Author
Lee M. Silver is professor of molecular biology and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton Uni-versity, and author of Challenging Nature. He holds a Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard University, and he lives with his family in New Jersey and New York.
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Throughout the book one can tell that Lee sees the use of the technology in a more positive light then some. Many believe the introduction of bioengineering in human life will help us eradicate disease, remove or add features and overall improve the quality of life. I believe the altering the DNA of our offspring is not safe or necessary, and Lee has some lines in which he would likely say to me; “Time and again we are warned of places we should not go, and things we should not do. And while the names may change, the message is still the same. Today, many in the modern secular world believe it is wrong to mess with ‘Mother Nature’, an updated feminine personification”. These lines push us toward the use of whatever advancements are created, as history has shown us that those who want to maintain a more traditional life are always wrong and are hindering the possibilities of society, just because we personify these realms of life. Though it is true that mother nature is applied just to further human connection to our natural world, I believe we should seriously consider interfering and releasing our own human. We have already done so with plants and animals, we should observe the long term effects of that alone before moving along to our species. There is also the fact that the future he presents in this book is not one I believe would help the majority of society, as he even points out Genrich vs. Naturals, loss of funds in certain genetic diseases, and the possibility of an entirely new species. To me this is clearly a place we should not go, as only the rich and educated would be able to afford these alterations. Lee also seems to ignore the fact that science is full of trial and error and would also likely have unseen negative impacts. There could be errors in the transferring of foreign DNA and lead to an offspring with unpredictable diseases and mutations. Are parents willing to get rid of trial babies that do not turn out how they desired. There are many points of discussion that don't make it in this book but it is a great start for people to dive in a topic that will likely affect their lives.
The book is excellent, for the author gives brilliant arguments both supporting genetic technologies and countering many that don't. In addition, the author discusses possibilities in reproductive technologies that may be unknown to a reader, like myself, who is not an expert in embryology. For example, he discusses the occurrence (although rare) of natural-born chimeric human beings, who arose from the fusion of two embryos that resulted from the fertilization of two eggs that had been ovulated simultaneously by their mother. Another example discussed is the possibility of a fertilized egg winding up in the peritoneal cavity (in the abdomen essentially). This example was discussed in the context of whether indeed a man could carry a pregnancy.
Some of the other interesting arguments and discussions in the book include: 1. When addressing the assertion that it is unfair for only the wealthy to take advantage of genetic technologies for enhancing their progeny, the author agrees that it is, but he then states correctly that a society that accepts the right of wealthy parents to provide their children with a top-notch private education cannot use "unfairness" as a reason for denying the use of genetic technologies. 2. His discussion of the status of the embryo as human life, which he argues, brilliantly, is not. "If a human life can begin in the absence of conception" he says, "then it is scientifically invalid to say that conception must mark the beginning of each human life. It is as simple as that". 3. The discussion of the history of in vitro fertilization, the ethical issues surrounding it, and the technologies needed to bring it about. The author regards IVF as a pivotal point in history, in which humans took charge of their reproductive destiny. 4. The discussion of cloning, elaborating naturally on the cloning of Dolly the sheep. He states that the cloning of Dolly "broke the technological barrier" and that there is "no reason to expect that the technology couldn't be transferred to human cells." Recent experiments in the last few months however have cast doubt on the ability to do cloning of primates, and so human cloning could therefore be problematic. The author though counters very successfully the arguments against the practice of human cloning.
The author has a refreshing optimism throughout the book, and he remains confident in the human ability to both understand the world and change it with proven and safe technologies. In light of the completion of the mapping of the human genome, his optimism is certainly justified. The technologies discussed in this book, coupled with the information obtained from the complete human genome, promise an incredibly interesting future for biology. Both the author and the individuals behind the human genome project are excellent examples of the ingenuity and mental discipline of the human species.