email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
A Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Mind So RareA Natural History of RapeAcquiring GenomesAdapting MindsAgeing, Health and CareAlas, Poor DarwinAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAncient Bodies, Modern LivesAnimal ArchitectsAping MankindAre We Hardwired?Bang!BehavingBeyond EvolutionBeyond GeneticsBlood MattersBody BazaarBoneBrain Evolution and CognitionBrain StormBrave New BrainBrave New WorldsChoosing ChildrenCloneCloningConceptual Issues in Evolutionary BiologyConsciousness EvolvingContemporary Debates in Philosophy of BiologyControlling Our DestiniesCooperation and Its EvolutionCreatures of AccidentDarwin Loves YouDarwin's Brave New WorldDarwin's Gift to Science and ReligionDarwin's UniverseDarwin's WormsDarwinian ConservatismDarwinian PsychiatryDarwinism and its DiscontentsDarwinism as ReligionDebating DesignDecoding DarknessDefenders of the TruthDo We Still Need Doctors?Doubting Darwin?Early WarningEngineering the Human GermlineEnhancing EvolutionEnoughEntwined LivesEthical Issues in Human CloningEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEvil GenesEvolutionEvolutionEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorEvolution and LearningEvolution and ReligionEvolution and the Human MindEvolution in MindEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolution: The Modern SynthesisEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Origins of MoralityEvolutionary PsychiatryEvolutionary PsychologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolutionary Psychology as Maladapted PsychologyExploding the Gene MythFaces of Huntington'sFlesh of My FleshFrom Chance to ChoiceFrom Darwin to HitlerGenesGenes in ConflictGenes on the CouchGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Women, EqualityGenetic Nature/CultureGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetic SecretsGenetics of Criminal and Antisocial BehaviourGenetics of Mental DisordersGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenomeGenomeGenome: Updated EditionGenomes and What to Make of ThemGlowing GenesHow Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So StoriesHuman CloningHuman Evolution, Reproduction, and MoralityImproving Nature?In Our Own ImageIn Pursuit of the GeneIn the Name of GodIngenious GenesInheritanceInside the Human GenomeInside the O'BriensIntegrating Evolution and DevelopmentIntelligence, Race, and GeneticsIs Human Nature Obsolete?Language OriginsLess Than HumanLiberal EugenicsLiving with Our GenesMaking Genes, Making WavesMaking Sense of EvolutionMan As The PrayerMean GenesMenMood GenesMoral OriginsMothers and OthersNature Via NurtureNever Let Me GoNot By Genes AloneOf Flies, Mice, and MenOn the Origin of StoriesOrigin of MindOrigins of Human NatureOrigins of PsychopathologyOur Posthuman FuturePhilosophy of BiologyPlaying God?Playing God?Portraits of Huntington'sPrimates and PhilosophersPromiscuityPsychiatric Genetics and GenomicsPsychologyQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRe-creating MedicineRedesigning HumansResearch Advances in Genetics and GenomicsResponsible GeneticsResponsible GeneticsScience, Seeds and CyborgsSex and WarSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsStrange BedfellowsStrange BehaviorSubjects of the WorldSubordination and DefeatThe Age of EmpathyThe Agile GeneThe Ape and the Sushi MasterThe Biotech CenturyThe Blank SlateThe Book of LifeThe Bridge to HumanityThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Century of the GeneThe Common ThreadThe Concept of the Gene in Development and EvolutionThe Debated MindThe Double-Edged HelixThe Epidemiology of SchizophreniaThe Ethics of Human CloningThe Evolution of CooperationThe Evolution of MindThe Evolution of MindThe Evolved ApprenticeThe Evolving WorldThe Fact of EvolutionThe Folly of FoolsThe Future of Human NatureThe God GeneThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Impact of the GeneThe Innate MindThe Innate MindThe Innate Mind: Volume 3The Limits and Lies of Human Genetic ResearchThe Lives of the BrainThe Maladapted MindThe Meme MachineThe Misunderstood GeneThe Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and ScreeningThe Most Dangerous AnimalThe New Genetic MedicineThe Nurture AssumptionThe Origin and Evolution of CulturesThe Origins of FairnessThe Paradoxical PrimateThe Perfect BabyThe Robot's RebellionThe Shape of ThoughtThe Shattered SelfThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story WithinThe Stuff of LifeThe Talking ApeThe Temperamental ThreadThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Top 10 Myths About EvolutionThe Triple HelixThe Triumph of SociobiologyThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaTwinsUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding the GenomeUnnatural SelectionUnto OthersUp From DragonsWar Against the WeakWhat Genes Can't DoWhat It Means to Be 98 Percent ChimpanzeeWho Owns YouWhose View of Life?Why Evolution Is TrueWhy Think? WondergenesWrestling with Behavioral GeneticsYour Genetic Destiny
This is a bizarre book. One reason is that the technological possibilities of germline engineering it presents go far beyond the usual hints one receives in the general media. The term 'germline engineering' itself needs updating. Until recently it referred to heritable alterations to a person, changes that would affect the genetic information in the individual's gametes. The first essay in Engineering the Human Germline explains how we will likely, within the next twenty years, have the ability to engineer artificial human chromosomes carrying "cassettes" of engineered genes into a zygote, leaving the original genome untouched, and leaving the engineered genes dormant in the person until a technician activates the engineered genes. While the engineered genes will reside in every cell of the body, they can have been designed so that activation will have effect only in particular organs of the body; and the chromosome can be designed to be nonheritable. Other essays follow suit with an array of breathtaking (or is it horrifying?) possibilities for the custom engineering of human beings.
After the roller-coaster of possible lines of future research, Stock and Campbell treat us to a transcript of a roundtable discussion about whether such technologies should be used. Participants range from the ground-breaking researcher W. French Anderson to ethicist John Fletcher. The participants in that discussion, especially Nobel laureate James D. Watson, are refreshingly unguarded in their comments, and reveal some of their deeper motivations and attitudes toward germline engineering.
Engineering the Germline also includes a substantial section, titled "Other Voices," which is devoted to short essays representing a wide array of viewpoints on the germline question: Marxist, libertarian, Judaic, liberal, and many not easily classified.
A second reason for the book's bizarreness is the apparent lack of communication among the authors included in the text, especially the gap between the natural science researchers and the ethicist/philosopher crowd. While the papers by the renowned technical researchers invariably call on the world to consider carefully the ethical and social ramifications of their research, these readings unintentionally make clear how easy it is for technical-minded folk to miss completely the ethical difficulties they supposedly are urging society to think about. In one such paper, the author thinks the answer to our ethical problems lies in training more citizens in the art of inquiry-based analysis and general biology, as though Deweyan pedagogy could actually succeed in leading people to common ethical conclusions. In another paper, a renowned researcher claims that ethics is either self-constructed or socially constructed because a "Webster's" dictionary tells him so. He then advances a eugenics argument to the tune that modern medicine and sympathy (instead of the old eugenicists' attack on specifically Christian sympathy) is slowly undermining "the germline" by making reproducers out of folks who, in a natural environment, would have been eaten while still young by tigers. "Our science and our compassion prevents us from using survival of the fittest as a process of selection . . . . Should we turn our back on new methodologies that might bring us smarter people and better leaders who are more responsible in their lives?" (29). Neither author considers the possibility that valuational terms, such as "better," lack the clarity of matters that can be measured in microns and generalized in mathematical equations. To put it blandly, they seem to assume that there is an unambiguous answer to the question of whether it was Albert Einstein or Mother Theresa who made the "better" contribution to mankind. Fortunately, there are authors in the "Other Voices" section who point out the problematic nature of such valuational concepts. I just hope the natural science researchers get around to reading that section.
This book is exciting to read, and not all comforting. It provides a valuable, wide-angle snapshot of research on germline engineering and of the debate concerning the ethics of that research. The babble of voices assures us only that no one yet knows what they are doing in this matter, and that some, scarily, think that they do.
William Harper, Ph.D., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
Welcome to MHN's unique book review site Metapsychology.
We feature over 7700 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and
We update our front page weekly and add more than thirty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.
Can't remember our URL? Access our reviews directly via 'metapsychology.net'
Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from Amazon.com for purchases through this site, which helps us send
review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your Amazon.com purchases through our Amazon links. We thank
you for your support!
Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these
announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click
Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? Currently, we especially need thoughtful reviewers
for books in fiction, self-help and popular psychology. To apply, write to our editor.
Metapsychology Online Reviews
Promote your Page too
Metapsychology Online Reviews