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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 Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe 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 Selfish GeneThe 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
Some 31 years ago, Alvin Toffler published a very influential
nook entitled Future Shock.
Its warning was that the world was changing so fast that humans,
who evolved for a much less rapid adaptation, would begin to have
trouble adapting, Today, Ludism and fundamentalism thrive in advanced
countries. His prophecy has been fulfilled.
In almost the same spirit, Pierre Baldi has written this book
to prepare readers for what is about to happen in the 21st
Century - especially as it impacts our concepts of what we humans
are. The day I wrote this, I heard a radio commentator noting
that the artificial heart success just being celebrated gave him
"the creeps." The heart is so central to a human that
it should not be made of plastic. Phone-in listeners agreed enthusiastically
that such things need to be stopped. If only they had read Baldi's
Providing the necessary background at a high school level, Baldi
deals briefly with the history of what he calls "decentering"
wherein first the sun, then human bodies, and finally conscious
thought have been transformed from central to peripheral positions
in the universe.
Molecular biology is his entry point into the 21st
century. Most of the material will be familiar to everyone reading
this review. But, his note on the relationship between the growth
of tomatoes and the growth of cancers was new and quite stimulating
Issues affecting human reproduction come next - Viagra, "test
tube babies," sexless reproduction, reproductionless sex,
sex selection, Siamese twins, cloning, life extension, DNA manipulation,
children rearing clones of their parents are among topics discussed.
Although it is barely related to his theme, Baldi includes a brief
discussion of the Internet. Moore's law, and so forth. Even here,
developments are explosive and (to some) threatening.
He then turns to "The Last Frontier: the Brain." Here,
Baldi seems to me uncharacteristically conservative. Many researchers
(myself included) think that they already understand the broad
outline of human perception, consciousness, self consciousness,
emotions, and mystic experiences. If we are right, our view of
what a human is changes drastically. I argue that humanity does
not lose its grandeur in the process, but I avoid discussing such
things outside the company of scholars.
All of this challenges ethics in two ways. First, it challenges
the external basis for ethics - an external and eternal ruler
and lawmaker. Second, it challenges us to deal with totally new
situations for which there are no accepted ethical standards.
Baldi then speculates on what he calls "the end of natural
evolution." We can now interfere with natural evolution in
ways our grandparents could never have dreamed. The great outcry
against genetically modified plants is certainly politically motivated,
but it works so well because we fear the end of natural evolution.
Nameless scientists take on the role of God himself in directing
evolution (provided God indulges in evolution at all according
to the user's beliefs).
Like it or not, this Brave New World is no longer the stuff
of fiction. Baldi hopes to prepare readers for it.
© 2001 John Caulfield
H. John Caulfield,
Distinguished Research Professor, Fisk University, Nashville,
This review first appeared online Sept 1, 2001