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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 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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 Choosing ChildrenThe Ethics of Human CloningThe Evolution of CooperationThe Evolution of MindThe Evolution of MindThe Evolved ApprenticeThe Evolving WorldThe Extended Selfish GeneThe 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 DragonsVoracious Science and Vulnerable AnimalsWar 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
I read this book on a coast-to-coast plane ride on the day following the joint announcement by Francis Collins and Craig Ventor that the first map of the human genome had been substantially completed. Wingerson's book promises to lay out the historical, political, and ethical context for that announcement by tracing the "gradual evolution" of our societal assumptions and beliefs about genetic research and the uses to which it can be applied.
There is much in this book to engage the interested reader who is a novice to this cluster of topics. Even the more sophisticated reader will learn some interesting gossip, and some intriguing pieces of political history. Wingerson, the author of a 1990 book, Mapping Our Genes: The Genome Project and the Future of Medicine, has certainly done her homework.
The book's topics include profiles of individuals coping with such genetic diseases as Tay-Sachs and cystic fibrosis, as well as a compelling portrait of a bemused European woman grappling with the American approach to pregnancy, in which it seems as if every fetus is guilty until proven innocent. There are chapters on the history of eugenics, on the roles of publicly created ethics commissions, and on the Human Genome Project. Useful sidebars presented concentrated information, for example a rundown of the ten recommendations presented in the Institute of Medicines 1994 report, Assessing Genetic Risks.
Ingerson presents her material in a lively and gripping manner, sprinkled with punchy quotations and, whenever possible, focusing on individuals as a way of engaging the reader's interest. Unfortunately, that technique becomes irritating in the course of a 400 page book. The author wants to show the social context and political history of the 20th century involvement in genetic research, but the fine brush with which she paints this often results in clutter. At the end of the day, for example, the reader is more likely to remember the political demonstrations at the 1995 conference on crime and genetics than the important issues being discussed there. She gives us everything but the kitchen sink, without clearly foregrounding what is important.
There are also serious errors. For example, the entire chapter on embryo research and the work of the Human Embryo Research Panel (HERP) is skewed by Wingersons focus on the single issue of whether or not to create embryos for research purposes (rather than relying solely on "spare" embryos remaining after a couple have completed their attempts at IVF and implantation). She then consistently confuses this issue with the question of whether it is ever ethical to perform research on embryos which is not directed to their benefit. Further, Wingerson misuses a quotation from Patricia Kings individual statement in the HERPs 1994 Report. Anyone reading this section without outside knowledge of the HERP document would infer that the Panel had advocated creating embryos for research purposes if not enough spare embryos were forthcoming. In fact, the HERP Report specifically rejected that idea.
It is a little hard to know for whom this book was written. Its level of detail suggests a committed reader, but its scattershot approach is likely to turn off the scholar. Those who like to know the issues "up close and personal," with plenty of behind-the-scenes drama, will enjoy the book most. A public library should probably make the investment, but I would not buy it for a college library unless I had a very large budget.
Dena S. Davis, J.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
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