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RAPTURE: How Biotech Became the New Religion

Brian S. Alexander, Author . Basic $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7382-0761-2

Everybody wants to live longer. Some are willing to go farther than others in pursuit of this dream, and in Rapture , Alexander tells the story of those who have gone the farthest. From the Extropians (who share "a Heinleinian philosophy of betterment through technology, and the creation of a posthuman future") and other fringe groups to researchers at the core of the scientific establishment, the book follows the various players and movements of bio-utopianism who all look forward to the moment of almost-religious rapture when humans can assert full control over their biology, in the process beating disease, aging and even death itself. Alexander, who covered biotechnology for Wired magazine, is at ease discussing the complexities of scientific research and is just as interested in the culture surrounding biotechnology as the biotechnology itself. In a roughly chronological narrative, he introduces the early pioneers of genetic research, building to the "biomania" that drove venture capitalists into biotech firms, such as Genentech, in the late 20th century, fleshing out the backstory behind recent controversies over genetic engineering, cloning and stem cell research. Though sympathetic to his subjects and their work, Alexander casts his tale in shades of gray rather than in black and white, and the result is a nuanced portrait of the intersection of idealism, capitalism, politics and science on the frontiers of biotechnology that will leave readers eager to see what the future might hold. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/27/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
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Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-465-00105-7
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