Brave New Worlds: Staying Human in the Genetic Future

Bryan Appleyard, Author Viking Books $23.95 (198p) ISBN 978-0-670-86989-3
In a less-than-subtle anti-science polemic, London Times columnist Appleyard (Understanding the Present) addresses some of the myriad ramifications of our expanding knowledge of genetics. ""Concealed within the knowledge we are now acquiring are insights that may be profoundly socially divisive and which could overthrow the basis on which the wealth and stability of Western democracies are constructed,"" is one of his many pronouncements. Appleyard adequately explores some of the obvious ethical implications sure to be present in a future in which our genetic makeups are known to all and possibly open to manipulation: selective abortion of fetuses not to the liking of prospective parents; the refusal of insurance companies to cover individuals with genetic predispositions for certain disorders; the inevitable quagmire in the criminal justice system when criminals argue that their genes forced them to act in an antisocial manner. His main point, however, is that the social implications of science are far too important to be left solely to the scientists. But try as he might to whip this thesis into a controversy, most readers will find it a straw man, as few scientists disagree with Appleyard's view. There are many, however, who would argue strenuously with his overly simplified attacks on scientists and the scientific method--for example, that ""[i]n order to become scientific, we must become inhuman."" Try telling that to Einstein, Tagore or Bohm. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!