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Science, Technology, and Mathematics > Biotechnology

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Beyond Biotechnology Cover

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Beyond Biotechnology

The Barren Promise of Genetic Engineering

Craig Holdrege

In 2001 the Human Genome Project announced that it had successfully mapped the entire genetic content of human DNA. Scientists, politicians, theologians, and pundits speculated about what would follow, conjuring everything from nightmare scenarios of state-controlled eugenics to the hope of engineering disease-resistant newborns. As with debates surrounding stem-cell research, the seemingly endless possibilities of genetic engineering will continue to influence public opinion and policy into the foreseeable future. Beyond Biotechnology: The Barren Promise of Genetic Engineering distinguishes between the hype and reality of this technology and explains the nuanced and delicate relationship between science and nature. Authors Craig Holdrege and Steve Talbott evaluate the current state of genetic science and examine its potential applications, particularly in agriculture and medicine, as well as the possible dangers. The authors show how the popular view of genetics does not include an understanding of the ways in which genes actually work together in organisms. Simplistic and reductionist views of genes lead to unrealistic expectations and, ultimately, disappointment in the results that genetic engineering actually delivers. The authors explore new developments in genetics, from the discovery of “non-Darwinian” adaptative mutations in bacteria to evidence that suggests that organisms are far more than mere collections of genetically driven mechanisms. While examining these issues, the authors also answer vital questions that get to the essence of genetic interaction with human biology: Does DNA “manage” an organism any more than the organism manages its DNA? Should genetically engineered products be labeled as such? Do the methods of the genetic engineer resemble the centuries-old practices of animal husbandry? Written for lay readers, Beyond Biotechnology is an accessible introduction to the complicated issues of genetic engineering and its potential applications. In the unexplored space between nature and laboratory, a new science is waiting to emerge. Technology-based social and environmental solutions will remain tenuous and at risk of reversal as long as our culture is alienated from the plants and animals on which all life depends.

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Brutes or Angels

Human Possibility in the Age of Biotechnology

James T. Bradley

A guide to the rapidly progressing Age of Biotechnology, Brutes or Angels provides basic information on a wide array of new technologies in the life sciences, along with the ethical issues raised by each.

With stem cell research, Dolly the cloned sheep, in vitro fertilization, age retardation, and pharmaceutical mind enhancement, humankind is now faced with decisions that it has never before had to consider. The thoughtfulness, or lack of it, that we bring to those decisions will largely determine the future character of the living world.

Brutes or Angels will facilitate informed choice making about the personal use of biotechnologies and the formulation of public policies governing their development and use. Ten biotechnologies that impact humans are considered: stem cell research, embryo selection, human genomics, gene therapies, human reproductive cloning, age retardation, cognition enhancement, the engineering of nonhuman organisms, nanobiology, and synthetic biology.

With deft and assured use of metaphors, analogies, diagrams, and photographs, James T. Bradley introduces important biological principles and the basic procedures used in biotechnology. Various ethical issues--personhood, personal identity, privacy, ethnic discrimination, distributive justice, authenticity and human nature, and the significance of mortality in the human life cycle--are presented in a clear and unbiased manner. Personal reflection and group dialogue are encouraged by questions at the end of each chapter, making this book not only a general guide to better informed and nuanced thinking on these complex and challenging topics but also an appropriate text for bioethics courses in university science departments and for adult education classes.

Standing at the beginning of the twenty-first century, with burgeoning abilities to enhance and even create life in ways unimaginable just a few decades ago, humans have an awesome responsibility to themselves and other species. Brutes or Angelsinvites us to engage each other in meaningful dialogue by listening, gathering information, formulating thoughtful views, and remaining open to new knowledge and ethical argumentation.

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The Cassava Transformation

Africa's best-kept secret

Felix Nweke

Cassava is Africa's "poverty fighter" and second most important food crop. This book discusses Cassava's real role and traces research over the past 65 years. The "Cassava transformation" that is now underway in Africa has changed this traditional, reserve crop to a high-yield cash crop. However, Cassava is being neglected by governments and donor agencies because of myths and half-truths about its nutritional value and role in farm systems.

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First the Seed

The Political Economy of Plant Biotechnology

Jack Ralph Kloppenburg, Jr.

First the Seed spotlights the history of plant breeding and shows how efforts to control the seed have shaped the emergence of the agricultural biotechnology industry. This second edition of a classic work in the political economy of science includes an extensive, new chapter updating the analysis to include the most recent developments in the struggle over the direction of crop genetic engineering.

1988 Cloth, 1990 Paperback, Cambridge University Press
Winner of the Theodore Saloutos Award of the Agricultural History Society
Winner of the Robert K. Merton Award of the American Sociological Association

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Life as Surplus

Biotechnology and Capitalism in the Neoliberal Era

by Melinda Cooper

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Prophets of the Posthuman

American Fiction, Biotechnology, and the Ethics of Personhood

Christina Bieber Lake

Prophets of the Posthuman provides a fresh and original reading of fictional narratives that raise the question of what it means to be human in the face of rapidly developing bioenhancement technologies. Christina Bieber Lake argues that works by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walker Percy, Flannery O'Connor, Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Marilynne Robinson, Raymond Carver, James Tiptree, Jr., and Margaret Atwood must be reevaluated in light of their contributions to larger ethical questions. Drawing on a wide range of sources in philosophical and theological ethics, Lake argues that these writers share a commitment to maintaining a category of personhood more meaningful than that allowed by utilitarian ethics. Prophets of the Posthuman insists that because technology can never ask whether we should do something that we have the power to do, literature must step into that role.

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Reframing Rights

Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age

Edited by Sheila Jasanoff

Investigations into the interplay of biological and legal conceptions of life, from government policies on cloning to DNA profiling by law enforcement.

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Shattered Nerves

How Science Is Solving Modern Medicine's Most Perplexing Problem

Victor D. Chase

Once the stuff of science fiction, neural prosthetics are now a reality. Research and technology are creating implants that enable the deaf to hear, the blind to see, and the paralyzed to move. Shattered Nerves takes us on a journey into a new medical frontier, where sophisticated, state-of-the-art medical devices repair and restore failed sensory and motor systems. In a compelling narrative that reveals the intimate relationship between technology and the physicians, scientists, and patients who bring it to life, Victor D. Chase explores groundbreaking developments in neural technology. Through personal interviews and extensive research, Chase introduces us to the people and devices that are restoring shattered lives, from implants that enable the paralyzed to stand, walk, feed, and groom themselves, to those that restore bladder and bowel control, and even sexual function. Signals from the brains of paralyzed people are captured and transformed to allow them to operate computers. Brain implants hold the potential to resolve psychiatric illnesses and to restore the ability to form memories in damaged brains. This timely and important book also explores troubling boundaries between restoration and enhancement, where implants could conceivably endow the able-bodied with superhuman capabilities. Chase concludes this fascinating book with a provocative question: Just because we can, does that mean we should?

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