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Science Books

August 10, 2007

Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case For Making Better People
John Harris (2007)
ISBN: 0691128448

If you're fed up with all the doom-mongers and nervous-nellies ranting on about how our dalliances with genetic engineering will lead to the end of humanity, then you're going to love Harris' Enhancing Evolution. Far from dampening any enthusiasm for genetic engineering, Harris argues fervently and convincingly that we are actually morally bound to genetically enhance our species (you mean we're not already perfect?). It's such a rarity that any of us hear anything positive about genetic engineering that it's tempting to think of Harris as some kind of Dr. Frankenstein, but nothing could be further from the truth. Harris is the Sir David Alliance Professor of Bioethics at the University of Manchester School of Law, joint editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medical Ethics, and the author of numerous best-selling books on genetic engineering. In fact, Enhancing Evolution is based upon a number of keynote lectures delivered at the University of Oxford in 2006. Harris uses his years of experience to effortlessly dissect, tear down, and expose the inherent weaknesses of the so-called "strong arguments" against genetic engineering. To Harris, biotechnology is a blessing, which could lead to morally sound improvements to the human gene pool, such as extending lifespan, creating immunities for cancer and HIV/AIDS, and conquering various types of disability. Once these human foibles have been addressed, Harris advocates using genetic engineering to develop all manner of mental and physical abilities - magnifying tenfold our capacity for concentration, memory, strength, stamina, and reflexes. Who knows? Subsequent generations of humans may just put today's comic book superheroes to shame.

Mind, Life And Universe: Conversations With Great Scientists Of Our Time
Lynn Margulis & Eduardo Punset (Editors), David Suzuki (Foreword) (2007)
ISBN: 1933392436

One way or another, we've all been exposed to their amazing discoveries and insights, but we know very little about the heavy-weight scientists who have altered our perspective on the brain, nature, and the universe. Now, Mind, Life And Universe, a collection of interviews with renowned scientists, draws out the colorful personalities of the people behind famous scientific discoveries, and what drives their pursuit of knowledge. Forty of the most revered scientists have been gathered together and expertly interviewed by editors Lyn Margulis, a microbiologist and seasoned editor whose work can be found in journals such as Science, Nature, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Eduardo Punset, a celebrated and familiar popularizer of science on Spanish television. The culmination of such an ambitious project is, as you'd expect, incredibly fascinating, with more than a generous dollop of quirkiness and irreverence courtesy of this candid bunch of overachieving interviewees. Some of the big scientific brains contained in Mind, Life And Universe include James E. Lovelock, Jane Goodall, E. O. Wilson, and Oliver Sachs, who posit and respond to many profound, puzzling, and odd questions. What does science know about happiness and despair? Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? How long can the African ecosystem withstand human intervention? Will genetic engineering lead humanity down the path of darkness or light? And can chimps use sexual innuendo as, ahem... skillfully as we humans? Mind, Life And Universe is an infinite source of deep thought, profundity, and entertainment. All this and a foreword by David Suzuki! What more could you ask for?

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