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In her own terms Catherine Roberts is a heretic in her field: a micro-biologist who cautions against further advances in microbiology as well as in all other branches of contemporary science. For her the chief questions are religious and ethical. Is man, deluded by a false optimism or positivism, plunging headlong into self-destruction? Are we to face a dilemma more serious than the atomic bomb by endowing biologists with the power of life, the alteration of genes, the selection and control of development, the making of mirror images of ""superior"" types? Her approach to such problems is in the nature of a retreat, in both senses of the word: stop progress and contemplate the Good. Alas the exhortation is little more than that. Wherein ""superior knowledge "" lies; of what is the nature of virtue; how one becomes ""more human;"" these are not discussed so much as alluded to in Classical Greek terms like sophrosyne or arete. Where Roberts is on the mark is when she quotes fellow scientists or cites examples. Clearly there have been some unnecessarily cruel eugenics. Where she falters is in adopting too simplistic a piety. One cannot simply appeal to the past as the model of greatness or of heroes that point to the ""divine"" in man, while a simple admonition to be good, no matter how often repeated, has never, in any Sunday sermon, made anyone better.

Publisher: Braziller