A breath of fresh air to fuel the debate now raging in Congress and the White House—with more surely to come.



A visionary lays out a future in which humankind is enhanced beyond our wildest dreams . . .

. . . which for some may be nightmares. Stock (Director, Program of Medicine, Technology, and Society/UCLA School of Medicine) has taken the biotechnology bit in his teeth and run with it, conjuring a race of superhumans with 150-year life spans, divested of disease susceptibility genes and equipped with gene modules conferring intelligence, physical aptitude, or aesthetic talents. Like Fukuyama (see Our Posthuman Future, p. 235), he sees the seeds of the future sown in today’s technologies of in-vitro fertilization, pre-implantation embryo genetic screening, genomics, and cloning. Unlike Fukuyama, who urges regulation and outright banning of human cloning, Stock argues that you cannot stop “the inevitable.” Banning might even backfire, enabling the rich to move to permissive venues and creating a species divide between the enhanced and the unenhanced. In fairness, Stock is no Dr. Pangloss. Of course, germinal choice technology (GCT) is unsafe today, and of course, there needs to be oversight, he acknowledges; but we need to discuss not theology, playing God, spiritual corruption, or the sanctity of the gene pool (pithy quotes from James D. Watson here), but the need for testing these technologies, appraising their risks, monitoring and overseeing research, and minimizing clinical abuse. As for the technologies themselves, Stock does very well in explaining the complex state of the science, including the use of artificial human chromosomes that can be turned on or off. The scenarios he builds are also complex. (For example, how should society respond to a deaf couple that chooses to select a deaf embryo for birth?) But Stock ignores such issues as a future world potentially exploding with graybeards, or whether clusters of genes can be isolated that dependably confer this or that talent.

A breath of fresh air to fuel the debate now raging in Congress and the White House—with more surely to come.

Pub Date: April 25, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-06026-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2002

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...


Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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