IMPROVING ON NATURE: The Brave New Worm of Genetic Engineering by Robert Cooke

IMPROVING ON NATURE: The Brave New Worm of Genetic Engineering

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Not bad for an early try at explicating the issues of recombinant DNA research, popularly known as genetic engineering. But it would have been better if the author, science editor of the Boston Globe, had stuck more to methods and state-of-the-art or presented more comments from primary investigators. Instead he offers a smattering of information about classic breeding experiments, cell hybridization experiments (in which cells from different species fuse in tissue culture), cloning, cancer, genetic disease, and the like. This may fill out the book but it does not fill in the reader concerned about whether those scientists at MIT, Harvard, or Stanford are really going to come up with an Andromeda strain. Chapters spelling out the NIH guidelines for which experiments can be done, and how, are on target, as is the discussion of the hazards and the inevitability that research will go on. Cooke's own point of view seems a mixture of enthusiasm and fear. His writing is always clear, if given to excessive ""awesomes"" and lackluster colloquialisms. The time is right for presentation of the facts and issues of genetic research for public discussion. Credit the book with that realization, but with only partial success in bringing it off.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1977
Publisher: Quadrangle/New York Times