EXPLODING THE GENE MYTH

Harvard biologist and feminist Hubbard and her son (as well as her Nobel laureate husband, George Wald) have long championed the antibiotechnology cause, raising the specter of genetic determinism, eugenics, and social control (read ``fascism'') that they see as imminent in genetics research. Their point of view is that of old-fashioned liberals, winning praise from the Richard Lewontins, Barry Commoners, Ralph Naders, and other defenders of the common man (and woman) and the natural environment against government bureaucrats, scientific reductionists, and others viewed as profiteers or manipulators and exploiters of humankind. In so doing, the authors serve a corrective function, offering the kind of countervailing sensibility that's so important in a democratic society. But, here, they go too far in their zeal, discounting the value of much genetics research and of the human genome project in particular. Certainly, we need safeguards regarding the collection and use of genetic data to prevent discrimination and abuses in education, employment, and insurance, as well as to prevent gene testing for such arbitrary purposes as sex selection and so on. But to deny the importance of genetic research in finding clues to development and aging, plus the causes and cures of disease, is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Interestingly, in contrast to Andrew Kimbrell in The Human Body Shop (reviewed below), Hubbard and Wald disavow claims that genes have been (or will be) discovered for intelligence, homosexuality, alcoholism, etc.; meanwhile, Kimbrell acts as though such putative genes will determine how we select offspring in the future. The moral of the story is that the pendulum swings both ways, but the truth lies somewhere in the middle. (Seven illustrations)

Pub Date: May 3, 1993

ISBN: 0-8070-0418-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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