WHO SHOULD PLAY GOD? by Ted & Jeremy Rifkin Howard


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This is an alarmist account of the dangers, real and imagined, of recombinant DNA research by a pair of critics who would ban all genetic engineering work. Ted Howard and Jeremy Rifkin tar with a thick brush. They see the specter of behavior control (by genetic as opposed to psychological means) as well as profit and power motives making for sinister links between science and the military, science and industry, science and government. They are fond of quoting extremists on both sides. (They are also irritatingly given to burying sources in the back of the book.) They give full credence to the most dire predictions as well as reports of experiments not Universally accepted, and cite an astonishing variety of statistics (""in Massachusetts studies suggested that 25 percent of the youngsters are victims of minimal brain dysfunction""). The result is a combination of Cassandra and the Andromeda strain. The reader is assured that tomorrow a laboratory accident might trigger a population catastrophe; that people would preselect the sex and qualities of embryos and have them grown in surrogates or test tubes; that control of memory, emotion, creativity is just around the corner. It is preposterous to accept all these assumptions and conclusions. The authors ignore the fact that genes act in an environment; that there are no ""best"" genes, only those, which, in combination, are successful in a given setting. They also presume that such qualities as intelligence, physical adroitness, creativity, are totally genetically determined. They overlook what many reasonable scientists have said about recombinant research--that human genetic engineering is not simply a matter of plumbing; that research is needed to understand gene function and expression. Ultimately the authors reveal themselves as pessimists and cynics who believe that individuals are easily misled or willing voluntarily to curtail their freedom. What hard information the book does contain is all but lost in the shrill harangue.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Delacorte