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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Thomas C May, Ph.D.(Medical College of Wisconsin Health Policy Institute)
Description: This book is an examination of the philosophical issues raised by genes.
Purpose: The purpose is to provide a detached examination of issues concerning the role of genes. This is a worthy project, and the author meets this purpose.
Audience: The book is written for a lay (nonspecialist) audience, and should be accessible to educated readers. The author is a very credible authority on the subject matter.
Features: The book is divided into four chapters. The first two chapters focus on more general philosophical issues concerning science, technology, and genetics. Chapter one examines scientific explanation, pure and applied science, and the importance of science for society's self-image. Chapter two examines genetic explanations of human nature. This chapter examines the debate between evolution and creationism, sociobiology, and controversies surrounding the genetic basis of selfishness, altruism, and homosexuality. The second two chapters are comparatively more issue-oriented. Chapter three examines philosophical issues raised by genetic engineering, including genetic screening and related issues of whether people have a right to know genetic information. Related to these issues, chapter three also examines the status of genetic research, both on animals and humans. Chapter four is titled "Playing God," and focuses on issues related to attempts to manipulate genes. These include cloning, stem cell research, and reproductive technologies. The chapter ends with an examination of the possibility of "designer babies," and the relationship of this phenomenon to eugenics, procreative responsibility, the ethics of abortion, and finally what it means to "Play God."
Assessment: This book provides a valuable introduction to the deep philosophical issues surrounding genetics. The final two chapters examining specific issues raised by genetic screening, reproductive technology, and attempts to manipulate genes are particularly valuable for readers wishing to develop their knowledge about these visible and controversial issues.