Golems Among Us

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Imagine a world where the normal human life span is 150 years, where worn-out vital organs are routinely replaced by spares, where after death you will retain consciousness for eternity in cyberspace, where nanotechnology will enable you to transform a plastic bottle into a filet mignon for you to share with your android spouse. Scientists anticipate such a world within a century. Even now many signs of such biotech "progress" are with us. Accelerating developments in genomics, reproductive biotechnology, ...

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Overview

Imagine a world where the normal human life span is 150 years, where worn-out vital organs are routinely replaced by spares, where after death you will retain consciousness for eternity in cyberspace, where nanotechnology will enable you to transform a plastic bottle into a filet mignon for you to share with your android spouse. Scientists anticipate such a world within a century. Even now many signs of such biotech "progress" are with us. Accelerating developments in genomics, reproductive biotechnology, bionics, artificial life, genetic engineering, and related fields are compelling us to reexamine our most deeply held beliefs about ourselves and our world. As we do, the figure of Victor Frankenstein and the monster he created looms large: many people today see our predicament through the lens of the Frankenstein story, whose lesson is that humans should not "play God" or tinker with the toolbox of nature, at the risk of tragedy and catastrophe. Yet there is an available alternative both to the Frankenstein vision and to the ebullient enthusiasm of those who anticipate a riskless future. It is the most famous and influential post-biblical Jewish legend, the story of the golem—the creation of an anthropoid by mystical and magical means. Retold and embellished in twentieth-century literature, art, music, drama, film, science, technology, and popular culture, the golem legend has become a metaphor for our times, a resource for applying the wisdom of the past to the perplexities of the present and the challenges of the future. In Golems Among Us, Byron Sherwin briefly traces the fascinating history of the golem legend in Western culture, then shows what lessons it holds for us in navigating a safe journey—philosophically, theologically, ethically, and in public policy—through the minefield of social and biological engineering in which we now stand.

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Editorial Reviews

CHOICE
This well–researched book looks at issues with which humanity needs to come to terms, both morally and ethically.
Foreword Reviews
Sherwin does a valuable service for the reader in presenting these novel parallels between the golem and problems in biotechnology.
Forward Magazine
Sherwin does a valuable service for the reader in presenting these novel parallels between the golem and problems in biotechnology.
Jewish Book World
Enchanting.... A captivating and significant book that is appropriate for the layperson as well as the scientist.
Jewish Currents
A fascinating example of applied Jewish philosophy.... We can find…new language for expressing our commtiment to social justice.
Judaism.Com
Fascinating.
Lancet
Provocative because it uses a legend about the creation of new beings as means for assessing all human power and potential.
— Martha B. Holstein and Rabbi Peter S. Knobel
Lerner News-Star
Traces the golem story as a prelude to understanding the ways he finds it relevant to a number of modern issues.
Naturalgenesis.Net
An important, unique work.
The Reporter
Fascinating…thoughtful, absorbing treatment.... Anyone looking to make intelligent decisions about the future would do well to read his work.
Choice
This well-researched book looks at issues with which humanity needs to come to terms, both morally and ethically.
Forward Magazine
Sherwin does a valuable service for the reader in presenting these novel parallels between the golem and problems in biotechnology.
Jewish Currents
...A fascinating example of applied Jewish philosophy.... We can find...new language for expressing our commtiment to social justice.
NaturalGenesis.net
An important, unique work.
The Reporter
...Fascinating...Thoughtful, Absorbing Treatment.... Anyone Looking To Make Intelligent Decisions About The Future Would Do Well To Read His Work.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566635684
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 1/28/2004
  • Pages: 258
  • Product dimensions: 6.24 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Byron L. Sherwin is a Distinguished Service Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Mysticism at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago. Born in New York City, he studied at Columbia University, New York University, and the University of Chicago, and was ordained a rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is an internationally recognized authority on Jewish theology, ethics, and mystical traditions, and the prize-winning author of twenty-three books, including Crafting the Soul, Why Be Good?, and Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century. He lives in Chicago.

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Table of Contents

Grandmother's tales 3
1 Golems 'R Us 7
2 The golem of Prague 18
3 Creating a golem 27
4 Golems among us 35
5 The past meets the present : the golem and the genome 47
6 Organic golems : Frankenfood and designer genes 66
7 Test-tube golems : stem cells and the cloned arranger 94
8 Mechanical golems : toward a postbiological human future? 123
9 Corporate golems : the Supreme Court creates an artificial person 156
10 The honey and the sting : the golem meets Frankenstein 192
A note on sources and a personal note 213
Index 221
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