Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion

Overview

In Rapture, Brian Alexander takes readers into the surprising stories behind cloning, stem cells, miracle drugs, and genetic engineering to show how the battle for the human soul is playing out in the broader culture-and how the outcome will affect us all. Rapture 's Dickensian cast of characters includes the father of regenerative medicine, an anti-aging guru, and a former fundamentalist Christian and founder of the company that reportedly cloned the first human cell. This motley crew is in part being united by ...
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2003 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Ex-library. Book is a withdrawn Library print in AS New condition: WH-. RE-FILL SHELF Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 304 p. Audience: ... General/trade. Read more Show Less

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Overview

In Rapture, Brian Alexander takes readers into the surprising stories behind cloning, stem cells, miracle drugs, and genetic engineering to show how the battle for the human soul is playing out in the broader culture-and how the outcome will affect us all. Rapture 's Dickensian cast of characters includes the father of regenerative medicine, an anti-aging guru, and a former fundamentalist Christian and founder of the company that reportedly cloned the first human cell. This motley crew is in part being united by the force of the opposition: a burgeoning bio-Luddite movement whose foot soldiers-a strange coalition of conservative Republicans, the Christian right, and the Greens-predict impending doom should we become adherents of the new bio-utopian faith. Sometimes irreverent, sometimes shocking, always entertaining, Rapture shows how the biotech agenda has come to be seen as both salvation and heresy, how we have gotten this far already, and why we'll go where nobody thought we could.

Author Biography: Brian Alexander was a contributing editor for biotechnology at Wired magazine. He has written for the New York Times Magazine, Science, Esquire, Outside, and many other magazines and newspapers. He lives in San Diego.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Everybody wants to live longer. Some are willing to go farther than others in pursuit of this dream, and in Rapture, Alexander tells the story of those who have gone the farthest. From the Extropians (who share "a Heinleinian philosophy of betterment through technology, and the creation of a posthuman future") and other fringe groups to researchers at the core of the scientific establishment, the book follows the various players and movements of bio-utopianism who all look forward to the moment of almost-religious rapture when humans can assert full control over their biology, in the process beating disease, aging and even death itself. Alexander, who covered biotechnology for Wired magazine, is at ease discussing the complexities of scientific research and is just as interested in the culture surrounding biotechnology as the biotechnology itself. In a roughly chronological narrative, he introduces the early pioneers of genetic research, building to the "biomania" that drove venture capitalists into biotech firms, such as Genentech, in the late 20th century, fleshing out the backstory behind recent controversies over genetic engineering, cloning and stem cell research. Though sympathetic to his subjects and their work, Alexander casts his tale in shades of gray rather than in black and white, and the result is a nuanced portrait of the intersection of idealism, capitalism, politics and science on the frontiers of biotechnology that will leave readers eager to see what the future might hold. (Nov. ) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The idea that human life could be extended, possibly indefinitely, was long relegated to science fiction and the sensational "science" reported in supermarket tabloids. Over the last 25 years, as cloning and stem-cell research have gained a solid footing in the labs, there has been a gradual merging of the conventional and the formerly weird. Alexander, a science writer and former biotech editor of Wired magazine, traces this merger by following the career of William Haseltine, a controversial but seminal figure in the evolving fields of biotech and life-extension. He also profiles other leading players, including "transhumanist" FM-2030 and James Watson of DNA fame. Since religions and their varying views of the afterlife were previously seen as the only avenues to immortality, Alexander argues that biotech, with its unrealized but almost palpable potential, is now virtually a new religion, demonstrated by the opposition it has spawned from those he calls "bio-Luddites." Alexander writes with humor and an obvious fascination for his subject. Recommended for all science and medical collections.-Dick Maxwell, Penrose-St. Francis Health Svcs., Colorado Springs Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780738207612
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 10/7/2003
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 289
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Alexander has been Wired's exclusive writer on advances in biotechnology and the evolution of the human future. His most famous story on biotechnology-a cover article which made the bold statement that human cloning was less than a year away-created a worldwide stir, launching congressional investigations, spurring media outlets such as "60 Minutes," Time, and CNN to do spin-offs, and prompting a strange race among would-be cloners. He lives in San Diego.

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Table of Contents

1 Waiting for the Rapture 1
2 The Prophet 11
3 The Endless Frontier 27
4 Arise, Lazarus Long! 47
5 The Immortal Mr. Steinberg 65
6 Way Out West 103
7 Bring On the Inquisition 125
8 Water into Wine 159
9 Pop! Goes the Rapture 201
10 The Rapture Rides in a Limo 223
Acknowledgments 259
Notes 261
Index 279
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2003

    It's not 'religious' if you can do it

    I happen to know a few of the people Brian Alexander profiles in his book. In fact, his description of the Extropian scene in the early 1990's made me nostalgic. But he performs a disservice by characterizing the conquest of aging and death through biotechnology as a 'religion,' by which he means a belief system that is impractical or not supported by fact. Scientists have greatly extended the maximum life spans of some species of laboratory animals. Because the genome is conservative across species, presumably similar biochemical pathways would work in humans to retard our aging and greatly extend our healthy lives past 120 years. We can in principle demonstrate empirical progress towards the goal of greatly extended, non-aging life. Religions, by contrast, don't have animal models to show that their beliefs can send animals' 'souls' to some otherworldly heaven, and by implication humans' 'souls' as well. Comparing physical immortalism with a religion is patently absurd. Still, I gave this book three stars because Alexander has provided some useful information and historical insight into a social movement that promises to revolutionize the human condition, barring a catastrophe or the effective opposition from the likes of 'bioconservatives' like Leon Kass and Francis Fukuyama.

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