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 golemthe 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 journeyphilosophically, theologically, ethically, and in public policythrough the minefield of social and biological engineering in which we now stand.
|Publisher:||Dee, Ivan R. Publisher|
|Product dimensions:||6.24(w) x 9.24(h) x 0.78(d)|
About 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.
Table of Contents
|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|
What People are Saying About This
Its style of writing is accessible to lay people as well as scientists and scholars in the humanities. A nice critique of different religion-based approaches to bioethical decisions.
Ph.D., PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
...Provocative because it uses a legend about the creation of new beings as means for assessing all human power and potential.
and Rabbi Peter S. Knobel, Lancet
Byron Sherwin's compassion, humor, and intellect provide a moral compass to help us navigate through astonishing, promising, and sometimes perilous developments in biotechnology.
AUTHOR OF FUTURE PERFECT: CONFRONTING DECISIONS ABOUT GENETICS
...Enchanting... A captivating and significant book that is appropriate for the layperson as well as the scientist.