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Rapture: How Biotech Became The New Religion
     

Rapture: How Biotech Became The New Religion

by Brian Alexander
 

In California, a woman desperately hoping to usher in a new spiritual age conspires with her scientist boyfriend to clone herself. In Massachusetts, the founder of a famous biotech company strives to deliver on the apocalyptic vision of human immortality. In Arizona, an iconoclastic billionaire establishes a handful of fledgling companies promising an enhanced

Overview

In California, a woman desperately hoping to usher in a new spiritual age conspires with her scientist boyfriend to clone herself. In Massachusetts, the founder of a famous biotech company strives to deliver on the apocalyptic vision of human immortality. In Arizona, an iconoclastic billionaire establishes a handful of fledgling companies promising an enhanced human future and super-long life. Meanwhile, some of the world's most renowned scientists begin speaking openly about genetically engineering people and rebuilding human bodies. The two sides are merging, and Brian Alexander takes readers to the on ramp.Alexander traces the story of William Haseltine, one of the most famous, and richest, of a new breed of biotechnology entrepreneurs. A former Harvard professor and now CEO of Human Genome Sciences, Haseltine is considered the father of "regenerative medicine." With his reputation as a biotech bad-boy and lover of controversy, he has become a high priest of the new biotech religion, looked upon by life extensionists as "a hero." Alexander examines his career and shows how little separates the science elite from the dreamers who believe a new human age is about to begin. Funny, bizarre, yet always fascinating, Rapture takes readers into the surprising stories behind cloning, stem cells, miracle drugs, and genetic engineering to explore how we got here and why we'll go where nobody thought we could.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780738207612
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
10/07/2003
Pages:
304
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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