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Could a child have two genetic mothers? Will parents someday soon be able to choose not only the physical characteristics of their children-to-be, but their personalities and talents as well? Will genetic enhancement ultimately lead to a split in the human species?
In this brilliant, provocative, and necessary book, Lee M. Silver takes a cautiously optimistic look at the scientific advances that will allow us to engineer life in ways that were unimaginable just a few short years ago—indeed, in ways that go far beyond cloning. In clear, engaging, and accessible prose, Silver demystifies the science behind a myriad of thrilling and frightening new possibilities, in a book that is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the hopes and dilemmas of the American family in the twenty-first century.
About the Author
Lee M. Silver is professor of molecular biology and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton Uni-versity, and author of Challenging Nature. He holds a Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard University, and he lives with his family in New Jersey and New York.
Read an Excerpt
A Glimpse of Things to Come
DATELINE BOSTON: JUNE 1, 2010
Someone in the not-so-distant future, you may visit the maternity ward at a major university hospital to see the newborn child or grandchild of a close friend. The new mother, let's call her Barbara, seems very much at peace w~ the world, sitting in a chair quietly nursing her baby, Max. Her labor was in ~e parlance of her doctor"uneventful," and she is looking forward to raising her first child. You decide to make pleasant conversation by asking Barbara whether she knew in advance that her baby was going to be a boy. In your mind, it seems like a perfectly reasonable question since doctors have long given prospective parents the option of learning the sex of their child to-be many months before the predicted date of birth. But Barbara seems taken aback by the question. "Of course I knew that Max would be a boy ' she tells you. "My husband Dan and I chose him from our embryo pool. And when I'm ready to go through this again, I'll choose a girl to be my second child. An older son and a younger daughter a perfect family."
Now, it's your turn to be taken aback. "You made a conscious to have a boy rather than a girl?," you ask.
"Absolutely!," Barbara answers. "And while I was at it, I made sure that Max wouldn't turn out to be fat like my brother Tom or addicted to alcohol like Dan's sister Karen. It's not that I'm personally biased or any thing," Barbara continues defensively. "I just wanted to make sure that Max would have the greatest chance for achieving success. Being overweight or alcoholic would clearly be a handicap"
You look down in wonderment at the little baby boy destined to bemoderate in both size and drinking habits.
Max has fallen asleep in Barbara's arms, and she places him gently in his bassinet. He wears a contented smile, which evokes a similar smile from his mother. Barbara feels the urge to stretch her legs and asks whether you'd like to meet some of the new friends she's made during her brief stay at the hospital. You nod, and the two of you walk into the room next door where a thirty-five-year old woman named Cheryl is resting after giving birth to a nine-pound baby girl named Rebecca.
Barbara introduces you to Cheryl as well as a second woman named Madelaine, who stands by the bed holding Cheryl's hand. Little Rebecca is lying under the gaze of both Cheryl and Madelaine. "She really does look like both of her mothers, doesn't she?," Barbara asks you.
Now you're really confused. You glance at Barbara and whisper "Both mothers?"
Barbara takes you aside to explain. "Yes. You see Cheryl and Madelaine have been living together for eight years. They got married in Hawaii soon after it became legal there, and like most married couples, they wanted to bring a child into the world with a combination of both of their bloodlines. With the reproductive technologies available today, they were able to fulfill their dreams."
You look across the room at the happy little nuclear familyCheryl, Madelaine, and baby Rebeccaand wonder how the hospital plans to fill out the birth certificate.
Copyright ) 1997 by Lee M. Silver