Beyond Biotechnology: The Barren Promise of Genetic Engineering

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University Press of Kentucky, Sep 12, 2010 - Science - 272 pages
In 2001 the Human Genome Project announced that it had successfully mapped the entire genetic content of human DNA. Scientists, politicians, theologians, and pundits speculated about what would follow, conjuring everything from nightmare scenarios of state-controlled eugenics to the hope of engineering disease-resistant newborns. As with debates surrounding stem-cell research, the seemingly endless possibilities of genetic engineering will continue to influence public opinion and policy into the foreseeable future. Beyond Biotechnology: The Barren Promise of Genetic Engineering distinguishes between the hype and reality of this technology and explains the nuanced and delicate relationship between science and nature. Authors Craig Holdrege and Steve Talbott evaluate the current state of genetic science and examine its potential applications, particularly in agriculture and medicine, as well as the possible dangers. The authors show how the popular view of genetics does not include an understanding of the ways in which genes actually work together in organisms. Simplistic and reductionist views of genes lead to unrealistic expectations and, ultimately, disappointment in the results that genetic engineering actually delivers. The authors explore new developments in genetics, from the discovery of “non-Darwinian” adaptative mutations in bacteria to evidence that suggests that organisms are far more than mere collections of genetically driven mechanisms. While examining these issues, the authors also answer vital questions that get to the essence of genetic interaction with human biology: Does DNA “manage” an organism any more than the organism manages its DNA? Should genetically engineered products be labeled as such? Do the methods of the genetic engineer resemble the centuries-old practices of animal husbandry? Written for lay readers, Beyond Biotechnology is an accessible introduction to the complicated issues of genetic engineering and its potential applications. In the unexplored space between nature and laboratory, a new science is waiting to emerge. Technology-based social and environmental solutions will remain tenuous and at risk of reversal as long as our culture is alienated from the plants and animals on which all life depends.

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Contents

10 The Cow
111
11 The Forbidden Question
123
12 What Does It Mean to Be a Sloth?
132
13 The Language of Nature
157
14 Delicate Empiricism
202
Acknowledgments
229
References
231
Index
247

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Page 35 - The eight goals are to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a Global Partnership for Development (UNDP 2003).
Page 164 - Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world; all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it.
Page 171 - It is even harder to realize that this present universe has evolved from an unspeakably unfamiliar early condition, and faces a future extinction of endless cold or intolerable heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.
Page 172 - In my opinion the answer to this question is, briefly, this: as far as the propositions of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
Page 163 - Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true.
Page 96 - It is not my aim to surprise or shock you— if indeed that were possible in an age of nuclear fission and prospective interplanetary travel. But the simplest way I can summarize is to say that there are now in the world machines that think, that learn and that create. Moreover, their ability to do these things is going to increase rapidly until — in a visible future—the range of problems they can handle will be coextensive with the range to which the human mind has been applied.
Page 80 - But evolution can be just damn cruel, and to say that we've got a perfect genome and there's some sanctity to it, I'd just like to know where the idea comes from.
Page 63 - gene' is completely free from any hypotheses; it expresses only the evident fact that, in any case, many characteristics of the organism are specified in the gametes by means of special conditions, foundations, and determiners which are present in unique, separate, and thereby independent ways — in short, precisely what we wish to call genes.
Page 164 - It may well be true that this system of equations is reasonable from a logical standpoint. But this does not prove that it corresponds to nature.

About the author (2010)

Craig Holdrege, director of the Nature Institute, is the author of Genetics and the Manipulation of Life: The Forgotten Factor of Context and The Giraffe’s Long Neck: From Evolutionary Fable to Whole Organism. He lives in Ghent, New York. Steve Talbott, senior researcher at the Nature Institute, is the author of Devices of the Soul: Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines. He lives in Ghent, New York.

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