Challenging Nature
published by Ecco/Harper Collins, 2006
Professor of molecular biology and public policy in the Woodrow Wilson school of Public & International Affairs at Princeton University
Lee Silver photo
Princeton Courses
Stephen Colbert and Lee Silver

2008 Annual Question on The Edge
Stories published in Newsweek International
Year of Miracles: Biology Reborn (Cover Story, Newsweek International, October 7, 2007)
Playing God: Life 2.0 (Cover Story, Newsweek International, June 4, 2007)
Human-animal chimeras: from mythology to biotechnology (Newsweek International, July 31, 2006)
Blog Debate
Recent articles, essays, and commentary in the popular press.
Embryonic Stem Cells may be Totipotent (Bioethics Forum, Feb. 29, 2008)
Embryonic Manipulations of George Orwell Bush(American Council on Science & Health, June 21, 2007)
Can "science" be used to prove that one-cell human embryos are equivalent to human beings?
A first response to Robert George and Patrick Lee (National Review Online, October 19, 2006)
A second response to Robert George and Patrick Lee (National Review Online, January 23, 2007)
Therapeutic Potential of Embryonic stem cells: hype flows both ways (American Council on Science & Health, November 1, 2006)
Why Mother Nature can't be trusted. (The Scientist, July 2006)
The dirty truth about "organic food." (New York Academy of Sciences Update, July 2006)
The Sweet, Sweet, Motherhood
written by Jeremy Kareken in collaboration with Lee Silver
Winner of the 4th Annual "Two-Headed Challenge" co-sponsored by The Playwrights' Center and Guthrie Theater, The Sweet, Sweet, Motherhood had a world premiere reading at the 25th Annual PlayLabs Festival in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 20, 2007.  The two-actor play explores the ambiguous meaning of "human being" within the context of an ambiguous professor-student relationship and a species-defying senior thesis in biology. (Click here for review.)

Reviews of Challenging Nature
"A valuable exposition of the rationalist's view of the world, showing how seriously it differs from many widely held beliefs,. . . how the ingrained rule of thumb, natural equals good, unnatural equals bad, makes people instinctively oppose laboratory forms of genetic manipulation. He argues eloquently that biotechnology holds the solution to many serious problems but is being shackled by public misperceptions." (Nicholas Wade, New York Times)
"In this thought-provoking book, molecular biologist Lee Silver defends science, biotechnology and post-Enlightenment values, which have come under attack by two ostensibly divergent groups in Western society: the religious right and the eco-environmentalist left.  .  .  The great strengths of this book are the depth, breadth and passion of the arguments it musters to help all rationalist protagonists to conduct head-on arguments along the fault-lines of the Enlightenment debate more effectively." (Nature Biotechnology - click for full review)
"Silver has his own deep reverence for nature, but in his wise, realistic view, nature includes even our capacity for intentional control. In remaking the world according to our deliberate designs, we are not violating Mother Nature but instead expressing a rather complex, recursive aspect of nature itself. Although a hard-boiled scientific rationalist, Silver’s humanitarian hope is that 'Biotechnology could alleviate human suffering, increase the quality of life in all societies, and maximize the health of the biosphere.' . . a well-crafted argument that will help realize these hopes."  (Thomas Clark, New England Journal of Medicine)
"an eloquent, well-traveled, and well-read counterbalance for Leon Kass and Jeremy Rifkin . . . [Challenging Nature] provides insight into and ammunition against almost any anti-biotechnology argument scientists are likely to encounter. . . a good injection of the rationalist view into one of the most important debates of our time. And Silver does so in a way that should be equally accessible and enjoyable to the general reader and the professional scientist, ethicist, or theologian."   (Michael A. Goldman, Science)
"The archetype of mortal defiance, Prometheus has found a new champion. Outspoken molecular biologist Silver argues that only scientists willing to join Prometheus in challenging divine prohibitions will ever deliver on the promise of new genetic technologies. . . this book will surely fuel precisely the kind of debate Silver recognizes as essential in a democracy sorting out perplexing scientific possibilities." (Bryce Christensen, Featured Booklist review)
"Silver gleefully eviscerates the motley preachers, pundits, philosophers, and politicians who, he argues, hinder science on the basis of a vague belief that biotechnology trespasses where mere mortals dare not go. Silver's ruminations run the gamut, from cloning and genetically engineered plants to the existence of a human soul, but his skepticism, while harsh, is also uplifting in its exaltation of science. . . Highly recommended." (Gregg Sapp, Library Journal)
[Challenging Nature] is based on science, but don't let that scare you off. The writing is straightforward and simple - no scientific mumbo-jumbo. And the ideas presented are both lucid and sensible [and] will likely challenge your preconceived notions of what biotechnology is and offers. (P.J. Slinger, Capital Times, Madison, WI)
"Silver's provocative ideas and his graceful prose open new avenues for discussion of the challenges that face science and spirituality." (Publisher's Weekly)
"Probing, controversial, well-documented and often persuasive." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Silver has been one of the few researchers with both the credentials and the gift of phrasing to articulate what some other scientists thought but wouldn't say." (Brian Alexander, San Deigo Union-Tribune)
"The threat to science from what Silver calls the spiritual left may already have overtaken the threat from the religious right. Now it's time to apply our collective energy to counter the rise in mysticism and fall of skeptical inquiry. . . you could do worse than to proffer copies of Silver's book [to acquaintances and students]."  (Editorial by Richard Gallagher, The Scientist)
"The title may be Challenging Nature, but the real challenge is to the reader. This one will make you think, perhaps in realms you've avoided." (John Monaghan, The Providence Journal)

Brief biosketch of Lee M. Silver
Dr. Lee M. Silver is a professor at Princeton University in the Department of Molecular Biology and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. His doctorate is in biophysics from Harvard University. Silver's most recent book is "Challenging Nature: The clash of biotechnology and spirituality." According to one reviewer, Silver "gleefully eviscerates the motley preachers, pundits, philosophers, and politicians who, he argues, hinder science on the basis of a vague belief that biotechnology trespasses where mere mortals dare not go."  His previous book for a popular audience is Remaking Eden, published in 16 languages. He is also the author of Mouse Genetics (a textbook for professionals), coeditor of Teratocarcinoma Stem Cells, and coauthor of the undergraduate text Genetics: from genes to genomes.  He has written for The New York Times, Washington Post, Time, and Newsweek International and has published over 180 scholarly articles. He has appeared on numerous television and radio programs including NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, the Jim Lehrer PBS News Hour, Nova, ABC Nightline, The ABC World Report with Peter Jennings, the Charlie Rose Show, 20/20, 60 Minutes, and many others in the U.S. and other countries.
Silver is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the recipient of a  National Institutes of Health MERIT award for outstanding research in genetics. He is currently a trustee of the American Council on Science and Health and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the nonprofit Seattle Institute of Systems Biology. He has also consulted for the U.S. State Department, the National Institutes of Health, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and governmental agencies in Denmark, Germany, Spain, and South Korea, and has provided expert testimony in prominent legal cases involving reproductive rights.
For a more detailed biography, click here.

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