REMAKING EDEN: CLONING AND BEYOND IN A BRAVE NEW WORLD, by Lee M. Silver. Avon Books, $ 23; 315 pp.
As the twentieth century draws to a close, breakthroughs in reproductive genetics, of which cloning is only one example, may give scientists the power to alter our evolutionary future in ways once only dreamed of by futurists and snake oil salesmen. Two books, one by Princeton biologist Lee Silver and the other by New York Times science writer Gina Kolata, set forth to make some sense of this brave new future. Why is Dolly such a big deal when for several years scientists have been able to clone other animals--and thereby create identical twins--from embryo cells? As both Kolata and Silver tell us, never before were scientists successful in cloning from a mature, differentiated adult cell. This means, in theory, that a flake of your skin, a snippet of your hair, or a sample of your blood could be used to create your identical twin.
While Clone takes the reader down the road that led to Dolly, Lee Silver's Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World is an overview of where reproductive technologies might take us in the future. The book opens with a series of scenarios that posit a future filled with cloning, genetic engineering, and even the speciation of the American population, by the year 2350, into those who are genetically enhanced (Gene-enriched or GenRich) and those who are not (Naturals, consigned by class to their nonengineered fates). These scenarios are intended to make us consider the possibilities--or perhaps the inevitabilities--of such technologies.
Remaking Eden takes the reader on a fascinating tour of new techniques in human reproductive biology--from the now familiar artificial insemination process to the well known and not yet practiced eugenic embryo selection and genetic engineering. The descriptions are instructive, but the author sometimes embraces these technologies with such fervor that the reader is left wondering whether Silver is already planning his life in a brave new world. If Aldous Huxley's classic novel taught us anything, it was that the unfettered use of scientific technologies can present a danger to human freedom and dignity. Huxley once said: "Science in itself is morally neutral; it becomes good or evil according as it is applied." We must take care, particularly in this biologically deterministic age, not to embrace this power without considering where it might lead us. The two books under review offer excellent introductions to these issues.Michael Yudell is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He is also a graduate student in the Molecular Systematics Laboratory at the American Museum of Natural History