Written by a biology professor, How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction is a very serious book about bringing back to life extinct species. It discusses the technical challenges (with, I imagine, simplified discussions of what were for me head-spinning topics such as non-homologous end joining of DNA strands — yikes!), along with the ecological and ethical questions of whether we should attempt to bring back animals at all. Which animals should we bring back? what problems may be solved or created by bringing them back? It’s a lot more complicated that a touch of genetic engineering. Even if we could bring back the mammoth of the title, how would we manage to bring back enough of them so they could function as they need to, in a group? Could they really change the climate of the Arctic, and, if so, that of the entire planet? A wonderful book, even if you must skip the technical parts.
Tag Archives: genetic engineering
Here’s a good horror book for Halloween: Rock Creek Park starts with a single, disfigured body, but within a few days and a few down pages the body count inches up, “normally”, I dare to say, as befits a detective novel. But midway through the book, as chimps are bred with humans (adapted from The Violinist’s Thumb and its Russian mad scientists) and spy agencies from three countries collide, there are hundreds of corpses and any pretense that this political intrigue could really happen melts away. Too bad, the investigator hero is interesting (if impossibly sleep-deprived!)
According to the author of Uncertain Peril, Bush’s largest wrongdoing in his handling of the Iraq war is not the killing or torturing of civilians, no, it’s the destruction of the seed bank of Baghdad. Seriously? While I understand the wisdom and need to preserve a diversity of seeds for the long-term safety of all of us, surely we should put human lives ahead of seeds — and in any case there are other seed-preserving efforts around the world so no irreplaceable treasure was lost.
To be sure, the author can rant equally well against the ravages of the Bush administration and those of … UC Berkeley, not known to be a close ally of the Bush camp, whose evil ways are proven, according to her, because any university that dares to manipulate DNA must be serving the interests of the (obviously evil) large agribusiness companies.
While I would be sympathetic to a rational argument that unchecked genetic engineering can be dangerous and we should exert some control over same agribusiness companies her rant made me close the book. Does she seriously think that the right way to do agriculture is to process the rice harvest by hand, as she describes as they do in Vietnam where thousands of women painstakingly dry out the rice right on the street, while men drink beer? Let’s think rather than rant and find a judicious balance between wild experimenting and retreating to the stone age.