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ss triple helix - summer 2001,  Babel's Shadow -Genetic Technologies in a Fracturing Society (Book Review)

Babel's Shadow -Genetic Technologies in a Fracturing Society (Book Review)

Babel's Shadow -Genetic Technologies in a Fracturing Society - Pete Moore - Oxford 2000 - £18.00 pp 256 HB - ISBN 0 7459 4423 X

If you want to update yourself with molecular biology and the implications of the human genome project, then this is the book for you. Pete Moore's name may be familiar as series editor of the CMF Files. He has a gift for making complicated technology easy to understand. The early chapters, which describe molecular technology, are a model of his lucidity. The following chapters contain discussions on the medical applications of this technology, personhood, personality and the role of personal responsibility as the genetic bases for personality traits are discovered. Cloning, insurance, employment and forensic issues are all tackled, and a balanced view on the implications for each are given.

The author's Christian viewpoint is frequently expressed. He uses a metaphor of a new tower of Babel, with 'technology man' saying: 'Come let us build ourselves an industry... so that we may make a name for ourselves, build future generations to our own specifications and not be afflicted by any disease or illness'.

He stresses our need to be aware of pressure from different sources: parents for flawless babies, professionals to deliver these and health economists to reduce the number of individuals suffering from expensive, chronic disability. He argues that the possibility of altering genes must not distract us from our responsibility to alter society, and that market forces must not be allowed to control these new developments. He states that genetic technology has potential for good but only if we are prepared to use it in a spirit of humility and concern for our neighbour. Pete Moore believes that we are unable to assess the inflated claims often made unless we have some basic understanding of the new technology. Reading this book is the first stage to making a contribution in this vital area.

Reviewed by
Caroline Berry
Emeritus Consultant Geneticist, London

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