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ss triple helix - summer 2014,  Beyond Human?

Beyond Human?

Science and the Changing Face of Humanity
John Bryant

Lion Hudson, 2013, £9.99, Pb 253pp, ISBN 9780745953960
Reviewed by Peter May, retired General Practitioner

The author is Professor Emeritus of Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Exeter. He is also an accomplished writer. His detailed research interests have not narrowed his vision or his wide interests in contemporary affairs. He opens this book with three chapters scanning the history of humanity. I suspect that younger readers, who learned little history at school, will find these chapters particularly informative. This overview sets the context for evaluating the benefits and challenges of medical science today.

A short chapter on moral philosophy leads into a longer review of genetics and human disease. Having always found grasping the complexity of genetics something of an uphill struggle, this treatment was for me informative, clear and readable. Written with the layman in mind, the book is an excellent primer for medical students, and its detailed index makes it a valuable reference work for professionals of various sorts, who find it difficult to keep up with these current and challenging developments.

The big question is whether they are transforming humanity. The interface of biology with technology is fascinating and Bryant offers shrewd comments on media speculations and moral values. For me, this book became all the more rewarding as it progressed.

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