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Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life


Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Biotechnology is the oldest and most widespread of inventions, providing sustenance for humankind since the beginning of civilization. Until recently, however, its tools were crude and its implementation was opaque. Today new understanding in the life sciences brings both precision and transparency to the process. Modern inventions could alleviate human suffering, feed the world, and, at the same time, stem the tide of earth's ecological degradation. Yet ironically, biotechnology becomes evermore contentious. On the left, New Age secularists rail against genetically modified crops. On the right, religious Americans want embryo stem-cell research to be a felony. While they share seemingly little beyond mutual contempt, Silver argues that both political camps are driven (consciously or subconsciously) by a fundamental fear of violating a higher spiritual authority, imagined either as the creator God of the Bible, who rules from above, or a vague Mother Nature goddess here on earth.

In Challenging Nature, Silver offers a provocative look at the collision of science, religion, pseudoscience, and politics. A hands-on scientist who has actually manipulated genes, he leaves the laboratory, traveling the globe in what he calls “ one scientist's journey from a cloistered community, in which life is assumed to be combinations of complex molecules and information flow between them, to a world of humanity dominated by soul and spirits, and to the intense chaos of Mother Nature at large.” The result is a fascinating book that could provide a wake-up call for the West, where the economic ramifications of pseudoscience may be enormous: a future in which Asia becomes dominant inbiotechnological advances.

Book News Annotation:

Paid your deposit on your clone yet? Chosen which of your frozen embryos to contribute to medical experimentation? Silver (molecular biology and public affairs, Princeton U.)goes beyond flip questions such as these and instead focuses on the reasons why we panic and ask them. He looks both on the Left ("Don't genetically modify our food!") and the Right ("Don't conduct embryonic stem cell research!") to their spiritual sources, ranging from a cosmic thunderer on one end and an amorphous but nurturing blob on the other, and reminds readers of what science is intending to do. He discusses the issues of the soul in those embryonic stems cells, the various interpretations of Darwin, organic food and "all natural" medicines, and the advances of science in service of humankind. He then asks that we consider, carefully, culture, religion and ethics before we ask flip questions and make demands. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

About the Author

Lee M. Silver is professor of molecular biology and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton Uni-versity, and author of Challenging Nature. He holds a Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard University, and he lives with his family in New Jersey and New York.

Product Details

Silver, Lee M.
by Lee M. Silver
Business Ethics
Philosophy & Social Aspects
Religion and science
Life Sciences - Biology - General
Religion & Science
Science -- Moral and ethical aspects.
Science Reference-Philosophy of Science
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
June 2006
Grade Level:
9 x 6 x 1.41 in 26.48 oz

Related Subjects

Reference » Science Reference » Philosophy of Science
Religion » World Religions » Religion and Science
Science and Mathematics » Biology » General
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Genetics

Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life
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Product details 464 pages Ecco - English 9780060582678 Reviews:
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