Synopses & Reviews
Our fates lie in our genes and not in the stars, said James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. But Watson could not have predicted the scale of the industry now dedicated to this new frontier. Since the launch of the multibillion-dollar Human Genome Project, the biosciences have promised miracle cures and radical new ways of understanding who we are. But where is the new world we were promised?
In Genes, Cells and Brains, feminist sociologist Hilary Rose and neuroscientist Steven Rose take on the bioscience industry and its claims. Examining the establishment of biobanks, the rivalries between public and private genesequencers, and the rise of stem cell research, they ask why the promised cornucopia of health benefits has failed to emerge and reveal the questionable enterprise that has grown out of bioethics. The human body is becoming a commodity, and the unfulfilled promises of the science behind this revolution suggest profound failings in genomics itself.
"Although biotechnology has become a multibillion dollar business, the actual benefits to individuals have been surprisingly rare, according to the Roses (Alas Poor Darwin), she a sociologist and he a biologist in England. They do an impressive job of providing brief histories of the rise of the Human Genome Project, stem-cell research, and the field of neuroscience, documenting the claims proponents of each have made about the way medicine would be transformed and arguing that virtually none of the promised benefits have come to pass. They offer both scientific and sociological explanations for the lack of results. On the scientific front, they explain how the underlying biology is far more complex than originally thought while, from a sociological perspective, they posit a business model that privileges the wealthy and disregards important issues associated with race and class. Their political perspective is clear: 'Since the banking meltdown of 2007‚--ì08, the neoliberal leaders of Europe and the U.S. are agreed that the welfare of the majority, above all the most vulnerable, must be replaced by welfare payments to bankers.' Some will find this argument powerful, others strident, but many will find much to consider.
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"While I generally turn down requests for an endorsement of a book, I must make an exception for the superb analysis of a very important topic by Hilary Rose and Steve Rose. Genes, Cells and Brains refutes with authority the extravagant claims that everything that ails us will be cured by modern molecular and cellular biology. They show that despite the self-serving hype produced by both academic and entrepreneurial science, we still do not understand how the brain works nor can we avoid the thousand shocks that flesh is heir to." Richard Lewontin, author of < i=""> The Triple Helix <>
"Whatever else we may need for the public understanding of science, we certainly do need the facts contained in this book. The Roses show how rapidly the ideal of disinterested scientific research has been evaporating since Mammon has been welcomed into the laboratory. Immense and still increasing profits have been made by people who have repeatedly promised various holy grails—discoveries expected to arise from genetic and cerebral research—but comparatively little of real use has emerged from that quarter. In particular, Genes, Cells and Brains shows how the recent expansion of the neurosciences, which was widely hailed as the dawn of a new psychiatry, has actually had little effect. Plainly this research has done little to check the steadily continuing increase in mental illness. Altogether, this is a rather blood-curdling but fascinating book and a much-needed alarm call!" Mary Midgley, author of < i=""> Animals and Why They Matter <>
"What brilliant and energetic warriors Hilary Rose and Steven Rose have been! Reading this book is to visit the innumerable battlefields on which they have fought over half a century. The battle cries have now softened into gentler irony, but the pace of the writing is superb. Anybody who wants an incisive and radical perspective on the excessive claims made for human genome project, sociobiology, neurosciences, or human discrimination against other humans, should read this book." Patrick Bateson, author (with Peter Gluckman) of < i=""> Plasticity, Robustness, Development and Evolution <>
"Rose and Rose provide incisive analyses of the successes of the new biology at improving corporate profits while failing to do much to improve human health. This is a valuable therapy for all of us suffering from the inflated promises and huge costs of the new biology, and a splendid resource for reinvigorating the Radical Science Movement in today’s global political economy." Sandra Harding, UCLA Professor and author of < i=""> The Science Question in Feminism <>
"Genes, Cells and Brains offers a complex, compelling picture of the social and political challenges emerging around biotechnological investment, promise and hype." Maureen McNeil, Professor and Associate Director, Cesagen: ESRC Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics
Dissecting the hype from the frontiers of bioethics, genomics and neuroscience.
About the Author
is Emerita Professor at Bradford University and Visiting Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics.
Steven Rose is Emeritus Professor of Life Sciences at the Open University. Long active in the politics of sciences, their joint books include Science and Society and Alas Poor Darwin.