Synopses & Reviews
In the past century and a half, the evolution of biology has outstripped that of any of its subjects. Since Darwin's monumentally influential but rudimentary discoveries, biologists have advanced their knowledge of genetics and genomics with such astonishing speed as to be able not just to understand life processes but also to control them. While expanding our therapeutic and reproductive capabilities, these innovations also serve to obscure the very notion of life and its sanctity. In The Second Tree, award-winning journalist Elaine Dewar seriously reexamines our identity, rights, and responsibilities in a world where scientists can invent new creatures at their whim. She also turns her journalistic eye to the culture of acquisitiveness and secrecy at the highest levels of biological research, revealing the scientific community as one in which greed has replaced intellectual curiosity as the primary motivation of advancement, and in which the race for near-omnipotence is veiled by a supposed desire to do good. This is a powerful and fascinating book about an elite group of researchers who see mortality itself as just another disorder that they intend to cure—and the moral ramifications of their work.
"Canadian journalist Dewar's book is as much a personal journey as an examination of the science, ethics and politics of cutting-edge biology. It's structured around the author's comprehensive set of interviews with leading figures in stem cell research and reproductive cloning technology; with ethicists attempting to come to grips with the complex moral issues these studies raise; and with Canadian politicians working to regulate scientific research. Although Dewar (Bones: Discovering the First Americans) does a very good job of presenting both the science and the excitementof the field, she falters by giving herself far too great a presence, endlessly discussing her scientific ignorance and explaining how she's come to ask the questions she's posing. The scientific advances are breathtaking (companies breeding cloned farm animals, scientists growing heart muscle from embryonic stem cells) and the ethical questions perplexing (is manipulating a human egg immoral? when is the potential to become human replaced with the actuality of being human?). Dewar insinuates that many of those involved in this research are looking for personal glory. Unfortunately, she neither demonstrates this conclusively nor answers the host of political questions currently swirling around biotechnology. And many American readers may find the extended focus on Canadian politics too narrow. Agent, Ron Eckel, Random House Canada." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
An award-winning journalist seriously reexamines humanity's identity, rights, and responsibilities in a world where scientists can invent new creatures at their whim.