Genes, Cells, and Brains: The Promethean Promises of the New Biology

Genes, Cells, and Brains: The Promethean Promises of the New Biology

Hilary Rose

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 178168314X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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 miraculous cures and radical new ways of understanding who we are. But where is the new world we were promised?

Now updated with a new afterword, Genes, Cells and Brains asks why the promised cornucopia of health benefits has failed to emerge and reveals the questionable enterprise that has grown out of bioethics. The authors, feminist sociologist Hilary Rose and neuroscientist Steven Rose, examine the establishment of biobanks, the rivalries between public and private gene sequencers, and the rise of stem cell research. The human body is becoming a commodity, and the unfulfilled promises of the science behind this revolution suggest profound failings in genomics itself.

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what these meant for the potential baby, their families and themselves.28 The autonomous, cognitively driven individual of principlist bioethics was nowhere to be seen; instead the women practised a relational ethics in order to find their way. Given the magnitude of the new biomedical technologies they faced, Rapp rightly calls these women ‘moral pioneers’. Here we see a bioethics from below in contrast to the bioethics from above of the professionals. Similarly, the DNA biobank established and

Science for the People. Students campaigned against the host of military contracts with the universities, and discovered that what Eisenhower had termed the military-industrial complex was now a military-industrial-scientific complex into which US universities were inextricably locked. Biologists were important in the struggle against scientific racism, with the collectively written pamphlet Sociobiology as a Social Weapon providing a powerful rebuttal.10 Individuals such as the palaeontologist

experiment known as MK-ULTRA offered any options.11 From the 1940s to the 1970s researchers at the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) had exposed Alaskan villagers to radioactive iodine, fed forty-nine learning disabled and institutionalised teenagers radioactive iron and calcium in their cereal, exposed 800 pregnant women, psychiatric patients and prisoners in San Quentin to radioactive material, and injected seven newborns with radioactive iodine.12 Field trials to test the dispersal of

so long taken it for granted that a woman would not want to give birth to a child with Down’s Syndrome, and would see screening as helpful, these challenges are both disturbing and long overdue. Defending women’s reproductive freedom while refusing to subscribe to an automatic categorisation of the life of a person with Down’s as not worth living is not easy. When the test can only indicate presence or absence and not the severity of the condition the argument becomes unsustainable, as is evident

and the Afghanistan morass). The technologies of these asymmetric wars are being brought back to police the cities of EuroAmerica.24 What the military theorists describe as low-intensity operations most require is information. Everyone knows about commercial digitalised data gathering and it is impossible not to notice the proliferation of CCTV cameras. But most have become indifferent, while the young openly resist, their hoodies a means of self-defence and their camera-phones a form of

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