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Matthew Cobb — As Gods: A Moral History of the Genetic Age

As Gods: A Moral History of the Genetic Age (book cover)

Shermer and Cobb discuss:

  • Political objections to genetic engineering
  • Religious objections to genetic engineering
  • Cultural objections to genetic engineering
  • Selective breeding as genetic engineering
  • Recombinant DNA
  • Asilomar conference on the ethics of genetics
  • Patenting life
  • Gene therapy
  • Gene editing
  • Literature and films on the dangers of genetic engineering: Brave New World, The Andromeda Strain, The Boys from Brazil, Gattaca, Jurassic Park, The Manchurian Candidate, Frankenstein
  • Genetically engineered bioweapons
  • Nature/Nurture and the 3 Laws of Behavior Genetics:

    1. All human behavioral traits are heritable.
    2. The effect of being raised in the same family is smaller than the effect of the genes.
    3. A substantial portion of the variation in complex human behavioral traits is not accounted for by the effects of genes or families.”
  • What people fear about behavior genetics:

    1. The Fear of Inequality
    2. The Fear of Imperfectibility
    3. The Fear of Determinism:
    4. The Fear of Nihilism.

Matthew Cobb is a professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Manchester. He is the author of six books: The Idea of the Brain: A History; Life’s Greatest Secret: The Race to Crack the Genetic Code; Generation; The Resistance: The French Fight Against the Nazis; Eleven Days in August: The Liberation of Paris in 1944; and Smell: A Very Short Introduction. He lives in England.

About the Book

In 2018, scientists manipulated the DNA of human babies for the first time. As biologist and science historian Matthew Cobb shows in As Gods, this achievement was one many scientists have feared from the start of the genetic age. Four times in the last fifty years, geneticists, frightened by their own technology, have called a temporary halt to their experiments. They ought to be frightened: Now we have powers that can target the extinction of pests, change our own genes, or create dangerous new versions of diseases in an attempt to prevent future pandemics. Both awe-inspiring and chilling, As Gods traces the history of genetic engineering, showing that this revolutionary technology is far too important to be left to the scientists. They have the power to change life itself, but should we trust them to keep their ingenuity from producing a hellish reality?

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This episode is sponsored by Wondrium:

Wondrium (sponsor)

This episode was released on December 27, 2022.

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