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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
The New Eugenics: Modifying Biological Life in the 21st Century by Conrad B. Quintyn is a non-fiction science book that takes a deep look into the ethics of gene manipulation and its implementation across a broad range of fronts. Over the course of fifteen distinct chapters, Quintyn covers everything from what the new eugenics actually is to in-vitro “designer babies”, CRISPR gene editing—hailed as molecular scissors—and the question of ethical application of any form of editing for therapy versus enhancement, as well as regulation, risk, transparency, unintended outcomes and consequence, and the possible collapse of life's natural evolution, as well as a complete disruption to the earth's ecology, among many other things.
A couple of years back I read an article in the MIT Technology Review about the fallacy of believing that designer babies are a product of some far-off future; they're already here. It was a long time ago but it somehow stuck with me, so when The New Eugenics fell into my lap the nerd in me did a happy dance. It didn't last long. Conrad B. Quintyn takes out the big guns with a narrative that is thought-provoking, particularly as we start to warm up, but begins to feel scary as he scratches below the surface. And I mean way, way below the surface. The impact could be absolutely catastrophic, turning entire populations into endangered species, disadvantaging further those who were not the product of genetic engineering as the inferior of our species as a whole. The most interesting part to me is the mutations used to recreate human organs in a double-edged sword that throws the ethics of the field on the whole into murky water. The biggest issue is, as it always has been, how thick that watery line is, and at what point have we gone too far? It's hard to say, but I believe the middle ground is covered well by Quintyn when he writes, “Technology should be used to help solve problems, as long as humans do not become slaves to it.”