The New Eugenics

Modifying Biological Life in the 21st Century

Non-Fiction - Social Issues
424 Pages
Reviewed on 02/24/2021
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Author Biography

The impetus for writing this book came after reading Daniel J. Kevles’s book In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity, first published by Harvard University Press in 1985. Although all the chapters of Kevles’s book were quite stimulating, chapter 17, “A New Eugenics,” really piqued my interest. In this chapter, Kevles presented a short history of the research that led to genetic engineering (such as cloning amphibians, in vitro fertilization, and recombinant DNA) and the determination of geneticists to “reduce the incidence of genetic disease in the population.” In addition, Kevles made it clear that cloning, germinal choice, and sperm banks—echoes of the “old” eugenics—were intertwined with genetic engineering. Outside of Kevles’s book, genetic engineering and medical genetics have been an interest (and concern) of mine since my postgraduate studies in biological anthropology. As a student of evolutionary biology, I worry about human impact on future evolutionary change through biotechnology and the Anthropocene—the period of greatest human impact on Earth’s biotic and abiotic resources. Humans’ impact on the natural environment over the past twelve thousand years—through the agricultural revolution, civilization, the Industrial Revolution, and the atomic revolution—has been so great that the negative effects are still apparent today in terms of infectious and noninfectious diseases (such as respiratory diseases and cancers) and global warming.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers' Favorite

The New Eugenics: Modifying Biological Life in the 21st Century by Conrad B. Quintyn is a powerful expose of what the author calls “New Eugenics.” Eugenics has been understood, until now, as a practice that aims at improving the human species by selectively mating people with specific hereditary traits. It is a practice aimed at eliminating diseases and certain disabilities or undesirable traits in the human population. In this book, the author demonstrates how biotechnology has enhanced this practice, ushering in the age of new eugenics. While scientists are able to use procedures such as in vitro fertilization, genome editing, genetic engineering, and others to alter genetics, the consequences of these scientific practices on the human population and on human life, in general, are rarely considered. In this book, the author considers the ethical implications of new eugenics and asks the question: What are the limits of genetic engineering and how do we know when and where to draw the line?

The New Eugenics is an objective study of new eugenics and Conrad B. Quintyn explores the benefits it has on humanity and points out its dangers to human civilization as well. The author provokes thought in readers, inviting them to reflect on important subjects such as the sanctity of human life, the unintended harm to life resulting from the laissez-faire approach to new eugenics, the place of God’s design in human evolution, and a lot more. Conrad B. Quintyn shows, through his professional writing and references, that The New Eugenics: Modifying Biological Life in the 21st Century is a well-researched work. It takes intelligence and skill to write such a book, covering a variety of important topics while engaging readers in a frank and logical dialogue with science. It is filled with statistics and scientific facts that are accessible to the reader. This book invites readers and proponents of science to approach the subject with great discipline and a strong sense of responsibility. The book establishes the balance between ethics and science and asks important questions that the scientific community must consider.

Jamie Michele

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.”

Vincent Dublado

For most of us outside the circle of philosophy and bioethics, our preconceived notion of eugenics is that it was an integral part of Nazi Germany’s plan to create a master race. But as the perspective and practices of our new era continue to explore its medical and moral premises, eugenics is paving a new way to improve our lives. In The New Eugenics: Modifying Biological Life in the 21st Century, Dr. Conrad B. Quintyn builds a discussion on how eugenics is being used in the twenty-first century, and along with it are the moral implications and socio-political debates that it faces. Dr. Quintyn’s gist hinges on the modification of any biological life form and not just Homo sapiens—all for the purpose of creating a better way of life to the extent of playing God. Through data, research, and examples, the book shows how scientists walk the fine line between benefits and risks under many unknown variables.

No one objects in principle to using what we know of science to further improve humanity’s living conditions. What rouses criticism in its use is the bioethical aspect that goes with it. The New Eugenics once again shows expressed concerns on the return of this science as a noble medical concern that has the potential for being exploited by misplaced human ambitions. Quintyn also shows us the lessons of history and even literary works of fiction on the wrongs of the past and the folly of misguided and unregulated experiments. Whatever the future of eugenics, this book helps us to draw the important lesson in the progress of genetic engineering. A giant leap in medical science that is beset by pressing moral questions, it still does not negate the fact that modern eugenics must guide us now in order to come up with a just means to improve our lives by refashioning the human genome. You owe it to yourself to read this book, for you might one day decide how you want your descendants to carry on your genetic line.

Foluso Falaye

Over the past twelve thousand years, humans have had a significant impact on the natural environment through the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, civilization, and the Atomic Revolution. This has led to many negative effects that still exist today: infectious and non-infectious diseases—including cancers and respiratory diseases—and global warming. Furthermore, biotechnology is advancing globally at an alarming rate, and the regulations are being stretched beyond their limits. The New Eugenics brings our attention to the long-term effects of genetic engineering on the genome of biological organisms in a world where many scientists are guilty of overestimating the benefits and underestimating the risks of their research in a bid to acquire fame and fortune. To elaborate on the new eugenics gene therapy, Conrad B. Quintyn also discusses cloning, artificial reproductive technologies, nanobiotechnology and nanomedicine, xenobiology, genetic editing, isolation of embryonic stem (ES) cells, and synthetic biology.

Philip Wylie states, "Ignorance is not bliss it is oblivion." The fate of the earth should definitely not be decided by scientists alone, and the public should know the full extent of the effects of the innovations being introduced in the fields of genetic engineering and the new eugenics. Conrad B. Quintyn aims to do this with The New Eugenics. Readers are provided with an in-depth, well-researched revelation about what modifying biological life entails in the 21st century from the political, philosophical, moral, historical, and social points of view. I recommend The New Eugenics to all who are concerned about preserving life as it depicts how science is being used to impact different organisms and its intended and unintended effects on the environment. This is something that concerns us all as humans.

Rabia Tanveer

The New Eugenics: Modifying Biological Life in the 21st Century by Conrad B. Quintyn is a commentary on modern science and how it drastically changes human life. Medicine is changing, and the author believes doctors are going one step too far to find cures. Gene manipulation is a common practice now, and it is crossing the limits of ethics. From designer babies to gene manipulation to risky virus testing in animals, the author profoundly touches upon all of them and brings a cohesive warning that all must heed. The risks of these enhancement procedures are far more significant than their advantages. The scientists are not only playing with fire; they are opening a cesspool of disease and mutation that might change the world as we know it. The nature of things is disrupted, and that is bound to create chaos.

Conrad B. Quintyn creates a compelling argument that speaks to readers. He offers a vast, persuasive narrative that talks about facts and not just ideas or conspiracy theories. Viruses like COVID-19 can have even more devastating effects on human life, and the experiments being performed on mammals can only end in disaster. The new eugenics can introduce new mental and physical ailments that the human race might not recover from. The author has an almost clinical approach to the topic. He takes his sources from facts and elaborates them with more valid points. Every argument the author makes has a trail that any knowledgeable reader can trace. The narrative is technical without being too complicated. He does not blow things out of proportion; The New Eugenics will speak to all readers' minds.

K.C. Finn

The New Eugenics: Modifying Biological Life in the 21st Century is a work of non-fiction in the science sub-genre. It is suitable for all ages and was written by author Conrad B. Quintyn. The book explores the social implications of cutting-edge technology currently being used today to repair defects in humans. In particular, what sort of discrimination and injustice does this treatment open the general public up to? Issues such as will people who were genetically altered in vitro develop a ‘master race’ mentality, or potentially even be the source of a disadvantageous new mutation are explored throughout.

The field of ethics in science, in particular in the specialism of medicine, has the potential to be a serious minefield for even the most seasoned academics and practitioners. It should always be remembered that with every action comes an equal and opposite reaction, but most people shy away from this reality when it comes to developing the cutting-edge medicine used to fight diseases. Within this book, however, author Conrad B. Quintyn never shies away from asking difficult questions. The debates held on these topics are fair and balanced and written without bias, and they are important debates to have. The language used in the discussion is accessible enough for a layman to keep up with the technical aspects of the debate so as to not get lost when the wider social and ethical ramifications are discussed. The New Eugenics: Modifying Biological Life in the 21st Century is an absolute must for those considering a career in medical research, as it explores important questions that can too often be swept under the carpet.

Steven Robson

The New Eugenics: Modifying Biological Life In The Twenty-First Century by Conrad B. Quintyn, Ph.D. is a snapshot of the current state-of-play in the highly complex world of genetic research, looking at the incredible advances within this scientific field and the possible ramifications of its application now and into the future. Genetic manipulation carries a huge weight of responsibility, not just to humanity, but to the entire biology of Planet Earth, and the moral and ethical questions surrounding any such alterations are not only difficult to wrestle with but contain hints of future uncertainty that could prove catastrophic. These questions are perhaps some of the most difficult humanity will ever face, and combined with the facts that this development is being driven by researchers across the world with differing behavioral standards, and the outcomes of genetic alteration contain some elements that we simply do not know, we are left with some understanding of the minefield this new technology represents. If you are in any way familiar with CRISPR/Cas9, this is the book for you; for those not conversant with this technology, there is still much to be gained by reading The New Eugenics.

Conrad B. Quintyn, Ph.D. has created, in The New Eugenics: Modifying Biological Life In The Twenty-First Century, a book that by its very nature evokes a strong sense of wonder, amazement, and fear for the future of life on Earth. Some of the examples given where genetic manipulation can be applied are simply incredible: things like HIV resistance in people, transgenic potato plants capable of supplying hepatitis B vaccine, the ability to address a multitude of other ailments, including cancers and Alzheimer's, the ability to determine physical attributes, and even the potential to save endangered species. These are only a glimpse of what is potentially possible, and for all the excitement these concepts may provoke, they are always tempered by the other side of the coin; the dark world where genetic manipulation could become a tool of destruction on a massive scale should the wrong people gain access to the technology, or an error of judgment releases an alteration into the general public with dire consequences. In The New Eugenics, Conrad B. Quintyn has painted a clear picture of both sides of this coin; we can only hope it falls on the right side.

Romuald Dzemo

The New Eugenics: Modifying Biological Life in the 21st Century by Conrad B. Quintyn offers a critical look into what the author defines as “new eugenics,” which consists of using biotechnology to prevent or repair defects in human beings. While there have been giant steps and outstanding successes in genetic engineering, especially when it comes to genetic editing, there are also setbacks that can pose bigger problems to human culture. While the desire to heal some illnesses and enhance human biology can be laudable, the moral borders for the “new eugenics” are also not very clear. In this book, the author asks critical questions and provides answers that are as surprising as they are loaded with intelligence and commonsense thinking.

In his book, Conrad B. Quintyn asks the important question: How and where should the line be drawn for the Promethean task of genetic engineering? This book establishes the balance between public and social safety and scientific engineering. Readers will get a clear understanding of genetic engineering and medical genetics and their connection to biological anthropology. The book is filled with examples and procedures pursued by scientists to eliminate genetic illnesses such as in vitro fertilization and using pigs as organ farms for humans. The author writes in an authoritative voice, providing references to related works and presenting facts that are mind-boggling. The prose is exceptionally good, the arguments clearly stated, and the observant style of writing is captivating. The New Eugenics: Modifying Biological Life in the 21st Century is a bold statement that creates awareness of the pitfalls in genetic engineering and related sciences, a book that spells out what scientists need to do in order to help human beings grow stronger without violating the sacredness of their humanity. A brilliant critique of new eugenics that is informative and expertly written.