In 2018, scientists manipulated the DNA of human babies for the first time. As biologist and 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.
Wonderful...a thoughtful, lively and evocative exposition of the history of genetic engineering ... Matthew Cobb is very clear that this conversation should include more than just scientific specialists.
Deeply researched and often deeply troubling ... His conscientious approach can occasionally result in the tone of a citation-rich textbook; Cobb has a scientist’s interest in detail, packing some sections with almost step-by-step descriptions of intricate experiments ... But the level of attention also allows Cobb to illuminate his search for decency and honor in a morally complex field ... The rush to gene-editing brings Cobb to a kind of crisis of conscience. He is a scientist with deep respect for the profession; he’s worked with genetically modified organisms and knows they can be used for good. And yet, he cannot take that last step across the threshold of complete trust.
A sober reflection ... Readers without a solid understanding of biology will likely find that the scientific complexity of the history robs it of some of its drama. Cobb’s focus, however, is not on the science itself but on the social and political context of these discoveries ... A look at genetic engineering that provides valuable background for rethinking the appropriate uses for these technologies.