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A Crispr Revolution


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Table of Contents

Preface / 1. Inborn Errors of Metabolism / 2. Genetic Hygiene and Its Aftermath / 3. Molecular Diseases, Elusive Treatments / 4. Dreams of Gene Therapy / 5. The Human Genome Project / 6. The CRISPR Revolution / 7. Inevitable Eugenics? / 8. The Elimination of Genetic Diseases / 9. Designer Baby Delusions / 10. The Future of the Human Genome

About the Author

Sahotra Sarkar is a Professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Integrative Biology at the University of Texas, Austin. He came to Texas after teaching at Boston and McGill Universities and holding fellowships at MIT and the Max Planck Institute. A specialist in the history and philosophy of science, he has particular interests in both philosophy of biology and physics.


The sophistication of this book makes it best for an educated audience--those who have some background in science, the history of science, or philosophy. But the clarity of the explanations of gene editing, the history of eugenics and evolutionary science, and the relevant arguments from social philosophy and health policy make it accessible for anyone with a basic background in just one of those areas. It is enjoyable to read a book where the writing is crisp and clear, but the tone is lightened by stories and opinionated asides. This would be an appropriate book for a wide range of classes, from history and philosophy of science to bioethics, as well as for students preparing for careers in medical research, healthcare administration, and health policy. In spite of the conceptual complexity, the narrative is clear and lively, and my experience as a reader was that it repeatedly corrected common technical, historical, ethical, and political misunderstandings.

More than a superb primer on CRISPR technology and a broad review of its current biomedical applications and future potential uses, Cut-and-Paste Genetics offers a panoramic view of the molecular biology revolution - both its legitimate promises and its hyperbolic claims. In this balanced account, Sahotra Sarkar, a distinguished philosopher of science, has written an accessible guide and trenchant critique that will become a principal commentary in the policy debates swirling around the role of genetic engineering in clinical medicine.

The concept of the gene was tied to the dream of human improvement through biology - eugenics - almost from its inception. Sahotra Sarkar turns a sharp eye on this troubling connection in his stimulating new book Cut-and-Paste Genetics, weaving together the history of genetics and its modern practice, the field's real and false promises, and the stunning leap in manipulative capability accompanying modification by CRISPR.

The molecular gene-editing tool known as CRISPR--named for the DNA sequences it exploits (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)--is poised to inspire a new era of eugenic thought and activity. Though the promise of eliminating genetic disorders has been discussed for decades in the context of gene therapy and the Human Genome Project, CRISPR technology has the potential to fulfill such promise. Sarkar's book, a thoughtful, fascinating exploration of this technology as it could enable pursuit of eugenics principles, will help readers frame and discuss the legal, social, and ethical challenges of CRISPR technology as it comes into more widespread use. Exhaustive notes and references round out a highly readable and useful book. Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals. Students in two-year technical programs.

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