Molecular biology is the queen of modern science, a leading force in the new knowledge economy, and a serious competitor to the explanatory power of the arts and humanities. But are genes really the definitive cause of the development and functioning of organisms, of health and illness, life and death, success and failure? Can the genomes of living things be ‘engineered’ like machines, reprogrammed to behave according to human design? Is modern biotechnology a politically neutral force, capable of liberating the poor as much as empowering the rich? And can all the risks and costs of the genetic revolution be weighed against the undeniable benefits to humankind, or is this reckoning already a victory for the machines we imagine ourselves to be over the sentient and conscious beings that we are?
Science, Seeds and Cyborgs is a detailed examination and critique of the DNA-centric paradigm in molecular biology, and of the biotech industry it has spawned. It argues that the genetic manipulation of organisms is proceeding along a perilous path, where even the successes of the new genetic technologies produce corrosive cultural effects, making it progressively easier to think of organisms – including the human one – as disposable artefacts. Exploring the wide reach of modern biotechnology, from the genetic modification of plants and animals to medical genetics, assisted reproduction and human cloning, it suggests that we are losing sight of the human being in favour of adapting that being to an inhuman world.
Finn Bowring is a lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University. He is the author of Andre Gorz and the Sartrean Legacy.