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November-December 2012

Volume 100, Number 6
Page 520

DOI: 10.1511/2012.99.520

Vol. 66, No. 4 (July–August 1978)

THE ULTIMATE EXPERIMENT: Man-Made Evolution. Nicholas Wade. 162 pp. Walker, 1977. $8.95.

A timely publication, this book will be of interest to all who are concerned about science and the future of mankind. Using clear and concise language, Wade explains recombinant DNA research, or gene splicing, and the controversy surrounding it.

Gene splicing is at once promising and hazardous. Its glorious promise is the complete understanding of the genetic language and the application of this knowledge in the service of humanity. Its hazard is the possibility of creating new and totally unknown organisms that could threaten the survival of mankind. Controversy about gene splicing recently spread across the scientific and public media here and abroad.

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As a staff writer for Science, Wade has been intimately involved with this topic. In fact, he coined the term gene splicing . The book, drawn from his articles published in the news section of Science, is well written, the style is fluid, and one will have little difficulty understanding the technical details. The first three chapters include an outline of evolution, molecular biology, and genetics. Next follows a detailed history of the discovery of gene splicing and the ensuing debates inside and outside the scientific community. The account is lively, exciting, and full of anecdotes. Wade often succumbs to journalistic exaggeration. He tends to get carried away in futuristic fantasies about application of gene splicing. One may at times have some difficulty in separating fact from fancy.

In the debate over gene splicing, Wade is clearly a partisan. While fully reporting the opponents’ position, he criticizes them whenever possible but praises the proponents. This book is valuable to laymen and scientists alike as the first comprehensive treatment of this new and controversial technique. —Yaakou Shechter, Biological Sciences, Lehman College, CUNY