Jane Maienschein examines how understanding of embryos evolved from the speculations of natural philosophers to bioengineering, with its life-enhancing therapies. She shows that research on embryos has always seemed promising to some but frightening to others, and makes the case that public understanding must be informed by scientific findings.
Two summers ago, scientists removed a tiny piece of flesh from Philip Ball’s arm and turned it into a rudimentary “mini-brain.” The skin cells, removed from his body, did not die but were instead transformed into nerve cells that independently arranged themselves into a dense network and communicated with each other, exchanging the raw signals of thought. This was life—but whose?
In his most mind-bending book yet, Ball makes that disconcerting question the focus of a tour through what scientists can now do in cell biology and tissue culture. He shows how these technologies could lead to tailor-made replacement organs for when ours fail, to new medical advances for repairing damage and assisting conception, and to new ways of “growing a human.” For example, it might prove possible to turn skin cells not into neurons but into eggs and sperm, or even to turn oneself into the constituent cells of embryos. Such methods would also create new options for gene editing, with all the attendant moral dilemmas. Ball argues that such advances can therefore never be about “just the science,” because they come already surrounded by a host of social narratives, preconceptions, and prejudices. But beyond even that, these developments raise questions about identity and self, birth and death, and force us to ask how mutable the human body really is—and what forms it might take in years to come.
All humans share three origins: the beginning of our individual lives, the appearance of life on Earth, and the formation of our planetary home. Wallace Arthur combines embryological, evolutionary, and cosmological perspectives to tell the story of life on Earth and its potential to exist elsewhere in the universe.
Making Sense of Life
Evelyn Fox Keller Harvard University Press, 2002 Library of Congress QH491.K387 2002 | Dewey Decimal 570.1
What do biologists want? If, unlike their counterparts in physics, biologists are generally wary of a grand, overarching theory, at what kinds of explanation do biologists aim? How will we know when we have "made sense" of life? Such questions, Evelyn Fox Keller suggests, offer no simple answers. Explanations in the biological sciences are typically provisional and partial, judged by criteria as heterogeneous as their subject matter. It is Keller's aim in this bold and challenging book to account for this epistemological diversity--particularly in the discipline of developmental biology.
In particular, Keller asks, what counts as an "explanation" of biological development in individual organisms? Her inquiry ranges from physical and mathematical models to more familiar explanatory metaphors to the dramatic contributions of recent technological developments, especially in imaging, recombinant DNA, and computer modeling and simulations.
A history of the diverse and changing nature of biological explanation in a particularly charged field, Making Sense of Life draws our attention to the temporal, disciplinary, and cultural components of what biologists mean, and what they understand, when they propose to explain life.
Modularity in Development and Evolution offers the first sustained exploration of modules from developmental and evolutionary perspectives. Contributors discuss what modularity is, how it can be identified and modeled, how it originated and evolved, and its biological significance. Covering modules at levels ranging from genes to colonies, the book focuses on their roles not just in structures but also in processes such as gene regulation. Among many exciting findings, the contributors demonstrate how modules can highlight key constraints on evolutionary processes.
A timely synthesis of a crucial topic, Modularity in Development and Evolution shows the invaluable insights modules can give into both developmental complexities and their evolutionary origins.
After tracking the lives of thousands of people from birth to midlife, four of the world’s preeminent psychologists reveal what they have learned about how humans develop.
Does temperament in childhood predict adult personality? What role do parents play in shaping how a child matures? Is day care bad—or good—for children? Does adolescent delinquency forecast a life of crime? Do genes influence success in life? Is health in adulthood shaped by childhood experiences? In search of answers to these and similar questions, four leading psychologists have spent their careers studying thousands of people, observing them as they’ve grown up and grown older. The result is unprecedented insight into what makes each of us who we are.
In The Origins of You, Jay Belsky, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie Moffitt, and Richie Poulton share what they have learned about childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, about genes and parenting, and about vulnerability, resilience, and success. The evidence shows that human development is not subject to ironclad laws but instead is a matter of possibilities and probabilities—multiple forces that together determine the direction a life will take. A child’s early years do predict who they will become later in life, but they do so imperfectly. For example, genes and troubled families both play a role in violent male behavior, and, though health and heredity sometimes go hand in hand, childhood adversity and severe bullying in adolescence can affect even physical well-being in midlife.
Painstaking and revelatory, the discoveries in The Origins of You promise to help schools, parents, and all people foster well-being and ameliorate or prevent developmental problems.