The molecular life sciences are making visible what was once invisible. Yet the more we learn about our own biology, the less we are able to fit this knowledge into an integrated whole. Life is divided into new sub-units and reassembled into new forms: from genes to clones, from embryonic stages to the building-blocks of synthetic biology. Extracted from their scientific and social contexts, these new entities become not only visible but indeed "naked": ready to assume an essential status of their own and take on multiple values and meanings as they pass from labs to courts, from patent offices to parliaments and back. In Naked Genes, leading science scholar Helga Nowotny and molecular biologist Giuseppe Testa examine the interaction between these dramatic advances in the life sciences and equally dramatic political reconfigurations of our societies. They bring wit and freshness of perspective to ongoing debates over topics ranging from assisted reproduction and personalized medicine to genetic sports doping, revealing both surprising continuities and radical discontinuities between the latest advances in the life sciences and long-standing human traditions. The task of institutions in the molecular age, they argue, is to make a pluralistic society possible by carving a legitimate free space that allows experimentation with new forms of biological life as well as with new forms of social life.
About the Authors
Helga Nowotny, one of the leading European voices in Science Studies, is President of the European Research Council and Chair, Scientific Advisory Board, University of Vienna.
Giuseppe Testa heads the Laboratory of Stem Cell Epigenetics at the European Institute for Oncology (IEO) in Milan and is the cofounder of the interdisciplinary PhD program FOLSATEC (Foundations of the Life Sciences and Their Ethical Consequences) in Milan.
"What is life? That ancient question has assumed new urgency as today's genetic discoveries give us previously unimagined ways of looking into and manipulating the basic matter of life. In this path-breaking volume, Nowotny, a preeminent European social scientist, and Testa, a brilliant molecular biologist and bioethicist, join forces to show why, in the era of genetic transparency, the question must still be askedeven though the answers, as they compellingly argue, are ever more likely to elude us."
Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard University
"This book provides clarity about the options that are currently available and demonstrates once again the inestimable value of interdisciplinary collaboration."
Paul Rabinow, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley
"Never before have I encountered such a clear combination of natural-scientific accuracy and societal interpretation."
Peter Gruss, President of the Max Planck Society, Munich