Naked Genes

Naked Genes

Reinventing the Human in the Molecular Age

By Helga Nowotny and Giuseppe Testa

Translated by Mitch Cohen

The interaction between new forms of biological life and new forms of social life in modern democracies.





The interaction between new forms of biological life and new forms of social life in modern democracies.

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. Considering topics ranging from assisted reproduction and personalized medicine to genetic sports doping, they reveal both surprising continuities and radical discontinuities between the latest advances in the life sciences and long-standing human traditions.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262014939 152 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262526760 152 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in


Mitch Cohen.


  • 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

  • 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

  • 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 asked—even though the answers, as they compellingly argue, are ever more likely to elude us.

    Sheila Jasanoff

    Harvard University