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Then I started looking for additional books that survey the status of genetics research in the same way Genome did. I always wished that another, updated version of Genome would come along. Lo and behold, one did!
And now for the disappointing news. The "updated version" doesn't deliver. One short epilogue chapter is added to cover all of the happenings in the field in the past 10 years! Even the pictures are poor in quality, implying to me a rush to press on the part of the publisher. What happened with the experiemental treatments for DMD? What's new on the race to uncover the secrets of cancer? How goes the battle for our ethics to catch up with the science? No answers to be found here that date from any time after early 1990.
All this said, the material is still exciting to read, and I would recommend it to someone testing the waters in genetic research. But for those who's interest was sparked by the original Genome, this update isn't worth the money.
Authors present a scary picture for the future role of medicine and physicians. Doctors will have to order genetic profiles to avoid malpractice. In pharmacogenetics, drug companies will take one's blood to develop personalized medicine to avoid side effects. The profile will allow them to peek into your health, your personality, your IQ potential and physical skills. With that genetic profile they can, with their pals the insurance companies, become tyrannical Big Brothers.
Authors try to raise red flags about future genetic discrimination. They don't seem to realize how much of current discrimination is already based on genetics. Society has been coping with discrimination for centuries. They mention the probable arising of a biological underclass (perhaps like the caste of untouchables in India?) and see that a genetic profile could become a scarlet letter following one throughout one's life. Employers would get the data and make a group unemployable. But aren't there already laws protecting the handicapped? In the near future most everyone will be seen with defective genes and partially handicapped.
Perhaps, however, Author's concern about a hereditary meritocracy is just genetic hocus-pocus. One's current illusions of choice and one's ignorance of the current genetic basis to behavior are likely to continue. The realization that one typo in the replication of a gene can cause a defect or disease is not likely to change one's current illusions of self control. The vast number of 3 billion interrelated nucleotides will more than likely always keep both science and lay people amazed at the complexity of human life.
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