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In 1997, when a mention of embryonic stem cells would elicit blank stares from all but a handful of readers, a Princeton University biologist, Lee Silver, published a remarkable book that addressed head-on the issues raised by the prospect of "engineering life."

Silver must be a superb teacher; his explanations of "reprogenetic technologies" are exceptionally lucid. He is certainly an unabashed enthusiast, exulting that "we have gained the power to control the destiny of the species," and he impatiently dismisses the fears and moral scruples that might hinder the march of "research" in any way. Hence his book offers an invaluable opportunity for the reader to see these issues through the eyes of the typical mainstream scientist, whose collective authority our national opinion-setters invoke in countless references to that infallible oracle, "science."

The title of Silver's book is instructive: Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World. Let's be done with the old superstitions that would have us in thrall to a fictitious divine Creator. We—human beings—are as gods, and we had better get on with the job.

After all, as Silver remarks while brushing aside arguments from the Vatican about the status of human embryos, "Most people do not want to admit that their views are based on spiritual beliefs because in an advanced technological society like ours, with its foundation in science, arguments based on faith alone are not given much credibility. Scientific arguments are required for a cloak of respectability."

And to have a little fun, to tickle knowing secularists and provoke hidebound believers, Silver introduces his first chapter with an epigraph from Genesis 1 and begins his epilogue with a verse from Revelation: ...

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October 1, 2001

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