Genetics is a rapidly advancing field; it seems new discoveries make headlines every other week. In this highly readable introduction to the field, Denis R. Alexander offers readers a basic toolkit of information, explanations, and ideas that can help us grasp something of the fascination and the challenge of the language of genetics.
The book assumes the reader has little scientific background, least of all in genetics, and approaches these issues in a very accessible way, free of specialized or overly technical jargon. Alexander covers the main developments in the field of genetics, looking at the discovery of DNA, what it is and how it works; our genetic history; the role of genes in diseases; epigenetics and genetic engineering.
Finally, Dr Alexander explores some of the big questions raised by genetics: what are its implications for notions of human value and uniqueness? Is evolution consistent with religious belief? If we believe in a God of love, then how come the evolutionary process, utterly dependent upon the language of genetics, is so wasteful and involves so much pain and suffering? How far should we go in manipulating the human genome? Does genetics subvert the idea that life has some ultimate meaning and purpose?
It is essential introductory reading for anyone interested in the philosophical and ethical issues raised by advances in genetics, and general questions about the compatibility of faith and science.
DENIS R. ALEXANDER has spent the past forty years in the biological research community, most recently as the head of the Laboratory of Signalling and Development at the Babraham Institute in the U.K., where he also served as chair of the Molecular Immunology Programme. Dr. Alexander's interest in human genetics was sharpened during a period (1981-1986) spent as associate professor at the American University of Beirut on the Faculty of Medicine. While there he helped to establish the National Unit of Human Genetics, which performed specialized diagnostic work and carried out research on the genetic diseases found in Lebanon. In 2006 Dr. Alexander established the Faraday Institute at St. Edmund's College, Cambridge, where he is a fellow. Since that time he has served as director of the Institute.