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This book affirms that we are at the dawn of a new type of medicine which will no longer be concerned only with palliative measures and repairs, but will also be capable of regenerating diseased tissues via the introduction of embryonic cells. This major upheaval will oblige us to reconsider the meaning of the individual and of life itself. Nicole Ledouarin teaches at the Collège de France.
Recent advances in genetic research have had widespread and far-reaching influences in fields as varied as animal and plant biology and medicine. They have also upset some ethical rules. Genetics today is in a triumphant, seductive phase, but its limits are yet to be defined. In this book, the eminent French geneticist Pierre Roubertoux argues that genetics has strayed too far from its justifiable areas of application. Soon, genetics may even be applied to the mind and to consciousness, just as it is already being applied to behaviour by scientists who contend that each type of conduct has its corresponding gene (this is tantamount to saying a specific gene is responsible for each virtue and each vice). Scientists who defend this theory say that they have discovered genes linked to various degrees of activity in mice and flies. Thus, intemperance and gluttony would be linked to a genetic partiality to alcohol, sugar or fats. Pride could be explained by a gene for dominance which has allegedly been found in mice. Greed, too, could be explained by a gene. The supposed existence of an infidelity gene was much in the news three years ago. This is a sound scientific synthesis which will enable readers to grasp the contribution of genetics to our comprehension of who and what we are. It should also help them resist the temptation of reducing everything to genetics. Pierre Roubertoux is a professor at the University of Aix-Marseille and a research fellow at the Institute of Physiological and Cognitive Neuroscience at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).
What is it that constitutes the unity and identity of a living creature ? This is the fundmental question of biology. The recent sequencing techniques provide a completely new response to this question, notably thanks to the knowledge of whole genomes. Antoine Danchin establishes a clear picture of this important biological discovery. He shows in particular that, just like the boat of Delphi, life is beyond prediction, and at the same time has an infinite capacity to create the unexpected. Antoine Danchin is the director of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the Institut Pasteur.