Review of Frankenstein’s Cat by Emily Anthes

15793536Title: Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts

Author: Emily Anthes

Publisher: Scientific American

Format: Hardcover

Where I Received the Title: Library

Review:

The introduction to Frankenstein’s Cat is frightening to all of those who hold life sacred. It tells of a laboratory in China that is mass producing mutant mice, each with different variants of mutated genes. Some of these manipulations are physical, with tumors or male-pattern baldness, and some are neurological. And just when all of the anti-scientific crowds have gathered to use this book as their creed, Anthes delivers a much different viewpoint on biotechnology in the animal kingdom.

Frankenstein’s Cat is a well-organized study of the sciences that relate to human and animal biology. The reading is light, aimed more at the popular science crowd than a scholarly study. We are introduced to zebra fish that have been genetically altered with sea anemone to give the aquatic pets vibrant colors. Anthes also discusses the ways in which we use animal milk and organs for the benefit of human health.

Perhaps you remember the cloned sheep, Dolly? The study of cloning doesn’t end there and Anthes actually makes an argument for how cloning could be beneficial — it could strengthen the quality of livestock and be used to help prevent the dying off a endangered species.

Animal tagging is another science that has been around for a long time and Anthes discusses some less-intrusive methods that can be used to obtain data to help various species and track environmental concerns. There are other topics discussed as well including animal prosthetics and neurologically controlling the brains of rats. In many of these studies, Anthes postulates the what-ifs of where this technology could lead.

Unlike many of the fear-mongering studies of genetics, Emily Anthes provides an optimistic view of how the technology could benefit humanity, various animal species, and the ecology of our entire planet. While her outlook is much more encouraging on pursuing such sciences than my personal views, I found the book to be interesting. I’m somewhat frightened by the idea of manipulating animal genes and even more of the consideration for humans, but as Anthes demonstrates, we’ve been doing this already for centuries with selective breeding. There certainly is a place for science in this regard, but I do think that we must examine the moral implications of our choices.

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