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

Emily Anthes, Author
Emily Anthes. Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Scientific American, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-15859-0
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Animals are fascinating if reluctant soldiers in the biotech revolution, writes journalist Anthes (Instant Egghead Guide: The Mind) in this witty and thought-provoking book. Scientists, it turns out, have produced cyborg cockroaches, genetically altered mice whose brains we can control, and goats that express commercial drugs in their milk. Bizarre, to be sure, but undoubtedly beneficial: animals play a crucial role in the development of myriad products that make life better for humans. But what about the creatures’ quality of life? Many decry the use of animals in experiments (though Anthes points out that Americans spend $300 billion “every year eating animal flesh”), yet even Charles Darwin, a staunch opponent of animal cruelty, refused to “condemn invasive animal research.” Still, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to make that invasion less intrusive. Anthes argues that we are making our way through the ethical thicket. Ever-tinier microprocessors, receivers, and batteries let us tag and track “an ever-expanding menagerie of marine and terrestrial species,” from seals to bees and the currents and winds they travel on. Anthes is optimistic we will “use our scientific superpowers wisely” to make life better for both the “creatures that live in scientific labs and those that run them.” Agent: Abigail Koons, Park Literary Group. (Mar. 12)
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