COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. In a provocative new book, distinguished geneticist and historian Elof Axel Carlson argues for a more scientific view of human nature, one that is based on our biologyour cellular organization, genetics, life cycle, and evolution.
[M]ost of humanity has an outmoded and inadequate perception of human life that is better suited for living in the first or second millennium, writes Carlson in the Preface to the book, which is entitled Neither Gods Nor Beasts: How Science is Changing Who We Think We Are and is published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
Traditional views of human nature focus on the supernatural, defining us as creatures with souls and spirits that transcend our physical attributes. As Carlson points out, little scientific knowledge has been accumulated about the physical worldliving or nonlivinguntil very recently in human history.
Today, we are engulfed in new scientific knowledge that, I believe, is changing who we think we are, Carlson writes. Armed with this knowledge, he challenges individual readers to re-think how they perceive themselves. He also asks educators, the media, and public policy makers to enrich our human experience by integrating science more fully into our lives.
The book is divided into three sections. In Part 1, Humanity in a Prescientific Universe, Carlson summarizes historical views of human nature and explores what he calls our biological illiteracy. Part 2, Confronting and Recognizing Our Biology, describes the current science of how our brains work, how the genes encoded by our DNA as well as our environment dictate much of who we are, and how the cell functions as the fundamental unit of life. He points out, however, that this scientific interpretation of ourselves does not negate our capacity for imagination, spiritual and emotional yearnings, or aesthetic appreciation for art, music, and literature.
|Contact: Ingrid Benirschke|
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory