The Threat and the Glory

The Threat and the Glory : Reflections on Science and Scientists

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"It is the great glory as it is the great threat of science that everything that is in principle possible can be done if the intention to do it is sufficiently resolute." This theme, from the title essay, runs throughout this new collection of Peter Medawar's writings. A passionate advocate of scientific endeavour, he wrote, lectured and reviewed widely, describing the glories of scientific achievement and warning of the dangers of pseudo-scientific deception. This selection, made posthumously from essays now unavailable elsewhere, and including some previously unpublished material, covers a characteristically wide range of subjects: genetics, evolution, creativity, philosophy, scientific fraud, and attitudes to death and the prolongation of life. Either as a companion to "Pluto's Republic" , the last selection of essays to be made before he died, or as an introduction to his writing, this volume should intrigue, stimulate, and delight. It is intended for moral philosophers, research biologists, geneticists, and other scientists, environmentalists, and the general more

Product details

  • Paperback | 310 pages
  • 128 x 192 x 24mm | 240.4g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Paperbacks
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • index
  • 019286128X
  • 9780192861283

About P.B. Medawar

About the Author The late Sir Peter Medawar, who won the Nobel Prize (with Sir Macfarlane Burnet) in 1960 for his work on tissue transplantation, was the author of numerous books on scientific more

Review Text

Posthumous miscellanea from the dynamic Nobel Prize-winning immunologist (d. 1987), with an affectionate foreword by physician/author Lewis Thomas. Were Sir Peter alive today he'd probably have rearranged and edited these bits and pieces prior to publication, since he was known as a stickler for clarity and brevity. As it is, this collection of speeches, book reviews, and an interview with the BBC, put together by physician David Pyke, leaps about unpredictably in time and tends toward repetition and - particularly in the book reviews - even monotony. Nevertheless, Medawar's irrepressible, sometimes cantankerous, spirit glimmers teasingly behind these pages as he takes on issues as disparate as euthanasia, population control, and genetic engineering. The scientist, who suffered the first of a series of debilitating strokes in 1969 yet maintained a full professional and private life for nearly 20 more years, insists that preference for life takes obvious precedence over Freud's supposed death wish, and suggests that prolonging life, no matter how technological the means, can hardly be considered an unnatural act. Chiding those who worry overlong over the ethical ramifications of genetic engineering, Medawar points out that human genes are hopelessly programmed for diversity and are not easily controlled, and furthermore, since diversity is our most prized evolutionary tool, a single superior "breed" can hardly be made to exist. Intriguing tangents on the differences between scientific and artistic creativity (the individual discoverer is of less importance in science), relative intelligence between children from small families versus those from large ones (small families seem to breed smarter kids), etc., make for refreshing treats in an other. wise rather scattered text. Despite its weaknesses, a rewarding postscript to Medawar's more important works, One that successfully revives the scientist's insatiably curious spirit. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Table of contents

My life in science; the threat and the glory; biology and man's estimation of himself; some reflections on science and civilization; Florey story; the "ultra-elite" of science; scientific fraud; the strange case of the spotted mice; creativity - especially in science; the philosophy of Karl Popper; the genetic improvement of man; the future of man; Osler's razor; the meaning of silence; the cost-benefit analysis of pure research; the pure science; is the scientific paper a fraud?; the pissing evile; animal experimentation in a medical research institute; great circle of learning; in defence of doctors; son of stroke; the life instinct and dignity in more

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