The Progress of Genetics Risks and Opportunities, Fears and Hopes
People have always been very concerned about the future - the source of hopes and of fears at the same time. But this disquiet is without doubt accentuated to the extent that:
- changes accelerate and the sense of continuity is replaced by the anticipation of ruptures which make several futures possible;
- losing the faith formerly accorded to God, to benevolent nature or simply to progress, we have become aware that the future depends on the actions of people on whom the progress of science and technology have conferred the increasing power to make things worse as well as better.
The progress of genetics, because it confers a growing power to manipulate species - including our own - gives rise to more unprecedented worries and hopes than any other form of scientific and technical progress.
The distinguished geneticist Axel Kahn summarizes hopes and fears at the end of the 20th century, including their not always logical relationship to real threats and opportunities. Then, addressing genetics, he shows the progress achieved and foreseeable, the potential benefits and disbenefits. In so doing he underlines the gulf that lies between knowledge and power, and especially the responsibility of people in the use they will make of this power.