Silver, Lee M. 1952-
Silver, Lee M. 1952-
(Lee Merrill Silver)
PERSONAL: Born April 27, 1952, in Philadelphia, PA; son of Joseph and Ethel Silver; married Susan Remis, August 25, 1985; children: Rebecca, Ari, Maxwell. Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A., 1973, M.S., 1978; Harvard University, Ph.D., 1978. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish.
CAREER: Writer, molecular biologist, geneticist, researcher, and educator. Cornell University, Medical School, New York, NY, assistant professor of biology, 1979-80; Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NY, senior scientist, 1980-84; State University of New York—Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY, assistant professor of genetics, 1981-84; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, assistant professor, 1984-87, associate professor, 1987-92, faculty associate, 1990-99, professor of molecular biology and public affairs, 1992—. Yeshiva University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, visiting assistant professor of genetics, 1980; Institut Pasteur, Paris, France, visiting scientist, 1989-90; University of Nice, Nice, France, visiting professor, 1996-97. Guest on television and radio programs, including NBC Nightly News, Nova, Nightline, ABC World Report, Charlie Rose Show, 60 Minutes, and the Jim Lehrer PBS News Hour.
MEMBER: International Mammalian Genome Society (member of board), Genetics Society of America (member of board), American Association for the Advancement of Science (fellow, 1993), American Council on Science and Health (member of board of scientific and policy advisors, 2000-06; member of board of trustees, 2006—).
AWARDS, HONORS: Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1978-79; postdoctoral fellow, Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute, 1977-80; Merit Award, National Institute for the Humanities, 1995; Two-Headed Challenge, first prize for play, Guthrie Theater, 2006.
(Editor, with Gail R. Martin and Sidney Strickland) Teratocarcinoma Stem Cells, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (Cold Spring Harbor, NY), 1983.
Mouse Genetics: Concepts and Applications, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1995.
Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World, Avon (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Leland Hartwell, Leroy Hood, Michael L. Goldberg, and others) Genetics: From Genes to Genomes with Genetics, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1999.
Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life, Ecco (New York, NY), 2006.
Journal of Heredity, associate editor, 1987-90; Genetics Abstracts, editorial advisor, 1994-2002; Mammalian Genome, editor-in-chief, 1990-2001. IDgene, member of scientific advisory board. Author’s works have been published in sixteen languages.
SIDELIGHTS: The study of mice in the laboratory has been important for the understanding of human genetics, biology, and disease for close to one hundred years. Lee M. Silver’s book Mouse Genetics: Concepts and Applications describes how mice came to be used by researchers as laboratory animals and includes chapters about the animals’ reproduction and their genomes (chromosomes with the genes or inherited factors they contain), as well as gene mapping. Readers of this text can also learn about computer databases designed for mouse researchers and sources for obtaining laboratory mice. B.W. Auclair wrote in Choice that “students and researchers involved in mouse genetic research will find Silver’s book a welcome addition to their shelves,” and called the book a “well-written overview.” Michael Potter and Beverly Mock assessed Mouse Genetics as “a unique synthesis of modern molecular genetics and the biology of the laboratory mouse” in Science. These reviewers also pointed out the growing need for familiarity with the biology of “this fascinating creature,” and they labeled the book as understandable, practical, and unified, with a “pleasing and easy style.” Silver’s “insightful interest in the evolution of genomes surfaces over and over again in the text, making this book an exciting introduction to the comprehensive biology that is involved in the intriguing mysteries of the evolutionary process,” Potter and Mock concluded.
Silver’s next work, Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World, examines the science and the moral and ethical concerns surrounding the latest technologies in human genetics and reproduction, including genetic screening and enhancement, cloning, and surrogate motherhood. The author “entertains even the wildest and most speculative notions because—as he argues persuasively—the future is already here,” reported Paul Raeburn in the New York Times Book Review. “Many genetic and reproductive manipulations that seem to be science fiction are far closer to reality than we recognize,” Raeburn continued.
In Remaking Eden, Silver argues that government will be unable to regulate or intervene in the use of genetic and reproductive technologies because parents will demand them in order to choose and shape their children’s genetic characteristics, perhaps to create “designer” children from a computerized menu or to eliminate from a child the genes that carry a disease or enhance a gene in such a way as to prevent an illness. According to Raeburn, Silver “finds dizzying layers of contradiction in most religious and ethical arguments against one or another reproductive or genetic technol-ogy.”
Silver also addresses the possible impacts of genetics technology on society and the entire human race (such as black-market cloning or the creation of a new species of humans) in Remaking Eden, and he joins the debate about when human life begins. Raeburn noted that Silver “argues that human reproduction does not belong at the center of the biological universe.” Another reviewer for Publishers Weekly called Remaking Eden “a scientifically astute guide to thorny territory.”
Silver explores the clash between science and religion in Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life. In this work, Silver offers a “provocative look at the collision of science, religion, pseudoscience, and politics surrounding biotechnology,” noted Kendrick Frazier in the Skeptical Inquirer. Silver carefully considers some of the more perplexing ethical and philosophical issues of biotechnology. He acknowledges that the majority of the opposition to biotechnology emerges from Judeo-Christian groups, particularly fundamentalists, who see God as the source of all life. From this foundational idea, many religious opponents consider genetic modification and other forms of biotechnology to be allowing humans to assume the role of God. In contrast, Silver notes that Asian cultures and other groups with non-monotheistic religions have no objections to biotechnology on spiritual grounds; Silver even notes how a Buddhist scientist felt that cloning serves to restart the “cycle of life” as it is conceptualized in the Buddhist religion.
In another context, Silver considers the objections to biotechnology from those who approach the topic from the perspective of tampering with nature. For them, applying biotechnology is equivalent to defying the spirit of Mother Nature and forcing human will on the natural world. In areas such as genetic modification of foods and the creation of synthetic crops, Silver notes that activists from the organic and natural foods movements attribute a spiritual force to nature as strong as any envisioned by Judeo-Christian objectors. In response to both groups, Silver notes that humans have been applying scientific principles to improve natural reproduction for centuries. The biotechnological tools available now can allow this work to proceed at greater speed and on larger scales, improving ecological health, reducing human suffering, and eliminating hunger, disease, and other afflictions.
Silver expresses the hope that a genuinely “open and rational public dialogue will expose the folly of continuing to allow religious fundamentalists to impose needless restrictions on scientific research,” commented Bryce Christensen in Booklist. “Silver’s provocative ideas and his graceful prose open new avenues for discussion of the challenges that face science and spirituality,” commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Scientist, September 1, 2006, Nathaniel C. Comfort, “Biotech, Red in Tooth and Claw,” review of Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life, p. 464.
Booklist, June 1, 2006, Bryce Christensen, review of Challenging Nature, p. 7.
California Bookwatch, October, 2006, review of Challenging Nature.
Choice, December, 1995, B.W. Auclair, review of Mouse Genetics: Concepts and Applications, p. 642.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2006, review of Challenging Nature, p. 340.
Nature, November 16, 2006, “Opposition to Science,” p. 271.
New York Times Book Review, January 11, 1998, Paul Raeburn, review of Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World, pp. 11-12.
Publishers Weekly, November 3, 1997, review of Remaking Eden, p. 75; April 3, 2006, review of Challenging Nature, p. 55.
Reason, May 1, 1999, Ronald Bailey, “Liberation Biology,” interview with Lee M. Silver, p. 42.
Science, December 8, 1995, Michael Potter and Beverly Mock, review of Mouse Genetics, pp. 1692-1693; October 20, 2006, “Biotechnology and the Human Soul,” p. 423.
SciTech Book News, September 1, 2006, review of Challenging Nature.
Skeptical Inquirer, January-February, 2007, Kendrick Frazier, review of Challenging Nature, p. 61.
Lee M. Silver Home Page,http://www.leemsilver.net (August 10, 2007).
Princeton University Department of Molecular Biology Web site,http://www.molbio.princeton.edu/ (August 10, 2007), biography of Lee M. Silver.*