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  • Published: 1 April 2011
  • ISBN: 9781407085777
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 384
Categories:

Unnatural

The Heretical Idea of Making People




A fascinating exploration of the cultural history of 'anthropoesis' - the creation of artificial people - what it tells us about our views on life, humanity, creativity and technology, and the soul.

* Can we make a human being?

* That question has been asked for many centuries, and has produced recipes ranging from the homunculus of the medieval alchemists and the clay golem of Jewish legend to Frankenstein's monster and the mass-produced test-tube babies in Brave New World.

* All of these efforts to create artificial people are more or less fanciful, but they have taken deep root in Western culture. They all express fears about the allegedly treacherous, Faustian nature of technology, and they all question whether any artificially created person can be truly human. Legends of people-making are tainted by suspicions of impiety and hubris, and they are regarded as the ultimate 'unnatural' act - a moral judgement that has its origins in religious thought.

* In this fascinating and highly topical study, Philip Ball delves beneath the surface of the cultural history of 'anthropoeia' - the creation of artificial people - to explore what it tells us about our views on life, humanity, creativity and technology, and the soul. From the legendary inventor Daedalus to Goethe's tragic Faust, from the automata-making magicians of E.T.A Hoffmann to Mary Shelley's Victor Frankenstein - the old tales and myths are alive and well, subtly manipulating the current debates about assisted conception, embryo research and human cloning, which have at last made the fantasy of 'making people' into some kind of reality.

  • Published: 1 April 2011
  • ISBN: 9781407085777
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 384
Categories:

About the author

Philip Ball

Philip Ball writes regularly in the scientific and popular media and worked for many years as an editor for physical sciences at Nature. His books cover a wide range of scientific and cultural phenomena, and include Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads To Another (winner of the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books), The Music Instinct, Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything,Serving The Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Science Under Hitler and Invisible: The History of the Unseen from Plato to Particle Physics.

Also by Philip Ball

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Praise for Unnatural

A brave, sane and intellectually nimble account of a topic which only gets more ambiguous with each scientific advance. Unnatural is fascinating and engaging, and a polemic only for cool heads and open hearts when dealing with issues of such serious and profound complexity

Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday

This is a fascinating book

Jonathan Rée, Evening Standard

Unnatural is a beautifully-written, deeply-intelligent book that will force every reader to rethink at least some of their preconceptions

Jim Endersby, Sunday Telegraph

Ball's thoughtful book is a reminder that as we try and deal with how to enable and assist people into being, we need to understand and then conquer our fears surrounding the very idea of making people

Manjit Kumar, Guardian

Meticulous, witty and sometimes provocative

Patrick Skene Catling, Sunday Times

Ball's assiduously science-literature approach is very welcome

Roy Wilkinson, The Word

The two cultures of science and art are not antagonists, divergent in their aims and mutually unintelligible: they happily cohabit inside Ball's compendious, eclectic head

Peter Conrad, Observer

Labelling Ball a science writer sells his writing short, for its value lies above all in a range that dissolves the awkward silences between science and the larger culture of which it is part.

Marek Kohn, Independent

If Ball's book is an entertaining romp across centuries and genres, it also has a target...What Ball does so effectively...is to show why language and stories matter- in effect, why humanities matter

Michele Pridmore-Brown, TLS

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