As Gods: A Moral History of the Genetic Age (Hardcover)

As Gods: A Moral History of the Genetic Age By Matthew Cobb Cover Image
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The thrilling and terrifying history of genetic engineering  

In 2018, scientists manipulated the DNA of human babies for the first time. As biologist and historian Matthew Cobb shows in As Gods, this achievement was one many scientists have feared from the start of the genetic age. Four times in the last fifty years, geneticists, frightened by their own technology, have called a temporary halt to their experiments. They ought to be frightened: Now we have powers that can target the extinction of pests, change our own genes, or create dangerous new versions of diseases in an attempt to prevent future pandemics. Both awe-inspiring and chilling, As Gods traces the history of genetic engineering, showing that this revolutionary technology is far too important to be left to the scientists. They have the power to change life itself, but should we trust them to keep their ingenuity from producing a hellish reality?  

About the Author


Matthew Cobb is a professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Manchester. He is the author of six books: The Idea of the Brain, Life’s Greatest Secret, Generation, The Resistance, Eleven Days in August, and Smell: A Very Short Introduction. He lives in England. 

Praise For…


“A thoughtful, lively and evocative exposition of the history of genetic engineering.”—Wall Street Journal

“[A] deeply researched and often deeply troubling history of gene science… [in search of] decency and honor in a morally complex field."—New York TImes

"[A] remarkable jaunt through the twists and turns of the genetic engineering revolution"—Science

“Fascinating, occasionally chilling and very readable.”—The Times (UK)

“The ideal guide to what is not just a fiendishly complex area of science but also an ethical minefield.”—Mail on Sunday (UK)

“Disturbing and readable."—New Scientist (UK)

“A look at genetic engineering that provides valuable background for rethinking the appropriate uses for these technologies.”—Kirkus

"Lucid analysis [and] evenhanded critique.” —Publishers Weekly

“An engaging, intriguing book about the history of genetic engineering and where it might lead society.”—Library Journal

“With this masterfully written, and deeply researched, book about the birth and future of genetics, Cobb catapults us into a world full of the joys of discovery, the intense rivalries and friendships between scientists, and the many moral and scientific uncertainties about genetics that await us.”

Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Gene

“A gripping, bawdy tale of science fiction morphing into business history ... Exhaustively researched and beautifully written ... the histories of recombinant DNA, biotech, GMOs, gene therapy, and cloning in a single lively, accessible account.”

Nathaniel Comfort, Professor of the History of Medicine, John Hopkins University, and author, The Tangled Field

“A riveting guide to the new age of genome engineering, revealing how ideas and technology that until recently existed only in science fiction are now a stunning clinical reality ... Required reading for anyone who cares about the future of humanity and our planet.”

Kevin Davies, author, Editing Humanity

“The promise of genetic engineering is limitless, the stuff of dreams and nightmares, and that is also the problem, as Matthew Cobb shows us in this elegant and meticulously researched history. Packed with human stories and fascinating detail, this is the journey of discovery that changed how we view life itself.”

Gaia Vince, author, Transcendence, Adventures in the Anthropocene

Profound and important ... Written with astute, calm and clear-sighted judgement, The Genetic Age is likely to be the definitive account of the rise of gene biotechnologies. Neither a credulous booster nor a doom-mongering catastrophist, Matthew Cobb steers a prudent path through the promise and perils of genetic engineering.”

Philip Ball, author, Critical Mass

“A lucid and vigorously insightful account of the pitfalls and triumphs of the twenty-first century's most ethically challenging and potentially world-changing technology.”

Paul McAuley, author, Fairyland

“A superb account of genetic engineering in life and culture, in all its myriad anxieties and exhilarations. Should we be scared? Read this book and you'll have a sense of the answer.”

Adam Roberts, author, It's the End of the World

“Powerful gene technologies, long foreseen, are finally with us. Taking the measure of this daunting prospect calls for historical acumen, technical appreciation, and a clear-eyed view of human foibles. As this book attests, Matthew Cobb has all three.”

Jon Turney, author, I, Superorganism

“A superb guide to the global history of the dreams, fears and science of genetic engineering, and why it matters for tomorrow.”

Jon Agar, author, Turing and the Universal Machine

Rich, vivid and well-documented, this is a wonderful introduction to genetic technology, with the take-home message – just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.”

Michel Morange, author of A History of Molecular Biology

“Matthew Cobb is a great storyteller of science, a tapestry of intriguing and enlightening ideas thoughtfully and entertainingly told.”

Robin Ince, author, The Importance of Being Interested

“Faced with a new round of genetic dreams and nightmares, Matthew Cobb skillfully sifts the truth from the hype in this thrilling and alarming account of our most dangerous and exciting technology.”

Paul Mason, author, How to Stop Fascism
Product Details
ISBN: 9781541602854
ISBN-10: 1541602854
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication Date: November 15th, 2022
Pages: 464
Language: English