Freeman Dyson and Alondra Nelson Share Books for Our Time

Nature has asked seven leading thinkers, including Freeman J. Dyson, Professor Emeritus in the School of Natural Sciences, and Alondra Nelson, Harold F. Linder Professor in the School of Social Science, to select one book from history that speaks to our present moment.

Dyson, who chose John Hersey's Hiroshima, writes:

"Hersey recorded that scene with unforgettable words in the first part of the book. But that is only half of the US journalist’s message.

... Had we heard the whole message, we would perhaps have chosen a wiser course: saying no to nuclear weapons as we have said no to biological weapons, building a saner world with manageable risks."

Of her selection, Backdoor to Eugenics by Troy Duster, Professor Nelson writes:

"The increasingly crucial message of Backdoor to Eugenics is that genetic disorders and social orders are inextricably linked. Duster made a provocative argument about the way in which intertwined political, cultural and technical forces were giving rise to broad and potentially dangerous uses of genetics.

... Then, as now, key questions remain. What kind of genomics should we have, and for whom? What assumptions are being made about patient populations, ported into genetics analysis and reified as research findings? In this moment, the back door seems more gaping than ajar."

Read more at Nature.