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Nature RemadeEngineering Life, Envisioning Worlds$
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Luis A. Campos, Michael R. Dietrich, Tiago Saraiva, and Christian C. Young

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780226783260

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226783574.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 25 June 2022

Strains of Andromeda: The Cosmic Potential Hazards of Genetic Engineering

Strains of Andromeda: The Cosmic Potential Hazards of Genetic Engineering

(p.151) 10 Strains of Andromeda: The Cosmic Potential Hazards of Genetic Engineering
Nature Remade

Luis A. Campos

University of Chicago Press

At the dawn of the era of genetic engineering, molecular biologists and others at the famed 1975 Asilomar conference wrangled with the potential biohazards of recombinant DNA research, exchanging speculative possibilities about future applications, risks of contamination, and issues of biocontainment. As conceptual, scientific, and regulatory frameworks and practices of planetary protection governing scientific commerce with the heavens above dovetailed with efforts to address potential hazards in the engineering of life down here on Earth, concerns about the prospect of a pandemic were often explicitly framed within the language of science fiction, and with direct reference to Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain (1969) in particular. While many participants of the 1975 “Pandora’s Box Congress” and its aftermath derided such invocations as improper sensationalism and “molecular politics,” conflating hype and hope, this case highlights the unexpected and sometimes unruly cultural narratives in which cutting-edge science is always embedded.

Keywords:   Asilomar, genetic engineering, science fiction, Andromeda Strain, Michael Crichton, planetary protection, invasion biology

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