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Sex and the Origins of Death
ISBN 019510644X / 9780195106442 / 0-19-510644-X
Publisher Oxford University Press, USA
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Despite its provocative title, Sex & the Origins of Death is not as sensationalistic as it sounds. William R. Clark is a professor of immunology at UCLA, and his avowed intention is to enlighten his readers rather than to frighten or titillate. Drawing on his broad knowledge of the cellular systems that make up our bodies and the medical and ethical arguments on the nature of death, he presents a compelling tale of the evolution of sex and death interwoven with a story of a man experiencing a heart attack. This juxtaposition humanizes the discussion and grounds the reader firmly in day-to-day reality, even when considering such bizarre topics as immortal bacteria and Sea Monkey spores.
Clark covers the development of sex in microorganisms and how this novelty may have guaranteed the inevitability of death (though perhaps not that of taxes). From this level of thinking, he changes quickly to 20th-century American law, which has pondered the question of death at great length as our scientific prowess has enabled us to maintain deeply traumatized individuals in persistent vegetative states, presumably free from conscious awareness of any kind. Now that death has become a matter of opinion, Clark insists that we pay careful attention to it, both as scientists and as human beings. Sex & the Origins of Death is a great place to start. --Rob Lightner [via]