Throughout history, humans have been obsessed with transcending the body and living forever. Until very recently, this primarily manifested as one religion or another. But over the past several decades, and especially the past several years, the promise of science in general and biotechnology in particular has given rise to a new cultural phenomenon, one now widely referred to as transhumanism.

While self-described transhumanists were long hard to find, confined to such fringe hotbeds as California, this is no longer the case. Such topics as extreme longevity, human cloning and human genetic engineering, once freely discussed only at sci-fi conventions, are rapidly entering the domain of academic discussion and receiving serious scientific attention.

This is the essence of Brian Alexander’s latest book, Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion, a brilliantly researched and wonderfully written work about transhumanism’s journey from marginal to mainstream. Alexander, a former contributing editor for biotechnology at Wired magazine, chronicles the cultural and scientific roots of transhumanism and their remarkable intersection in the late 20th century.

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