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Life Science


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Plants As Persons: A Philosophical Botany by Matthew Hall and Harold Coward (SUNY Series on Religion and the Environment: State University of New York, SUNY) Plants are people too? Not exactly, but in this work of philosophical botany Matthew Hall challenges readers to reconsider the moral standing of plants, arguing that they are other-than-human persons. Plants constitute the bulk of our visible biomass, underpin all natural ecosystems, and make life on Earth possible. Yet plants are considered passive and insensitive beings rightly placed outside moral consideration. As the human assault on nature continues, more ethical behavior toward plants is needed. Hall surveys Western, Eastern, Pagan, and Indigenous thought, as well as modern science and botanical history, for attitudes toward plants, noting the particular resources for plant personhood and those modes of thought which most exclude plants. The most hierarchical systems typically put plants at the bottom, but Hall finds much to support a more positive view of plants. Indeed, some Indigenous animisms actually recognize plants as relational, intelligent beings who are the appropriate recipients of care and respect. New scientific findings encourage this perspective, revealing that plants possess many of the capacities of sentience and mentality traditionally denied them. More

Taking Biology Seriously : What Biology Can and Cannot Tell Us About Moral and Public Policy by Inmaculada de Melo-Martin (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) (Paperback) Discussions of human biology and its consequences for ethics and public policy are often misguided. Both proponents and critics of behavioral genetics, reproductive cloning, and genetic testing have mistaken beliefs about the role of genes in human life. Taking Biology Seriously calls attention to the social context in which both the science and our ethical precepts and public policies play a role.

Immanuel Kant once noted that the three most important questions for human beings are, "What can I know? What ought I to do? and What may I hope?" To these questions, some might add now, "What should I fear?" Kant argued that often our answers to these questions are confused, that we think we know things that we cannot, and based on these mistaken ideas we act in ways, and hope for things, that are unjustified or harmful to self or others.

Using modern science and technology has often been perceived as a way, if not the best way, to provide answers to these questions. In a world constantly shaped and reshaped by science and technology, many take great comfort in the notion that if we just can get the science right the answers are, or might be, clear and certain. These expectations are not foreign to modern biology. What could tell us more than a science of our very nature about what we can know, what we should do, or what we can reasonably hope or fear'? And, what might be more exciting, interesting, and possibly horrifying than to know who we are, to make brilliantly clear our essence? Hence, according to an all-too-common misunderstanding of what contemporary biology can tell us and allow us to do, we might be able to control not only our very nature, but also our future, and the future of our children, in a way that will re-move sources of suffering and fear.

Much of the excitement about the genetic revolution in biology in general, and the Human Genome Project in particular, can be understood in light of the questions Kant tried to answer. The promises of knowing who and what we are, of eliminating genetic diseases, of allowing infertile people to have genetically related children, of predicting and controlling dangerous or self-destructive behavior, and of giving our children the best possible future all inspire great hopes. Additionally, the knowledge we might gain about our capacities and limits might allow us to better allocate resources of time, money, and intellectual energy. As a result, we might improve not only our-selves as individuals, but also our societies. We could have less disease and crime; live longer, healthier lives; increase the number of people reaching their potential; and create more control over the course and content of our lives.

Conversely, many fear this knowledge and the future that this new world of genetic knowledge and control appears to promise. Cloning raises specters of fascist eugenics programs and fear of loss of human dignity. Genetic testing raises concerns about unfair discrimination. Others fear that if behavior is determined by unchangeable genetics, then notions of responsibility to others will be unsupportable, and resources will be further diverted from those most in need. All this leads to trepidation about an increasingly stratified and unjust society.

Given these hopes and fears, an evaluation of what biology can and can-not tell us about such issues seems not just important but necessary. In this book, I have argued that all too often these hopes and fears are ungrounded and that the presumed implications of genetics for ethics and social policy are unsupported. This book has then been a call to take biology seriously. To do so, of course, is not to use biology as a trump card. On the contrary, by carefully evaluating the role of biological and technological knowledge in ethical and public policy discussions, we can realize that biology cannot tell us many of the things we need to know about such issues. Taking biology seriously will prevent us from making claims about moral and public policy consequences that are grounded on epistemological, scientific, or ethical misunderstandings.

When we take biology seriously, we can realize that it is questionable to criticize genetic determinism by pointing out that if it is correct then individuals are not responsible for critically evaluating and maybe transforming in-adequate institutions. Such criticisms, as we saw in chapter 2, commit an epistemological mistake. They simply misunderstand the role of biology in human life. And they do so because they ignore the fact that biological traits such as intelligence, aggression, addictive behavior, or differences in reproductive strategies between men and women can only be understood in the social context in which they appear. Such traits, as they are often defined in these discussions, cannot be said to be good or bad because of some intrinsic property they might have. If this is correct, then, as we have seen, a fear that social responsibility might be diminished is misplaced. A critical evaluation and transformation of our values and social arrangements appears to be more, not less, required were it the case that particular human traits and behaviors are genetically determined. Such evaluation can set those traits into the appropriate context, human's social environment, in order to judge the desirability or undesirability of such traits. Independently of this social context, the presence of these biological traits and behaviors cannot say much about social responsibility.

Similarly, when we take biology seriously, we can recognize that the debate over cloning human beings has often been framed in ways that misunderstand the biology behind this practice. As we saw in chapter 4, tying human dignity to the uniqueness of our genome is quite debatable because it is unclear how a biological entity such as our genome has anything to do with human dignity. Such a link is also dubious because of the difficulty of deciding what exactly it means to say that two genomes are identical or the same. In any case, even if we can agree on the fact that the genomes of a clone and its donor are relevantly similar, still it is difficult to see how this would interfere with human individuality. Identical twins have genomes that are more similar than the genomes of a clone and a nuclear donor need to be. Nevertheless, twins do have their own personalities, their own characters, and their own life choices. Paying attention to biology can remind us that human beings are very complex creatures influenced not just by our genes, but also by many other biological, environmental, and social factors. Likewise, carefully considering biological knowledge can inform us that cloning is not the tool to tackle genetic diseases. When we pay attention to biology, we can also appreciate that it cannot give us all the answers to moral and public policy issues related to human cloning. As we saw in chapter 5, even if it were the case that the scientific knowledge alleged to support the development and use of human cloning was correct, still this would not be a sufficient reason to support reproductive cloning. This would only be so if we presuppose not only that the biology is correct, but also that the social context in which cloning is developed and where claims about its moral adequacy are presented is irrelevant. We saw in that chapter that such an assumption is far from correct.

Finally, taking biology seriously can also tell us that many discussions about genetic technologies and genetic information are presented in ways that suggest that the predictive ability of genetic analysis is higher than actually is warranted. Examining this claim in chapter 7 brought to our attention that this mistake has made many proclaim that we have a moral obligation to obtain and share genetic information about ourselves. Nonetheless, although by paying careful attention to our current biological knowledge we can learn that a defense of duties related to our ability to obtain and share genetic information is grounded on a misunderstanding of human biology, biological knowledge by itself cannot tell us what our moral obligations regarding genetic information are. Thus, in chapter 8, I argued that even if it were the case that genetic testing was able to give us highly reliable information about future health status, this alone would not support claims about moral obligations to obtain and share genetic information. Attention to the social context in which these moral obligations would be binding to humans would also be necessary. Many of the debates on this issue pay, however, little attention to such context. Consequently, discussions on the subject of the alleged moral duties that follow from our ability to obtain genetic information about others and our-selves often ignore that access to these technologies is limited, that laypeople and professionals might not have adequate knowledge about genetics and genetic testing technologies, and that already disadvantaged groups might be unfairly burdened by these obligations.

This book has, then, been an attempt to call attention to the fact that good ethics requires good science, but it also calls for careful attention to the social context in which both the science and our ethical precepts and public policies play a role. It may well be that we are entering an era in which genetic science and technologies question our existing definitions of life and death, change our ideas about what a human being is, and transform the values we hold. And it is certainly the case that contemporary biology has much to contribute as we seek to know who we are, what we might know, how we ought to live, and what it is reasonable to hope and to fear. Taking biology seriously means paying careful attention to what it can, and what it cannot, tell us.

As noted throughout, epistemological, scientific, and ethical problems arise in much of our discussion of the implications of molecular genetics and genetic technologies because we fail to pay enough attention to the complexity of human biology and human life. There can be, of course, important heuristic reasons for this tendency. It is often easier to examine something in isolation. We do not, for instance, sequence genes while they are within cells. Still, the isolation is just that, a heuristic, and should not be taken to be the full story. Thus, whatever genetics might tell us about many human behaviors, we can only know the value and meanings of those behaviors when we place them in the actual social contexts within which human beings live. This includes recognizing that the social context might be malleable. We also can-not fully evaluate the possibilities of human cloning without examining in de-tail both the complexities of gene interactions and also our social institutions and social arrangements. Understanding the role of genes in disease and behavior further requires that we not think of genes in isolation, but within the larger biological and social processes of which they are a part. Finally, making sense of what duties we might have to obtain and share information about our genetic endowments will be an unsuccessful task if we fail to take account of both the complexity of human biology and the social context in which people really live and make decisions.

As we have seen throughout these pages, to neglect any of these aspects will likely misguide our efforts to improve our communities and better ourselves. Let us, then, take biology seriously. That is, let us pay attention to both what biology can and cannot tell us in this undertaking. We might then have more plausible ideas, better understand ourselves, avoid needless fears, and entertain more credible hopes.


Liberation Biology: The Scientific And Moral Case For The Biotech Revolution by Ronald Bailey (Prometheus Books) In this book the author argues that the coming biotechnology revolution will liberate human beings to achieve their full potentials by enabling more of us to live flourishing lives free of disease, disability, and the threat of early death. 

The defining political conflict of the twenty-first century will be the battle over life and death. On one side stand the partisans of morality, who counsel humanity to quietly accept our morbid fate and go gently into that good night. On the other is the party of life, who rage against the dying of the light and yearn to extend the enjoyment of healthy life to as many as possible for as long as possible. This conflict is brewing because rapid progress in biology and biotechnology will utterly transform human life. What was once the stuff of science fiction may now be within reach in the not-too-distant future: twenty-to-forty-year leaps in average life spans, enhanced human bodies, drugs and therapies to boost memory and speed up mental processing, and a genetic science that allows parents to ensure that their children will have stronger immune systems, more athletic bodies, and cleverer brains. Even the prospect of human immortality beckons.

Such scenarios excite many people and frighten or appall many others. Already biotechnology opponents are organizing political movements aimed at restricting scientific research, banning the development and commercialization of various products and technologies, and limiting citizens' access to the fruits of the biotech revolution.

In this insightful, forward-looking volume, Ronald Bailey, science writer for Reason magazine, argues that the coming biotechnology revolution, far from endangering human dignity, will liberate human beings to achieve their full potentials by enabling more of us to live flourishing lives free of disease, disability, and the threat of early death. Bailey covers the complete range of the coming biogenetic breakthroughs, from stem cell research to third world farming, from brain-enhancing neuropharmaceuticals to designer babies. Against critics of these trends, who forecast the nightmare society of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Bailey persuasively explains why the health, safety, and ethical concerns raised by worried citizens and policymakers are misplaced and outlines a hopeful future in which humanity will be able to thrive.

Liberation Biology makes a positive, optimistic, and convincing case that bioresearch and the powerful technologies it engenders should be encouraged and embraced, not feared and resisted, for it is a revolution that will improve our lives and the future of our children, while preserving and enhancing the natural environment.

"Liberation Biology will be to the bioethics debate what Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist was to the environment debate. In Liberation Biology, Ronald Bailey's mastery of the arguments, and his roster of the best people to talk to, are second to none. He is very up-to-date with all the latest thinking about biology. He writes with great fluency and in a way that engages the non-scientific reader. But above all, he makes a clear-headed and brilliant case for an optimistic attitude to the marvelous future biotechnology offers, in a field that is still dominated by ill-informed pessimism." --Matt Ridley, author of Genome, Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human and The Red Queen: Sex and Evolution of Human Nature

"Ronald Bailey is an eloquent, persuasive, informed voice in today's debate about the promise of biotechnology. The question now before us-whether we will continue to embrace the possibilities of the future or will turn away from them, leaving their exploration to other braver peoples in other braver lands-could not be more critical. Bailey neither minces his words nor shrinks from a good rumble, and that is what makes Liberation Biology so engaging and powerful." --Gregory Stock, author of Redesigning Humans: Our Inevitable Genetic Future

The 21st century will undoubtedly witness unprecedented advances in understanding the mechanisms of the human body and in developing biotechnology. With the mapping of the human genome, the pace of discovery is now on the fast track. By the middle of the century we can expect that the rapid progress-in biology and biotechnology will utterly transform human life. What was once the stuff of science fiction may now be within reach in the not-too-distant future: 20-to-40-year leaps in average life spans, enhanced human bodies, drugs and therapies to boost memory and speed up mental processing, and a genetic science that allows parents to ensure that their children will have stronger immune systems, more athletic bodies, and cleverer brains. Even the prospect of human immortality beckons.

Such scenarios excite many people and frighten or appall many others. Already biotechnology opponents are organizing political movements aimed at restricting scientific research, banning the development and commercialization of various products and technologies, and limiting citizens' access to the fruits of the biotech revolution.

In this forward-looking book Ronald Bailey, science writer for Reason magazine, argues that the coming biotechnology revolution, far from endangering human dignity, will liberate human beings to achieve their full potentials by enabling more of us to live flourishing lives free of disease, disability, and the threat of early death. Bailey covers the full range of the coming biotechnology breakthroughs, from stem-cell research to third-world farming, from brain-enhancing neuropharmaceuticals to designer babies. Against critics of these trends, who forecast the nightmare society of Huxley's Brave New World, Bailey persuasively shows in lucid and well-argued prose that the health, safety, and ethical concerns raised by worried citizens and policymakers are misplaced.

Liberation Biology makes a positive, optimistic, and convincing case that the biotechnology revolution will improve our lives and the future of our children, while preserving and enhancing the natural environment.

Ronald Bailey (Charlottesville, VA) is the science correspondent for Reason magazine, a former television producer, and the author of Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths and Eco-Scam: The False Prophets of the Apocalypse. His articles and reviews have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian, National Review, Forbes, and many other publications

Science, Medicine, and Animals by Committee to Update Science (National Academies Press) The lives of humans and animals have been intertwined since the beginning of civilization. Early humans learned to raise animals for food as well as to live alongside them as com­panions. Humans and animals develop strong interactions and lasting bonds to their mutual benefit. It is because of our close ties with animals that many people have mixed feelings about the use of animals in biomedical research—even scientists. In an ideal world, scientists would never need to use animals as research subjects. Because we do not live in an ideal world, some diffi­cult ethical and moral questions arise. 

First and foremost, is it ethical to allow humans and animals to suffer from injury and disease when treatments and cures can be discovered through animal research? Public opinion polls have consis­tently shown that a majority of people approve of the use of animals in biomedical research that does not cause pain to the animal and leads to new treatments and cures. However, another difficult question is whether it is morally acceptable to perform research on animals that is painful, if it leads to new and better treatments such as new anesthetics and painkillers. Or, is it acceptable to perform any research on animals if new treatments or cures resulting from the research might not be apparent for decades, if ever? 

A minority of people polled thought that experiments should be done on humans rather than animals. To some extent this does occur during clinical trials, but only after extensive animal testing to ensure that harmful drugs are not given to humans. In our society, most people consider it morally wrong to use humans as subjects for basic research, under the premise that humans deserve higher moral consideration than animals. 

Some people also claim that it is unnecessary for animals to be used as research subjects and that computer or other nonanimal models could be used instead. In some cases this is true, and scientists strive to use computer models and other nonanimal methods whenever possible; however, many of the interactions that occur between molecules, cells, tissues, organs, organisms, and the environment are too complex for even the most sophisticated of computers to model. At present, it is impossible to advance biomedical science without the use of animal subjects for some aspects of research. 

Questions about animal research can be difficult to answer. This report is meant to help you decide how you will answer these questions. It details how animal models fit into the larger scheme of biomedical research, some of the advances in biomedical research that have been gained because of animals, and the regulations that protect animals and manage their use. This report will help you to understand the important role animals play in biomedical research and to decide whether the benefits of animal research justify the use of animals as research subjects.

Law and Bioethics: An Introduction by Jerry Menikoff (Georgetown University Press) Ask the average person to tell you something about bioethics and, likely as not, the response will include a reference to Karen Ann Quinlan, Nancy Cruzan, or Baby M. For better or worse, the American legal system has played a major role in how the public perceives this field. And it is not merely the public that recognizes the crucial connection between law and matters bioethical. Both leading scholarly bioethics textbooks and major professional bioethics organizations correctly conclude that knowledge of the relevant law is one of the key elements in truly understanding the field of bioethics.

This is a text about the law relating to bioethics. The phrase "law and bioethics" is used in the commonly accepted sense in which "law and. . ." refers to new fields of law that have grown up around certain areas of nonlegal endeavor. While some "law and . . ." courses are convenient juxtapositions of unrelated legal doctrines that merely share a common subject matter, that is most assuredly not the case with law and bioethics. This area embodies certain consistent themes that make it well worth studying as a whole. This text is designed to illustrate those general themes, and to highlight the interconnections among doctrines that have come out of specific cases. Constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe goes to great pains to convince his readers that American "constitutional law is [not] simply a mishmash." Hopefully, the reader might reach a similar conclusion with respect to both the constitutional and non­constitutional aspects of the law relating to bioethics.

This text is designed to enable someone with an interest in bioethics‑student or professional‑to achieve a relatively sophisticated understanding of this body of law. It attempts to do this in a relatively compact space, aiming more at appropriate coverage of core concepts than at encyclopedic detail.

While the underlying subject matter is not simple, no specific legal background is assumed of the reader. Background material is included to highlight any general legal principles with which some readers may not be familiar. In addition, a brief glossary at the back of the volume highlights core terms and concepts.

At the outset, it must be noted that the language of the law is different from that of "traditional" bioethics. That difference can be somewhat jarring to a reader who has no familiarity with legal reasoning. To a great degree, the difference stems from the distinct concerns of the law. While it is currently in vogue to speak of "pragmatic" bioethics, law is the ultimate pragmatic discipline.

The law is designed to enable our society to function appropriately. Often, the controversies that the law must resolve do not easily divide along moral lines. There is nothing particularly moral about concluding that people should drive on a green light and stop at a red one; to ensure public safety it is merely necessary that a (perhaps arbitrary) choice be made so that people behave in accordance with that choice. Moreover, even where moral interpretations of a given behavior are appropriate, the law will not necessarily be concerned with them. Few of us would want to live in a society in which we are punished by the government for every indiscretion that conflicts with a particular notion of morality.

Thus, much of this text will be concerned with introducing the reader to the unique language and concerns of the law. There will be much emphasis on the United States Constitution and how it circumscribes the actions of the government, specifically through the Fourteenth Amendment and its equal protection and due process clauses.

Another area of emphasis will be on the very different legal rules that govern relationships between individuals. The law is very protective of individual autonomy. That protection is accorded to all individuals‑not merely to patients‑and so we will deal with conflicts between the autonomy of doctors and that of patients.

Almost by definition, the law is designed to regulate human behavior. A significant theme in this text is therefore how laws restrict individual autonomy, and what determines whether and when such restrictions are acceptable. Some cases legitimize restrictions on autonomy for either the benefit of society in general or the more specific benefit of the person whose autonomy is restricted. Governmental paternalism (as opposed to the much‑maligned caregiver paternalism discussed in "classical" bioethics) will be revealed as very much a core concept of the laws relating to bioethics.

The standard way law is taught in the United States is the case method: subjecting the texts of judicial decisions to critical analysis. This time‑honored technique is particularly appropriate in the field of law and bioethics, where the great bulk of the law was in fact created by a relatively small number of decisions. This volume is accordingly built around the texts of those decisions, many of which are "classic." Only by reading the actual language of the judges can one fully appreciate the nuances raised in these cases, and thus begin to understand which distinctions are relevant to a future case.

The notes and questions are designed to make this text somewhat like the kind of workbook you might encounter in studying a new foreign language or a new topic in mathematics: there are numerous opportunities to apply legal rules to particular fact patterns. Many questions in the law do in fact have answers‑or if not answers at least standard ways to frame arguments. A reader who attempts to answer the questions posed in this volume should hopefully gain facility in dealing with the standard ways that problems in law and bioethics are analyzed.

At times, the legal principles discussed in this book may seem disconcerting. For example, consider the turn‑of‑the­century case of Hurley v. Eddingfield (59 N.E.1058 [Ind.1901]), where a doctor, for no good reason, refuses to come to the aid‑of a woman he had previously treated. She and the child she was about to give birth to die. The court finds that the doctor committed no legal wrong.

More surprising, perhaps, is that Hurley represents current law. The reader who is disgusted by Hurley, thinking it demonstrates that the law truly is an ass‑and thus has nothing meaningful to contribute to bioethics‑might nonetheless be pleased by the result in In re A.C. (573 A.2d 1235 [D.C. 1990]), where a court comes out strongly in favor of not forcing surgery upon a woman, even if it is needed to save the life of her fetus. Yet variations on the same principle­an unwillingness in the law to lightly create duties to others‑lead to both outcomes.

If nothing else, it is hoped that these materials will challenge some of your existing ideas about what is "right" and what is "wrong." While there will be relatively few references to ethics per se in this volume, this is not to say that the concerns that move the legal system are somehow inappropriate or less important than the writings of ethicists. Those skeptical about the law as a force for what is "right" should remember that many, if not most, of the landmark social changes relating to bioethics have come not from the world of philosophy, but from judicial decisions.

Those decisions represent the efforts of many talented people of good will who are vested with a unique responsibility: their conclusions in any particular case will assuredly affect the participants in that case, and often many thousands of others, in a way that no recommendation from a hospital ethics committee is likely to do. Whether or not you conclude that any particular case was decided correctly or incorrectly, hopefully you can enjoy and benefit from the journey of discovery. For many of you, this will be an entry to a new kingdom, with its own unique language. Perhaps it is not quite as magical as Harry Potter's world, but you might be pleasantly surprised to find that it does indeed possess a magic of its own.

Biomedicine, the Family and Human Rights edited by Marie-Therese Meulders-Klein, Ruth Deech, Paul Vlaardingerbro (Kluwer Law International) examines the impact of advances in genetics and assisted reproduction technologies on family law, human rights and the rights of the child, including the effects of international treaties on national legislation. It surveys the theoretical, ethical and legal discussions with regard to biotechnology and family law issues and the search for a balance between safeguarding respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the need to ensure freedom of research. However, biotechnology impinges not only on isolated individuals and their rights, but also on unborn children, the family as a network of living relationships and the basic structure of any society, as well as the foundation of parentage and kinship, social organization as a whole and, finally, mankind itself. As the attention of the world turns to cloning, this book will contribute to the search for a balance between the rights and freedoms of born and yet to be born human beings and the quest for new technologies.

Excerpt from conclusion: Of all the burning issues of our time, the topics chosen by the International Society of Family Law to mark its XXVth anniversary surely rank among the most difficult, for each is conflictual in itself, whether it be biomedicine undergoing a full‑blown revolution, the family in the throes of change or perhaps, rather, of confusion, or human rights , the constant invocation of which is not devoid of ambivalence. A fortiori, an inevitable consequence of this is that it becomes extraordinarily difficult to approach these three topics together in the light of the implications of the new biotechnologies for the family and human rights, with special reference to those of the child. Nevertheless, this choice of a combined approach is intentional, especially from a comparative law angle. Although human, technical, ethical and legal problems are the same wherever they arise, each legal system approaches them in its own way, and this very diversity raises the political and legal problem of either a flight towards the more tolerant countries or the need for international and supranational harmonisation and co‑operation Hence the need first to lump together, somewhat arbitrarily of course, large blocs of countries ‑ Anglo‑American, Nordic, Germanic and Roman ‑ in order to examine, not only their different approaches, but also their underlying philosophical, ethical and political conceptions which alone can serve to explain these differences in approach, and then to go on to look at the implications of international instruments dealing with human rights, biomedicine and even with European Community law'

Finally, we need to realise that the particular acuity of the problems we are currently confronted with stems from the fact that ‑ although we are perhaps not fully aware of it ‑ for the past three decades we have been engulfed by a tidal wave of events, given that a further effect of the amazing progress achieved in bioscience, both in research and its applications to such areas as genetics and procreation, has been to highlight certain premises which are now moving towards synergy or conflict."

Four in number, these premises are as follows: 

  1. ‑ The quest for knowledge and power: This is what Adam and Eve sought... when they ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in order to become "like gods". Today, this is what scientists are seeking. However, this desire to know the whys and wherefore of things so as to be better able to master nature and with it destiny, no matter how legitimate and necessary, may also lead to better or to worse, for science does not embody its own ends any more than the justification of its means. It leaves a blank space to be filled by other scientific disciplines. Falling that, it pursues its uncontrolled headlong rush towards new conquests and new dilemmas.

  2. ‑ The quest for profit: We are all aware that scientific discoveries arouse another deep‑seated instinct in man: the desire for profit. In a world in thrall to the market economy and competition, biotechnology soon stirs up the lure of gain. States themselves are not immune, neither are private industry, certain categories of practitioners, not to mention unscrupulous middlemen who exploit the have-nots who are tempted to sell their organs, their gametes or their bodies in order to survive by meeting the demands of the wealthy. Parts of the human body or the body itself are thus entering the market as commodities in the true sense of the word, as we have seen with the patentability of living organisms, trade in gametes and embryos, surrogate motherhood and other well-known practices.

  3. ‑ The quest for utility: Legitimate when it may maximise the wellbeing of the greatest number, utility may also backfire when it is a matter of economising increasingly rare resources by eliminating the weak and resorting, to that end, to morally unacceptable means. Formerly accepted in Northern and Common Law countries although now perceived of as heinous for historical reasons, eugenics may sneak back through more insidious and hypocritical means such as fear of future diseases or the guilt of bringing imperfect beings into the world

  4. ‑ The quest for happiness: This is the quest of the individual and has become a leitmotif of our age under the banner of human rights and privacy introduced in the United States ; it is also echoed in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights ever since the concept of "private life" was transposed from that of "secrecy of the private sphere" to that of liberty in the emotional and sexual spheres, albeit not without reservations.' Irrespective of differences in degree, individualism is now the common denominator of Western countries', and there is no doubt that the prowess of the biosciences has contributed directly to exacerbating our desires, to changing our philosophy of life and our concept of man, and thus the very foundations of our ethics and our law.

As Max Weber wrote well before these recent upheavals, science has itself "disenchanted" the world by putting an end to the old certainties underpinning the consensus and cohesion of traditional societies. Embryonic since the coming of rationalism, this phenomenon is now plainer than ever with the end of religions and the cult of the ego. Man is now his own god and looks to science and the State for the instant fulfilment of his desires. The happiness of the Moderns is no longer the sovereign good of the Ancients'" and has no time to wait for the fulfilment of bygone promises of a life after death.

The Genius Within: Discovering the Intelligence of Every Living Thing by Frank T. Vertosick (Harcourt) Can bacteria be as smart as we are? Can ants think? And fish? Yes, says Frank Vertosick, a neurosurgeon who combats our elitism about intelligence in this brilliant book. A gifted writer and author of the widely praised Why We Hurt, Vertosick shows us that intelligence--the ability to react to the outside world, to change behavior, and survive-can be found wherever life exists. He demonstrates the keen intelligence of our immune system, how lowly bacteria mutate and outwit antibiotics, and how canny cancer cells elude our natural defenses. A fascinating journey through worlds of unknown science and an unsettling argument against our valuing of brain intelligence above all else, The Genius Within tells a fascinating scientific story, one that could shake our ethical foundation to its core.

Claiming Power Over Life: Religion and Biotechnology Policy by Mark J. Hanson (Georgetown University Press) The inability of policy makers to integrate religious insights into policy debates regarding biotechnologies leads to paucity in available viewpoints, argues editor Hanson. He presents eight essays that examine how the Christian and Jewish traditions can add to the debate. The authors look at such topics a cloning, gene patenting, and other issues, often comparing and contrasting religious viewpoints to secular ones. In the main, the authors seem to believe that a lack of religious dialogue on the issues of biotechnologies will lead to a lack of values in policy making.

Beyond a Western Bioethics: Voices From the Developing World by Angeles Tan Alora, Josephine M. Lumitao (Clinical Medical Ethics: Georgetown University Press) Alora and Lumitao argue that the secular humanist bioethics of the West are inadequate in addressing health care in a culture in which family is a primary value, interdependence is an accepted norm, and poverty affects the majority of the population. To address this problem they present 20 articles that explore bioethics and the practice of medicine in the Philippines. Separate sections are devoted to the role of the family in medical treatment; issues of health care professionalism such as moral conscience, philanthropy, nepotism, and honesty; ethical dilemmas in situations involving organ transplants, AIDS, and dying patients; and the ever-present issues of allocation of care and justice. Also included are some background readings including the Philippino Board of Medicine's Code of Ethics and the texts of pertinent laws.

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