Cover image for Whose view of life? : embryos, cloning, and stem cells
Whose view of life? : embryos, cloning, and stem cells
Maienschein, Jane.
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Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiii, 342 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
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QP277 .M356 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Saving lives versus taking lives - these are the stark terms in which the public regards human embryo research - a battleground of extremes, a war between science and ethics. Such a simplistic dichotomy, encouraged by vociferous opponents of abortion and proponents of medical research, is precisely what Jane Maienschein seeks to counter in this book. She brings the current debates into sharper focus by examining developments in stem cell research, cloning and embryology in historical and philosophical context and by exploring legal, social and ethical issues at the heart of what has become a political controversy. Jane Maienschein provides historical and contemporary analysis to aid understanding of the scientific and social forces that got us where we are today. For example, she explains the long-established traditions behind conflicting views of how life begins - at conception or gradually, in the course of development. She prepares us to engage a major question of our day: how are we, as a 21st century democratic society, to navigate a course that is at the same time respectful of the range of competing views of life, built on the strongest possible basis of scientific knowledge, and still able to respond to the momentous opportunities and challenges presented to us by modern biology? Maienschein's multidisciplinary perspective aims to provide a starting point for futher attempts to answer this question.

Author Notes

Jane Maienschein is Regents' Professor of Biology and Society and Director of the Center for Biology and Society at Arizona State University

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

At what point does an embryo or fetus become "human"? This question is at the core of today's battle over stem cell research, and that battle, Maienschein believes, is central to questions about the respective roles of science and morality in a democracy. Maienschein, director of the Center for Biology and Society at Arizona State University, puts the question of when life begins in historical and philosophical context. Thomas Aquinas and other early Christian theologians followed Aristotle's view that the fetus acquired first a vegetable soul, then an animal soul and, finally, a rational soul; abortion before the rational ensoulment was not murder. For centuries, the author explains, knowledge of human development in the womb was limited to observation of miscarried or aborted fetuses or to studying animal gestation. In the mid-19th century, the science of embryology came into being, and of course only in the late 20th century were scientists able to use imaging technology such as ultrasound to watch the development of the fetus. Maienschein then moves from history to current science and policy. A former congressional science adviser, she knows how government works-and fails to work-when it comes to setting policy on complex issues like cloning. She believes that George W. Bush's 2001 decision to limit stem cell research to lines that existed at that time is shortsighted, but she presents a balanced account of the controversy. This book should be required reading for anyone trying to understand the scientific and ethical issues that will dominate medicine in the next quarter century. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

With the recent report of successful cloning of adult stem cells, Maienschein's book is most timely. However, this reviewer suggests that the real issue is not what constitutes life, but what a human being is. Embryos and ethics have been at the heart of the debate since Aristotle's time, as described here in several useful chapters on the history of embryology. In two chapters, Maienschein (Arizona State Univ.) explores, in a nontechnical way, the potential of new technologies like in vitro fertilization and recombinant DNA. The last third of the book provides an "insider's" view of the struggles over reproductive cloning and stem cell research. With substantial notes and index, both the text and context are readily accessible. Written at a level higher than a science news weekly but less detailed than a research journal, and with a major emphasis on policy considerations rather than science techniques, this book is most likely to be useful for advanced undergraduates in medical ethics or similar courses. Books at the interface of different cultures (e.g., science and religion) always seem to rest uneasily there; this is no exception. Practitioners in many disciplines could benefit by reading it to enhance their dialogue with representatives of other areas. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates, researchers, faculty, professionals, practitioners. L. C. Davis Kansas State University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
1. From the Beginningp. 13
2. Interpreting Embryos, Understanding Lifep. 49
3. Genetics, Embryology, and Cloning Frogsp. 88
4. Recombinant DNA, IVF, and Abortion Politicsp. 125
5. From Genetics to Genomaniap. 169
6. Facts and Fantasies of Cloningp. 212
7. Hopes and Hypes for Stem Cellsp. 249
Conclusionp. 298
Notesp. 307
Indexp. 329