Brutes or Angels
Human Possibility in the Age of Biotechnology
Publication Year: 2013
With stem cell research, Dolly the cloned sheep, in vitro fertilization, age retardation, and pharmaceutical mind enhancement, humankind is now faced with decisions that it has never before had to consider. The thoughtfulness, or lack of it, that we bring to those decisions will largely determine the future character of the living world.
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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List of Illustrations
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The objective of this book is to facilitate informed choice making about personal use of biotechnologies and formulation of public policies governing their development and applications. The book provides basic information about a wide range of biotechnologies, the ethical issues raised by each one, and diverse viewpoints on dealing with these issues. Two underlying...
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Humankind’s place in nature is somewhere between brutes and divinities according to Renaissance philosopher Pico della Mirandola (1463–1494). Writing what some consider to be the manifesto of the Renaissance, Pico allegorized humankind’s creative potential. He imagined God telling humans...
1. Cells and Molecules: The Unity of Life
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On August 20, 1979, Newsweek magazine sported a cover with a beautiful color cartoon of a single cell and its interior. This and the accompanying story, “Secrets of the Human Cell,” illustrated the prominence and relevance of cell biology for the general public that was evident more than...
2. Stem Cells: Embryos, Therapeutic Cloning, and Personhood
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Not since Copernicus and Galileo removed Earth from the center of the universe and Charles Darwin placed the origin of humans and other animals on equal footing has a scientific discovery created more political, religious, and social controversy than the 1998 generation of human...
3. Embryo Selection: Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis
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Prospective parenthood can be anxiety ridden when one or both partners carry a genetic disorder in their DNA or advancing age puts children at risk for genetic abnormalities. If possible, most persons would choose not to bring a child into the world who has little or no chance of living to adulthood...
4. The Human Genome Project: Spin-Offs and Fallout
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The deciphered human genome is called by some the Holy Grail for medicine and cell biology. Just what is a genome, and why is it important to learn about the human genome? In chapter 1 we saw that the combined DNA from one copy of each type of chromosome in an organism constitutes ...
5. Human Diversity, Genes, and Medicine: Richness and Dangers
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This chapter is about genes, human diversity, scientific correctness, health, and biomedical research. The word race is not in the chapter’s title because this book is about science and ethics, and the concept of race is both scientifically problematic and ethically treacherous. Race is scientifically problematic...
6. Genetic Enhancement: Humankind Healing and Redesigning Itself
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Michelangelo did a wonderful thing when he sculpted the David (fig. 6.1). This single creation embodies the confidence, courage, and creative potential of Renaissance Florence and of humankind today. Michelangelo’s chisels are now genes, and humans are simultaneously the artist and the block...
7. Human Reproductive Cloning: Sameness, Uniqueness, and Personal Identity
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This chapter is about the prospect of generating genetic copies of preexisting human beings, reproductive cloning. It differs from therapeutic cloning (embryo cloning), discussed in chapter 2, in that cloned embryos would actually be transferred to a woman’s uterus and brought to term....
8. Age Retardation: Chasing Immortality for Better or Worse
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One spring day, decades ago, my two best friends and I slowly walked the five blocks home from our grade school, where in a few weeks we would finish fifth grade. Sixth grade brought uncertainties for our friendship because we would enter junior high school, where there were three sixth-grade classes. We might become separated. Mulling over the realities of ...
9. The Mind: Neuroenhancement and Neuroethics
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“A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” wrote Professor Peter C. Doherty (2008), co-winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, in an article about education in his native Australia.1 Borrowing the slogan of the United Negro College Fund, Doherty (2008) asked of his fellow Australians, “Can we afford to waste a single, talented person?”2 The human...
10. Synthetic Biology: From Cocreator to Creator
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“Better Things for Better Living . . . through Chemistry” (shortened to “Better Living through Chemistry” by the 1960s drug culture) was Du- Pont Chemical Company’s twentieth-century slogan for almost fifty years. DuPont’s “better living” claim refers to life with products like nylon, neoprene,...
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In an interview for a film titled The Origin of Species, from the Great Books series, evolutionary biologist and geneticist George Gaylord Simpson expressed feelings of reservation but also certainty about the eventual eugenic use of human genetic engineering. His words express concern, the...
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Cell and molecular biology, genomics, neuroscience, and the biotechnologies emerging from these basic sciences advance at breakneck pace. Minutes after sitting down to write this section about keeping up with such rapidly developing technologies and what we can do about it, my wife walked into the room and asked, “Did you hear on NPR this morning about ...
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Page Count: 358
Illustrations: 45 illustrations
Publication Year: 2013