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Brutes or Angels

Human Possibility in the Age of Biotechnology

James T. Bradley

Publication Year: 2013

A guide to the rapidly progressing Age of Biotechnology, Brutes or Angels provides basic information on a wide array of new technologies in the life sciences, along with the ethical issues raised by each.

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.

Brutes or Angels will facilitate informed choice making about the personal use of biotechnologies and the formulation of public policies governing their development and use. Ten biotechnologies that impact humans are considered: stem cell research, embryo selection, human genomics, gene therapies, human reproductive cloning, age retardation, cognition enhancement, the engineering of nonhuman organisms, nanobiology, and synthetic biology.

With deft and assured use of metaphors, analogies, diagrams, and photographs, James T. Bradley introduces important biological principles and the basic procedures used in biotechnology. Various ethical issues--personhood, personal identity, privacy, ethnic discrimination, distributive justice, authenticity and human nature, and the significance of mortality in the human life cycle--are presented in a clear and unbiased manner. Personal reflection and group dialogue are encouraged by questions at the end of each chapter, making this book not only a general guide to better informed and nuanced thinking on these complex and challenging topics but also an appropriate text for bioethics courses in university science departments and for adult education classes.

Standing at the beginning of the twenty-first century, with burgeoning abilities to enhance and even create life in ways unimaginable just a few decades ago, humans have an awesome responsibility to themselves and other species. Brutes or Angelsinvites us to engage each other in meaningful dialogue by listening, gathering information, formulating thoughtful views, and remaining open to new knowledge and ethical argumentation.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

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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pp. xvii-xx

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pp. 1-3

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...

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1. Cells and Molecules: The Unity of Life

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pp. 4-36

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...

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2. Stem Cells: Embryos, Therapeutic Cloning, and Personhood

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pp. 37-80

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...

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3. Embryo Selection: Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis

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pp. 81-109

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...

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4. The Human Genome Project: Spin-Offs and Fallout

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pp. 110-134

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 ...

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5. Human Diversity, Genes, and Medicine: Richness and Dangers

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pp. 135-157

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...

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6. Genetic Enhancement: Humankind Healing and Redesigning Itself

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pp. 158-181

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...

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7. Human Reproductive Cloning: Sameness, Uniqueness, and Personal Identity

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pp. 182-205

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....

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8. Age Retardation: Chasing Immortality for Better or Worse

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pp. 206-225

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 ...

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9. The Mind: Neuroenhancement and Neuroethics

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pp. 226-253

“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...

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10. Synthetic Biology: From Cocreator to Creator

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pp. 254-287

“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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pp. 288-290

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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pp. 291-296

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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pp. 297-312


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pp. 313-330


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pp. 331-338

E-ISBN-13: 9780817386580
E-ISBN-10: 0817386580
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317881
Print-ISBN-10: 0817317880

Page Count: 358
Illustrations: 45 illustrations
Publication Year: 2013