Biotechnology and the Human Good / Edition 2

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In the past several decades biotechnologies have provided patients with a multitude of means to address illness and disability. Some biotechnologies, such as reproductive technologies and genetic enhancements, have created significant questions about the appropriateness of medical progress, and carry ethical and social implications for society. Should biotechnology move full steam ahead? Or should we show some degree of restraint? Amid the clamoring of conflicting claims is a profound absence of the answer to a fundamental question: the ultimate goal of biotechnology. What guidelines are available? How should we assess advances in clinical medicine? For those with Christian commitments, how does one reconcile such concepts as human dignity with biotechnical progress? Is the manipulation of embryos, for instance, really progress?This book, an interdisciplinary effort by several scholars writing with one voice, a voice deeply influenced by Christian theology, reviews recent developments in genetics, nanontechnology, cybernetics, neuroscience and pharmacology that not only may lead to new tools for healing, but that can also be used to enhance or augment normal human function. The authors also look at how competing worldviews--philosophical and religious--assess such developments. After laying out a Christian anthropology, or understanding of human nature, they conclude with a discussion of the proper use of biotechnology to pursue human flourishing. While fully supportive of medical progress to combat disease, which might include research on human subjects, they are suspicious of medical attempts to "improve" human nature.
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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Kelly K Dineen, RN, JD (Saint Louis University School of Law)
Description: This book analyzes the benefits and burdens of biotechnology through the lens of medicine, science, theology, ethics, and law. The authors describe advances in human biotechnology, examine our intuitional reactions to innovation, and offer frameworks for the morally responsible use of technology.
Purpose: The authors review the literature on the prevalent and disparate approaches to the responsible use of human biotechnology. Using Christian theological foundations, they offer methods for testing the appropriate use of biotechnology. The authors seek a reasonable middle ground that embraces the good that innovation offers coupled with appropriate skepticism surrounding potential abuses.
Audience: This book, identified by the authors as a work in bioethics, is relevant for those studying or engaged in multidisciplinary scholarship as well as students or scholars of theology, philosophy, science, medicine, and law. Readers should be aware that the analyses employed in the book are largely based in Judeo-Christian theism.
Features: While biotechnology is essential to the relief of human suffering and preservation of health, the authors propose a nuanced view of human dignity that seeks to shield us from repeating the abuses of the past. The authors first provide an overview of the future of biotechnology including innovations such as nanotechnology, cybernetics, and genetic manipulation. In chapter 4, the Judeo-Christian view of human dignity as guiding morally licit law and policy is examined using a historical review of previous abuses. Chapters 5 and 6 examine the role of the perversion of the concepts of autonomy, choice, and consumerism in the improper use of technology. The last chapter offers a series of foundational questions necessary to evaluate the use of biotechnology and a framework for the analysis of the use of technology based on Christian theology.
Assessment: The chapters are not separately authored but were developed and reviewed in collaboration with multiple authors and outside editors, including several from outside the U.S. This collaborative, multidisciplinary writing lends itself to a unified voice throughout the book and a balanced approach to the issues. Because of the breadth of material, readers with no previous exposure would benefit from supplemental readings in the area. The use of particular examples of potential harm associated with certain technologies is especially helpful in providing a clinical context for the discussion. The foundational questions in Chapter 7 are particularly beneficial and are relevant to both secular and theological analysts.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781589011380
  • Publisher: Georgetown University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2007
  • Edition description: ANN
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

C. Ben Mitchell is associate professor of bioethics and contemporary culture at Trinity International University.

Edmund D. Pellegrino, MD, is the chair of the President's Council on Bioethics, and professor emeritus of medicine and medical ethics, Center for Clinical Bioethics, Georgetown University Medical Center.

Jean Bethke Elshtain is the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago.

John F. Kilner is the Franklin Forman Chair of Ethics, professor of bioethics and contemporary culture, and the director of the bioethics program at Trinity International University.

Scott B. Rae is professor of biblical studies and Christian ethics at Biola University.

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Table of Contents



ONEThe Rapidly Changing World of Biotechnology TWOHumanity and the Technological Narrative

THREEBiotechnology and Competing Worldviews

FOURBiotechnology and Human Dignity

FIVEBiotechnology and the Quest for Control

SIXBiotechnology, Human Enhancement, and the Ends of Medicine

SEVENConclusion: Toward a Foundation for Biotechnology


Authors and Collaborators


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