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Human Dignity in the Biotech Century: A Christian Vision for Public Policy (Colson, Charles) Paperback – August 7, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This essay collection provides a worthwhile, if somewhat uneven, selection of conservative Christian thought about biotechnology and its ethical and legal implications. Colson and Cameron assemble a reliable team of contributors, weighted more towards organizational leaders and lobbyists than academics. In general, subtlety is not a strong point here. Colson characterizes therapeutic use of embryonic stem cells as "high-tech cannibalism," a practice that "will lead inevitably to the abolition of humankind and the ultimate end of Western civilization as we know it." Yet some other contributors (including Paige Comstock Cunningham, a former president of Americans United for Life) reach out to a wider audience, recognizing that on issues of cloning and genetic engineering, pro-life conservatives may find unexpected allies among pro-choice advocates and Greens, who share their suspicions of eugenics and biotech capitalism. Other highlights include David Prentice's calculations of the feasibility of "therapeutic" cloning for major diseases such as diabetes and Christopher Hook's discussion of "transhumanism," using cybernetics and nanotechnology to enhance human potential. Overall, the volume cannot quite deliver on the promise of its subtitle: there is not enough of a coherent theological framework here to constitute a Christian vision for public policy. But there are certainly some promising suggestions for Christian public advocacy.
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Review

"This collection gathers essays from top bioethics thinkers and activists. Pick among topics such as learning from our mistakes, new technology, genetics, and transhumanism. Get ready for the science fiction realities of the 21st century, and get involved!" (Paige C. Cunningham, Dignitas, Winter 2009)

"This volume comprises essays from the top thinkers and activists in the field on topics like learning from past mistakes, new technology, genetics, and transhumanism. Get ready for the science fiction realities of the 21st century, and get involved." (Paige C. Cunningham, Christianity Today, November 2009)

"Each article is well-referenced and hence quite helpful in pointing readers to a wealth of published material in academic journals and books, popular literature and news, and various academic and popular websites." (Jason T. Eberl for American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, Fall 2007)
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Product Details

  • Series: Colson, Charles
  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (August 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830827838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830827831
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #651,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dan Panetti VINE VOICE on June 12, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Colson and Cameron do an outstanding job putting together a compilation of essays and articles from some of the top thinkers in the world on the issue of biotechnology and bioethics. Contributors include a who's-who of lawyers and doctors from groups like the Family Research Council, The Mayo Clinic, and the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. Dr. Cameron himself is a research professor of bioethics at Chicago-Kent College of Law and the president of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future. He also directs the Council for Biotechnology Policy (Washington D.C), chaired by Charles W. Colson.

The twelve essays alert the reader to the ethical and legal challenges facing our generation involving embryo research, stem cell research, cloning, generic engineering, gene therapy, pharmacogenomics, cybernetics, nanotechnology, and abortion. The papers are well researched and well reasoned and provide for the reader an excellent insight into the future of this debate from a biblical foundation.

The fundamental issue raised by the book regards the direction of our nation, especially in the area of public policy. Colson notes that the government's responsibility is not the greatest good for the greatest number (utilitarian theory), but rather the protection of the weak from the strong who would exploit them. That foundational biblical principle should be our guiding light as we enter this public debate - what kind of society do we want for the generations that follow - one that seeks to create life only to destroy it for the immediate benefit of those alive or one that seeks to protect and promote life based on its intrinsic value as a special creation of God.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bill Muehlenberg VINE VOICE on November 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
The title of this collection of essays is both a good summary of the book and an important warning as to where we are headed as a society. Certainly the 21st century will be known as the century of biotechnology. Whether genetic engineering, designer babies, human cloning, stem cell research or nanotechnology, the advances in this field will continue apace. But so too will the ethical concerns.

Indeed, what it means to be human, what it is to be a person, and questions of human worth and dignity are all raised in the light of these new technologies. While perhaps all of the technologies are being championed as means to a better human end, many more cautious minds are expressing concerns about the potential for dehumanisation and a cavalier attitude toward life. Very real concerns about the state of personhood and the uniqueness of human life are engendered by the new biotech.

Clear ethical and social understanding of where the new technologies are taking us is thus the order of the day, and the editors of this book are well-suited to the task. They have both been at the forefront of ethical and theological reflection on the direction of the new biotech revolution. Charles Colson has long championed the need for a biblical worldview to assess where western society is heading, and Cameron is a leading bioethicist who has been dealing in these issues for quite some time now. His important volume The New Medicine, penned back in 1991, was one of the early wake-up calls as to where the new medical technologies were taking us.

In this volume we have twelve essays written by experts in the field, experts such as David Prentice, Richard Doerflinger, Wesley Smith and William Saunders.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gordon Hackman on November 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
Here is a good and informative collection of essays, written from a Christian perspective, concerning the importance of contemporary bioethical issues. Though the authors come from a variety of experiential and academic backgrounds, they are all untied in both their commitment to genuinely Christian cultural engagement and in defending the God given dignity of human beings in an age in which the Christian view of humanity is under increasing assault.

All of the essays are worth reading, but the ones I found most informative and helpful came from Nigel Cameron, C. Christopher Hook, David Prentice, William Saunders, and Page Comstock Cunningham. William Saunders essay was particularly valuable to me for the way in which he demonstrates how the arguments currently used to disenfranchise the human embryo and declare it less than a person are virtually identical to those used by the Nazis to declare certain classes of people "unfit" or less than persons. Hook deals with the issues surrounding "transhumanism" and the altering of the human body through technological modification. David Prentice addresses the question of what it means to be human and how this question is central to issues surrounding research using human embryonic stemcells. He discusses how the use of human embryos for research violates basic ethical norms for research done on human beings, and how there are ethical alternatives to using human embryos in research. Both Cameron and Cunningham deal with issues of strategy in publicly addressing bioethical matters and defending human dignity. Cameron's essay is particularly valuable for the way in which it addresses our current cultural climate and its relationship to bioethical issues, particularly relating to the culture of abortion.
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