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The Facts of Life: Science and the Abortion Controversy Paperback – August 4, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (August 4, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195090462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195090468
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,231,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A remarkable book on several levels, not the least of which is that Morowitz and Trefil are scientists and science writers who write in an accessible, provocative, and wonderfully frank way about a difficult subject--abortion....An essential piece of literature."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

"The Facts of Life makes important contributions to the tendentious debate about abortion....Should be indispensable to that vast majority of citizens who are troubled by the simplistic polemics that have (mis)informed much of the debate."--Joshua Lederberg, The Rockefeller University

"The women of America owe Professor Morowitz and Trefil a debt of gratitude. Their careful scientific review cuts through the hype and hyperbole in the abortion debate and gives us a new perspective on the future of this debate. Fascinating!"--Ann Stone, Republicans for Choice

"Will disturb some, appeal to others, but interest all who wish to learn more about fetal development and its relevance to abortion issues."--Dominick P. Purpura, M.D., Dean, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University

"Well-written and informative and will create much needed discussion of and reflection on the issue of abortion." --Laurence A. LArson, Ohio University, Science Books and Films

About the Author

About the Authors: Harold J. Morowitz is the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Biology and Natural Philosophy at George Mason University and the author of The Thermodynamics of Pizza and Cosmic Joy and Local Pain. James S. Trefil is the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Physics at George Mason University. He is the coauthor of Dictionary of Cultural Literacy and Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By William F Harrison on December 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Morowitz and Trefil (M&T I shall call them), two teachers at Geo Mason Univ started this short monograph as a friend of the court brief for one of the many abortion cases to reach the Supreme Court, so that the justices might have scientifically accurate and factual information to work with in some of their decisions. When Justice O'Connor made her famous statement to the effect that Roe v. Wade was a decision which was being overtaken by scientific advances in neonatology which were making survival of ever more immature infants possible, she did not have available reliable information of the sort M&T have put forth in this small gem of a book. I have been involved in providing abortion in my Ob/Gyn practice for a very long time and have made a serious and ongoing effort to educate both the public and my medical colleagues about the abortion controversy since 1984. One of the most difficult things for the average layperson, and even for physicians, to get a handle on has been exactly why 24 weeks gestational age of the fetus should make such a difference in the abortion debate. M&T have done everyone except for the militant anti-abortion fundamentalists a tremendous service by bringing together most of the scientific knowledge which bears on fetal development as it pertains to the higher functons of the central nervous system and newborn survival. As they state in the introduction to The Facts of Life, while the two sides in the abortion controversy will never admit to the validity of the conclusions drawn by the other side, we should at least have accurate information upon which to draw those conclusions. Morowitz and Trefil had done us a true service by providing much valuable information. wfh
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is one of the classics of the modern pro-choice movement, and ranks alongside Petchesky's socialist-humanist philosophical defence of reproductive freedom, and Beverly Harrison's pro-choice theological dissection of anti-abortion moral and theological premises. Trefil and Morowitz argue that anti-abortionists are seriously scientifically flawed in their argument that prenatal development is autonomous and independent from women's bodies and social context, and do so in a rigorous manner. This book is a must-have for any informed pro-choice reader, although no amount of critical scientific detail can convince the neo-Aristotleans of the anti-abortion movement.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
I see that a conservative Christian discovered the book, or this reference to it, and was afraid of what they encountered. Unfortunately for him, or her, this book is valuable precisely because it reveals the gaping fallacies in the antiabortion argument, and how its so-called "natural law" theory falls afoul of empirical verification of embryological development, which they always selectively cite. Pro-choice readers, buy this book!! I
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eric C. Welch on May 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
Harold J. Morowitz, professor of biology, and James Trefil, who teaches physics, both at George Mason University, have produced what I consider to be one of the seminal books on abortion that I have read. They examine the concepts of "life" and humanness. They point out that at the molecular level we are indistinguishable from plants and bacteria -- on a chemical level our cells function the same as brewer's yeast, a single cell organism; and we share a 98.5% genetic (DNA coding) with chimpanzees -- which are also "alive." Therefore, the important question one must ask is at what point the fetus or zygote acquires those characteristics that make us human, for no one would deny that we are indeed profoundly different from other forms of life. The point at which humanness is acquired (not personhood, which is a legal concept) becomes important to help distinguish between the rights of the mother and those of the fetus.

An enormous amount of change occurs from conception to birth, and the authors have examined the biological and scientific evidence to determine at what point this humanness is acquired. From a biologist's point of view, at conception, "two previously existing living things come together to form another living thing." Traditionally the anti-abortion advocates have argued that because the DNA genetic code exists at conception, that is when "life" begins. Morowitz and Trefil suggest that is like saying a building is complete when the blueprints are done. The combining creates the DNA blueprint, but dead tissue excised in a hospital has the same DNA blueprint, and cancerous tumors contain genetic uniqueness, yet no one would call them "life" worthy of preservation.
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