Discussions and debates over the medical use of stem cells and cloning have always had a religious component. But there are many different religious voices. This anthology on how religious perspectives can inform the difficult issues of stem cell research and human cloning is essential to the discussion. Contributors reflect the spectrum of Christian responses, from liberal Protestant to evangelical to Roman Catholic. The noted moral philosopher, Laurie Zoloth, offers a Jewish approach to cloning, and Sondra Wheeler contributes her perspective on both Jewish and Christian understandings of embryonic stem cell research.
In addition to the discussions found here, God and the Embryo includes a series of official statements on stem cell research and cloning from religious bodies, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Rabbinical Council of America. "Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry," from the statement of the President's Council on Bioethics, concludes the book.
The debates and the discussions will continue, but for anyone interested in the nuances of religious perspectives that make their important contributions to these ethically challenging and important dialectics, God and the Embryo is an invaluable resource.
The overall purpose of Human Embryos, Human Beings is to establish the ontological status of the human embryo, in light of the most recent biological evidence. The thesis of the book is that sound philosophical reasoning and the available scientific evidence support the claim that a human being is present from the moment of fertilization onward (the “immediate hominization” view) and does not support the contrary claim that a human being appears only after a time following fertilization (the “delayed hominization” view). Included in the scope of this argument is an examination of several long-standing philosophical arguments claiming that immediate hominization is false; a detailed examination of several arguments claiming that though immediate hominization is possible, both evidence and argument best support the delayed hominization view or some alternate view; and an examination of several cases where natural defect or scientific manipulation make determining the ontological status of the embryo more difficult. The book also includes a presentation of hylomorphism, as this is the philosophical viewpoint employed by the authors to analyze the question. Human Embryos, Human Beings is based on the premise that philosophical and scientific approaches are not in conflict, with the most comprehensive understanding of human embryos being achieved by application of a rigorous hylomorphic philosophy to the best available scientific data. Often, one finds either a thorough and well-reasoned philosophical account or a detailed scientific account. This book makes a welcome addition to the field by integrating both of these needed elements into a single text.
The Sanctity of Human Life
David Novak Georgetown University Press, 2007 Library of Congress R725.57.N68 2007 | Dewey Decimal 174.2
Heated debates are not unusual when confronting tough medical issues where it seems that moral and religious perspectives often erupt in conflict with philosophical or political positions. In The Sanctity of Human Life, Jewish theologian David Novak acknowledges that it is impossible not to take into account the theological view of human life, but the challenge is how to present the religious perspective to nonreligious people. In doing so, he shows that the two positions—the theological and the philosophical—aren't as far apart as they may seem.
Novak digs deep into Jewish scripture and tradition to find guidance for assessing three contemporary controversies in medicine and public policy: the use of embryos to derive stem cells for research, socialized medicine, and physician-assisted suicide. Beginning with thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Nietsche, and drawing on great Jewish figures in history—Maimonides, Rashi, and various commentators on the Torah (written law) and the Mishnah (oral law)—Novak speaks brilliantly to these modern moral dilemmas.
The Sanctity of Human Life weaves a rich and sophisticated tapestry of evidence to conclude that the Jewish understanding of the human being as sacred, as the image of God, is in fact compatible with philosophical claims about the rights of the human person—especially the right to life—and can be made intelligible to secular culture. Thus, according to Novak, the use of stem cells from embryos is morally unacceptable; the sanctity of the human person, and not capitalist or socialist approaches, should drive our understanding of national health care; and physician-assisted suicide violates humankind's fundamental responsibility for caring for one another.
Novak's erudite argument and rigorous scholarship will appeal to all scholars and students engaged in the work of theology and bioethics.