Genetics: Science, Ethics, and Public Policy (Readings in Bioethics)

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Genetics: Science, Ethics, and Public Policy (Readings in Bioethics) Thomas A. Shannon, Editor. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005. ISBN 0-7425-3238-0; 224 PAGES, PAPERBACK, $22.95

While this anthology covers a wide range of bioethics voices from law, medicine, and the humanities, a clue to its approach is found in the editor's introduction: "One important development in the field has been the informal division into clinical and institutional bioethics" (p. xi). The editor, Thomas A. Shannon, is a professor of religion and social ethics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute; he continues his introduction by describing the nature of the debates within these broad categories. In other words, according to Dr. Shannon, bioethics is all about process. This preconception overlooks the concerns of many who engage in the discourse of bioethics, practitioners on the front lines or academicians, very concerned about the values that inform the process.

Because of his presumption, the choice of articles is more utilitarian than deontological. The opener, by well-known writer Francis Fukuyama, would seem at first to be an exception, but it falls short. His paper, ambitiously entitled "Biotechnology and the Threat of a Posthuman Future," sounds a reasonable alarm about how genetic technologies threaten our shared understanding of human nature. Yet Fukuyama provides no basis for defending human value except for a vague intuition. In fact, he undermines his own case by claiming that "There are no fixed human characteristics, except for a general capability to choose what we want to be, to modify ourselves in accordance with our desires" (p. …