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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Bioethics (book review: Eternity magazine)

Edited by Thomas Shannon
Eternity
October 1977

At last we have a primer in bioethics (ethics of biological sciences) for those interested in that broad field of study. This book is a must for anyone who wants to begin to learn about this subject. (It is unfortunate, however, that there is no evangelical opinion in this collection of previously published articles so the Bible-believer is left to his/her own ability to make scriptural application at crucial points in each discussion.)

The book covers seven major areas in bioethics such as “Abortion,” “Research and Human Experimentation,” “Genetic Engineering and Genetic Policy,” and “Behavior Modification.” Within each general area editor Shannon has selected four seminal articles from prominent physicians, scientists and ethicists to help delineate the basic issues under consideration within that particular area. Most of the articles are quite current and therefore they are still apropos to the present situation (e.g., each of the abortion articles is post-Roe v. Wade).

The prominent authors are simply too numerous to mention in this review but be assured that virtually every non-evangelical scholar doing frontier work in bioethics is given space in this book. The articles written by Hans Jonas, LeRoy Walters, Leon Kass and James Childress seem especially praiseworthy, while the articles by Joseph Fletcher and Willard Gaylin demonstrate the moral bankruptcy of ethics without God.

This collection of articles highlights the need for evangelicals to get involved in the ethical discussions being waged in the life sciences. Unless we make the biblical perceptions known, the field will continue to be carried by people like Fletcher and Gaylin with their situational decisions based on their own jaded judgments.

I like this book very much, and until we evangelicals do our own theological and exegetical work in this area we will have to rely on the Roman Catholics like Shannon and the Paulist Press to defend the Judeo-Christian approach to bioethics.

One final note: Those who are beyond the primer level may also want to read a more advanced collection of bioethic articles recently published by the Hastings Center.

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