Saving lives versus taking lives: These are the stark terms in which the public regards human embryo research—a battleground of extremes, a war between science and ethics. Such a simplistic dichotomy, encouraged by vociferous opponents of abortion and proponents of medical research, is precisely what Jane Maienschein seeks to counter with this book. Whose View of Life? brings the current debates into sharper focus by examining developments in stem cell research, cloning, and embryology in historical and philosophical context and by exploring legal, social, and ethical issues at the heart of what has become a political controversy.
Drawing on her experience as a researcher, teacher, and congressional fellow, Maienschein provides historical and contemporary analysis to aid understanding of the scientific and social forces that got us where we are today. For example, she explains the long-established traditions behind conflicting views of how life begins—at conception or gradually, in the course of development. She prepares us to engage a major question of our day: How are we, as a 21st-century democratic society, to navigate a course that is at the same time respectful of the range of competing views of life, built on the strongest possible basis of scientific knowledge, and still able to respond to the momentous opportunities and challenges presented to us by modern biology? Maienschein’s multidisciplinary perspective will provide a starting point for further attempts to answer this question.