Cover: Whose View of Life?: Embryos, Cloning, and Stem Cells, from Harvard University PressCover: Whose View of Life? in PAPERBACK

Whose View of Life?

Embryos, Cloning, and Stem Cells

Product Details


$31.00 • £26.95 • €28.95

ISBN 9780674017665

Publication Date: 04/29/2005


368 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

4 halftones, 5 line illustrations


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Maienschein brilliantly brings to the debate a variable absent in most discussions of the subject—history… [She] offers an insider’s view on several fronts. A well-established academic whose field is the history of developmental biology, she is also a former Congressional fellow, and thus is well placed to deplore politicians’ strategic invocation of the phrase ‘sound science’ to support their a priori ideological positions. Her mantra is that good ethics begin with good facts, such as the fact that differentiated cells appear and have the capacity to experience sensation only after fourteen days; that the heart beats only after twenty-two days; that organisms at birth are the product of both genes and the womb environment, which interact in an endless feedback loop; that societies have in the past drawn the line on where life begins at myriad points and will continue to do so as science and our tools shift our understanding of what life is. In short, her message is that, in a democratic pluralistic society, we must use facts and the lessons of history rather than gut instincts…to navigate a course that is respectful of competing views while rising to the challenges of biomedicine.—Michele Pridmore-Brown, The Times Literary Supplement

The debate in America over abortion and research with human embryos is so polarized that it is easy to forget that today’s passionately held views of the intrinsic moral status of the embryo are but the latest in an ever-evolving understanding of human biology and its implications for theology and philosophy. Jane Maienschein’s delightful book Whose View of Life? is a welcome reminder—and, for optimists, represents the hope—that today’s intransigence might someday yield to a humbler stance by all partisans in this debate.—R. Alta Charo, The New England Journal of Medicine

Jane Maienschein’s engaging new book Whose View of Life? offers a historical perspective on the current debates over human embryo research. Maienschein’s aim is to reveal the ways in which our understanding of what defines the beginning of a human life has been contested and has undergone transformation through the centuries. Her concise, elegant, and sweeping overview of the history of developmental biology shows how advances in science have often compelled the reformulation of questions and answers concerning the definition of when a life begins.—Andrew W. Siegel, JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association

The hype surrounding embryonic stem-cell research is being played out in newspaper headlines touting miracle cures and ethical crises… Amid this cacophony, reading Jane Maienschein’s thoughtful book, Whose View of Life?, is a quiet pleasure… Maienschein recommends tolerance, humility, and the avoidance of ‘false dichotomies’ that pit science against religion, or saving the life of a sick person against taking the life of an embryo. Neither science nor religious morality alone have the answers, she argues.—Stephen Pincock, The Lancet

In providing a highly readable and reliable account of the history of attempts to understand the details of animal reproduction, [the author] offers an essential background for all who wish to base their views concerning the controversial issues of cloning, stem cell research and the scientific use of human embryos on evidence rather than on a fear of the unknown… She has done her part to defend reason and evidence, and for that, she deserves the attention and admiration of citizens concerned with the future of science in the United States.—Hannah Hardgrave, Metapsychology Online

Maienschein’s historical account is both engaging and accurate.—Robert Winston, Nature

At what point does an embryo or fetus become ‘human’? This question is at the core of today’s battle over stem cell research, and that battle, Maienschein believes, is central to questions about the respective roles of science and morality in a democracy. Maienschein, director of the Center for Biology and Society at Arizona State University, puts the question of when life begins in historical and philosophical context… This book should be required reading for anyone trying to understand the scientific and ethical issues that will dominate medicine in the next quarter century.Publishers Weekly

Jane Maienschein has produced an invaluable book. She invites the reader to consider the question of how ’a life’ has been defined from diverse viewpoints. Her rich experience as a scholar, teacher and legislative advisor makes her account essential reading for anyone interested in the social consequences of modern biology and biotechnology.—Garland Allen, Professor of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis

Jane Maienschein has written a startlingly clear account of our current knowledge and anxiety about embryos, stem cells and the swirl of politics that surrounds these issues. Whose View of Life? is widely informative and yet balanced and even. This is a book that should be read by scientists, ethicists, moralists and the general public. Indeed, I hope the publishers send a free copy to each member of Congress.—Michael S. Gazzaniga, Dean of the Faculty, Dartmouth College, and member of the President’s Commission on Bioethics

This is a wonderfully timely, sensible, and clear-headed look at the one of the most controversial issues in biomedicine today. It is just the book we would hope for from a distinguished historian of biology and medicine. Most people who have been following the story of cloning and stem cells for the last half dozen years or so—say since Dolly—have a grazing, close-up view. Whose View of Life? provides the panoramic perspective that we sorely need. How lucky we are to have Jane Maienschein to widen our horizons.—Jonathan Weiner, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Beak of the Finch

Awards & Accolades

  • Finalist, 2004 Independent Publisher Book Awards, Science Category

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