Genetics and Evolution

 email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
A Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Mind So RareA Natural History of RapeAcquiring GenomesAdapting MindsAgeing, Health and CareAlas, Poor DarwinAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAncient Bodies, Modern LivesAnimal ArchitectsAping MankindAre We Hardwired?Bang!BehavingBeyond EvolutionBeyond GeneticsBlood MattersBody BazaarBoneBrain Evolution and CognitionBrain StormBrave New BrainBrave New WorldsChoosing ChildrenCloneCloningConceptual Issues in Evolutionary BiologyConsciousness EvolvingContemporary Debates in Philosophy of BiologyControlling Our DestiniesCooperation and Its EvolutionCreatures of AccidentDarwin Loves YouDarwin's Brave New WorldDarwin's Gift to Science and ReligionDarwin's UniverseDarwin's WormsDarwinian ConservatismDarwinian PsychiatryDarwinism and its DiscontentsDarwinism as ReligionDebating DesignDecoding DarknessDefenders of the TruthDo We Still Need Doctors?Doubting Darwin?Early WarningEngineering the Human GermlineEnhancing EvolutionEnoughEntwined LivesEthical Issues in Human CloningEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEvil GenesEvolutionEvolutionEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorEvolution and LearningEvolution and ReligionEvolution and the Human MindEvolution in MindEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolution: The Modern SynthesisEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Origins of MoralityEvolutionary PsychiatryEvolutionary PsychologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolutionary Psychology as Maladapted PsychologyExploding the Gene MythFaces of Huntington'sFlesh of My FleshFrom Chance to ChoiceFrom Darwin to HitlerGenesGenes in ConflictGenes on the CouchGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Women, EqualityGenetic Nature/CultureGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetic SecretsGenetics in the MadhouseGenetics of Criminal and Antisocial BehaviourGenetics of Mental DisordersGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenomeGenomeGenome: Updated EditionGenomes and What to Make of ThemGlowing GenesHow Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So StoriesHuman CloningHuman Evolution, Reproduction, and MoralityImproving Nature?In Our Own ImageIn Pursuit of the GeneIn the Name of GodIngenious GenesInheritanceInside the Human GenomeInside the O'BriensIntegrating Evolution and DevelopmentIntelligence, Race, and GeneticsIs Human Nature Obsolete?Language OriginsLess Than HumanLiberal EugenicsLiving with Our GenesMaking Genes, Making WavesMaking Sense of EvolutionMan As The PrayerMean GenesMenMood GenesMoral OriginsMothers and OthersNature Via NurtureNever Let Me GoNot By Genes AloneOf Flies, Mice, and MenOn the Origin of StoriesOrigin of MindOrigins of Human NatureOrigins of PsychopathologyOur Posthuman FuturePhilosophy of BiologyPlaying God?Playing God?Portraits of Huntington'sPrimates and PhilosophersPromiscuityPsychiatric Genetics and GenomicsPsychologyQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRe-creating MedicineRedesigning HumansResearch Advances in Genetics and GenomicsResponsible GeneticsResponsible GeneticsScience, Seeds and CyborgsSex and WarSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsStrange BedfellowsStrange BehaviorSubjects of the WorldSubordination and DefeatThe Age of EmpathyThe Agile GeneThe Ape and the Sushi MasterThe Biotech CenturyThe Blank SlateThe Book of LifeThe Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe Bridge to HumanityThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Century of the GeneThe Common ThreadThe Concept of the Gene in Development and EvolutionThe Debated MindThe Double-Edged HelixThe Epidemiology of SchizophreniaThe Ethics of Choosing ChildrenThe Ethics of Human CloningThe Evolution of CooperationThe Evolution of MindThe Evolution of MindThe Evolved ApprenticeThe Evolving WorldThe Extended Selfish GeneThe Fact of EvolutionThe Folly of FoolsThe Future of Human NatureThe God GeneThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Impact of the GeneThe Innate MindThe Innate MindThe Innate Mind: Volume 3The Limits and Lies of Human Genetic ResearchThe Lives of the BrainThe Maladapted MindThe Meme MachineThe Misunderstood GeneThe Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and ScreeningThe Most Dangerous AnimalThe New Genetic MedicineThe Nurture AssumptionThe Origin and Evolution of CulturesThe Origins of FairnessThe Paradoxical PrimateThe Perfect BabyThe Robot's RebellionThe Selfish GeneThe Shape of ThoughtThe Shattered SelfThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story WithinThe Stuff of LifeThe Talking ApeThe Temperamental ThreadThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Top 10 Myths About EvolutionThe Triple HelixThe Triumph of SociobiologyThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaTwinsUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding the GenomeUnnatural SelectionUnto OthersUp From DragonsVoracious Science and Vulnerable AnimalsWar Against the WeakWhat Genes Can't DoWhat It Means to Be 98 Percent ChimpanzeeWho Owns YouWhose View of Life?Why Evolution Is TrueWhy Think? WondergenesWrestling with Behavioral GeneticsYour Genetic Destiny

Related Topics
Re-creating MedicineReview - Re-creating Medicine
by Gregory E. Pence
Rowman & Littlefield, 2000
Review by Neil Levy, Ph.D.
Oct 20th 2001 (Volume 5, Issue 42)

This book deal with recent debates within medical ethics. It is concerned with matters such as organ donation, cloning, payment for surrogate mothers, patenting of genes and medical futility. In the preface, Pence warns the reader not to expect impartiality from him. This is a polemical book and intended as such, not a neutral analysis of the issues with which it is concerned. However, it is one thing forthrightly to advance the views one believes to be true. It is quite another systematically to misrepresent those to which you are opposed. Unfortunately, such misrepresentation is just one of the many flaws which characterize Pence's work.

Pence is best-known for his defense of human cloning, especially for the book Who's Afraid of Human Cloning? (Rowman & Littlefield, 1998). When I read that work, I suspected that its faults-clumsy writing, non-sequiturs, fallacious arguments-could be explained, at least in part, by the rush to publish while the issues it dealt with were still in the forefront of public consciousness. But many of the same faults plague this book. Pence never pauses to check a fact, or think through an argument. For instance, Pence claims that Richard Titmuss (who he inexplicably calls Kenneth) 'assumed that scientific technology would never be able to detect HIV'. Titmuss made no assumptions whatsoever about HIV, since he died in 1973.

Pence is a libertarian, which is to say he believes that all goods should be distributed by the market, with a minimum of government interference. Having read one or two of his chapters, one can predict the rest. Organ donation? Let the market provide! Cybermedicine? No problem! Surrogate mothers. Not the government's business! The same arguments and argumentative strategies reappear from chapter to chapter, with wearisome predictability. Pence justifies his views by invoking the distinction famously drawn by John Rawls in his Theory of Justice, between the right and the good. The right refers to the public realm, in which individuals have claims against one another and in which notions of fairness are paramount. The good refers to each person's conception of the good life, of the kind of life most worth living. Liberalism classically regards the good as a private matter. It is up to each of us to decide for ourselves how we ought to live. The state ought only to concern itself with the right, with ensuring that distributions are fair and with enforcing the rights of individuals against those who would invade them. Pence argues that all the matters with which he is concerned fall within the purview of the good, and are therefore matters for individual choice. No one ought to dictate to others how they should live, so no one has the right to impose their (usually religiously-inspired, according to Pence) objections to commodification upon those who would sell their organs and their bodies.

However, it is just a mistake to think that all the questions with which Pence is concerned fall neatly on the side of the good. It is striking that he ignores questions of just distribution, which for Rawls fall so clearly within the appropriate sphere for government regulation. Like all libertarians, Pence fails to register the importance of so-called third-party effects: effects that a transaction can have on people beyond those engaged directly in it. Thus, for instance, Pence might be right to believe that individual women benefit from the opportunity to sell their reproductive labor to wealthy couples prepared to employ them as surrogates, but permitting them to do so nevertheless might have deleterious effects on all women: it might reinforce the view that women are essentially wombs, and that reproduction is their primary task. Pence's contention that paid surrogacy 'recognizes and values the unique contribution of women' leads the reader to suspect that he himself has not escaped the influence of such attitudes. Similarly, Pence's contention that if drugs become available that are able to enhance the intelligence of children, it is no one's business but their parents whether these drugs are used ignores third-party effects. Since intelligence has to be understood relationally, as well as absolutely, those unable to afford the drugs could be much worse off if they are made available. A good society might well wish to ban such drugs, or provide them publicly.

Pence accuses those who oppose any of the measures he suggests of suspecting the average person of being a closet Nazi. This is but one of the many straw men he constructs and gleefully destroys in the course of this book. Economists and philosophers have done a great deal of work over the past thirty years, demonstrating how individually rational, and even well-intentioned, actions can have very negative effects on everyone. Individual motivations are not the only factor to consider in deciding upon the permissibility of a policy.

This is not to say that there is nothing good in this book. The chapter on cloning, a much reworked summary of Pence's book on the topic, is generally well-argued, as is the chapter on patenting human genes and his brief consideration of the future of bioethics. In these chapters, Pence refrains from misrepresenting his enemies, and instead assesses their views. Even the quality of the writing here is much improved. If the whole book were of this quality, I would not hesitate to recommend it. As it is, I suggest that those interested in these topics dip into these three chapters. For the rest, it is not worth the investment of time.

© 2001 Neil Levy

Dr Neil Levy is a fellow of the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University, Australia. He is the author of two mongraphs and over a dozen articles and book chapters on Continental philosophy, ethics and political philosophy. He is currently writing a book on moral relativism.


Welcome to Metapsychology.

Note that Metapsychology will be moving to a new server in January 2020. We will not put up new reviews during the transition. We thank you for your support and look forward to coming back with a revised format.

We feature over 8300 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!

Join our Google Group!

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716