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Book Review: A Jealous God by Pamela R. Winnick

Chris Banescu

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The Galileo prototype of the scientist martyred by religion is now purely a myth. Science long ago won its war against religion, not just traditional religion, but any faith in a power outside the human mind. Now it wants more.

In A Jealous God, award-winning journalist Pamela R. Winnick exposes some of the more unsavory and dangerous characteristics of the scientific establishment that have contributed to the erosion of human dignity and led to the abuse of individuals for the sake of science. She presents countless examples where unethical and borderline criminal conduct by scientists and researchers has been rationalized and excused away in their zealous pursuit of selfish promotion and personal financial gain. Driven many times by blind ambition and sheer greed, many of these individuals have willingly compromised the sacred status of human life and embraced a perilous relativistic moral stance that establishes a dangerous precedent in science's pursuit of progress.

Winnick tackles the controversial aspects of abortion head on. She challenges the rationalizations and arguments used by pro-abortionists that claim a fetus is just another appendage of the mother's body and only has "potential" life, not worthy of the same protections afforded to all human life: "The fetus had to be kept down in order to prop up a woman's right to abortion. If the fetus is given status as a human, then obviously its intentional destruction could not be permitted any more than the destruction of a fully formed life."

Amazingly, the book reveals that in a friend-of-the-court brief in Roe v. Wade, more than two hundred doctors from institutions like Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic concluded that "modern obstetrics has discarded as unscientific the concept that the child in the womb is but tissue of the mother. [ ...] From conception the child is a complex, dynamic, rapidly growing organism."

Relying on Dr. Liley's observations, Winnick debunks the myth that an embryo is just a clump of cells and not really a person before reaching three months of life. "By 25 days [of life] the developing heart starts beating [...] By 30 days the baby has a brain of unmistakable human proportions, eyes, ears, mouth, kidneys, liver, [...] and a heart pumping blood." Such obvious medical facts are important, because many in the scientific community, in their obsessive pursuit of experimentation on human embryos and fetuses, often rely on the "potential life" argument to justify just about any kind of experimentation on and destruction of embryos and fetuses. By de-personalizing the subjects of their experiments, these scientists are able to divert attention from the human lives they are abusing and killing and shield themselves from the moral responsibilities and ethical implications of their actions.

A Jealous God exposes many instances where similar excuses have been used by scientists and academics in aggressively pursuing dangerous and deadly experiments on human subjects, fetuses, and embryos, forcibly mandating "fertility control" for "undesirables," and promoting eugenics, infanticide, and even euthanasia. Winnick comments:

Most secular bioethicists, joined by liberal theologians, believed that not everyone should live; not everyone should receive medical care; not everyone was worthy of life. In pushing religion aside, they argued that antiquated beliefs could not address the complexities of modern medicine and needed to be displaced by more 'flexible' rules.

A glaring example of a scientist without a moral or ethical compass is Garrett Hardin, "a biology professor, population zealot, and eugenicist." Harding loved the idea of having procreation regulated and controlled by the government and using infanticide as an "accepted means of limiting family size." He proposed a rather sick and perverse solution to overpopulation: "Teach little girls, fresh out of kindergarten, that promiscuity is much more fun than motherhood."

Hardin also believed that overpopulation would eventually require society to euthanatize children en masse. His solutions are indeed ominous and chilling: "Either there must be a relatively painless weeding out before birth or a more painful and wasteful elimination of individuals after birth."

Winnick also addresses critical ethical issues that are often ignored by secular scientists when dealing with embryonic stem cell experimentation. Such research raises profound ethical concerns, because a live embryo has to be destroyed each time stem cells are extracted. Despite such serious moral implications, scientists are fighting to remove most government regulations and ethical restrictions on their work, many times attacking any restrictions as "religiously inspired."

Religion serves as a favorite scapegoat for the scientific community and is frequently blamed for "blocking medical progress, literally 'killing' millions of Americans," especially with regards to embryonic experimentation, despite the lack of proof to support such unjustified claims. Winnick observes, "No matter how unlikely it was that fetal-tissue research could produce the 'cure,' the government and the religious [are] characterized as evil forces directly responsible for the death of millions, if not the disease itself."

Such underhanded tactics effectively demonize and silence most critics and help sidestep any substantive discussions of the ethical issues regarding the value of human life. Sadly, "lost in the stereotype were the human rights implications of unhindered science: the use of human subjects, the exploitation of women, and the commercialization of human parts." As a Cambridge law professor observed, "[M]ost of modern bioethics is clearly subversive of this tradition of common morality. Rather than promote respect for universal human values and rights, it systematically seeks to subvert them. In modern bioethics, nothing is, in itself, either valuable or inviolable, except utility."

Many embryonic stem cell research advocates have sought support from Hollywood celebrities afflicted by incurable diseases or medical conditions. Together, they have lobbied politicians and promised unsubstantiated "miracle cures" that were "just around the corner" to many suffering, disabled, paralyzed, or terminally ill patients. This only raised false hopes for them and their families:

With all the hype, all the promise, all the raised expectations, there was an insurmountable problem with fetal-tissue implants: They didn't work.

Such cruel and unethical tactics and promises do not help alleviate the suffering of these individuals and will not bring about any meaningful cures for years to come, if ever. However, the hype did work magnificently to enrich many unethical scientists and researchers looking to fool taxpayers into financing their risky and unsubstantiated pet projects.

The effectiveness and success of such strategies was regrettably evidenced by California's passage of Proposition 71, which authorized billions of state taxpayer dollars for embryonic stem cell research and established an unprecedented state constitutional "right" to conduct such experimentation. Even worse, the wording of Prop. 71 allows for little oversight of the process by state officials or taxpayers, empowering only the scientists with setting the standards of their own research.

A similar tragedy has also been unfolding on a national level. Succumbing to intense lobbying efforts from the research community and the outcries from patient advocacy groups, federal funding of medical research has ballooned from a mere $700,000 in the 1940s to nearly $30 billion in 2005. This money is allocated in a rather arbitrary and biased fashion. The lion's share of the funds often goes to the most politically correct diseases, the strongest and most vocal lobbying groups, and the best politically or celebrity-connected organizations, not to those afflicted by the most common illnesses or who need the most help. Ironically, if scientific and ethical principles were being applied, "the allocation or research money should be fair, based on objective, non-political criteria, including the number of deaths from a particular disease, the severity of the disease, the numbers of Americans afflicted with the disease." Unfortunately, such ethical and reasonable approaches are not followed.

The results of such misguided policies are tragic. While the most publicized and best-lobbied diseases received enormous amounts of funding, "other fatal diseases affecting larger numbers of Americans were neglected in favor of "celebrity" diseases, generally whatever disease affected the most visible and wealthy Americans, particularly Hollywood stars."

What makes this book so effective is Winnick's balanced and objective writing, which is further strengthened by her journalistic style and solid documentation. Interestingly enough, the book uses scientific evidence and truth to debunk the lies and myths perpetuated by unethical scientists. Winnick relies on facts, ethics, common sense, and reason to present an honest, objective, and balanced perspective. In doing so, she effectively brings a solid dose of reality and a great deal of credibility and weight to an important debate.

Chris Banescu is an attorney, entrepreneur, and university professor. His business, ethics, and management articles and podcasts can be found on www.ChrisBanescu.com. He is a regular contributor to OrthodoxyToday.org, manages the conservative site www.OrthodoxNet.com, writes articles, and has given talks and conducted seminars on a variety of business and management topics. He has also written book reviews for Townhall.com and articles for Acton.org.

Read this article on the Town Hall website (new window will open). Reprinted with permission of the author.

Posted: 14-Dec-05



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Copyright 2001-2014 OrthodoxyToday.org. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article is subject to the policy of the individual copyright holder. See OrthodoxyToday.org for details.


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