THE BODY POLITIC

THE BATTLE OVER SCIENCE IN AMERICA

An eminent bioethicist presents a nuanced survey of the fraught politics of science in 21st-century America.

Moreno (Philosophy and Medical Ethics/Univ. of Pennsylvania; Science Next: Innovation for the Common Good, 2009, etc.), a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who served on President Obama’s transition team, makes no bones about falling on the pro-progress side of the often brutal debate Americans have been waging over the proper role of science in society since Roe v. Wade. Nevertheless, he gives plenty of air time to the arguments of his opponents as he searches for the roots of their critiques in American and European intellectual history from the Middle Ages through the Enlightenment and into the progressive era and beyond. Despite general admiration for science among the public since Benjamin Franklin’s day, a darker strain of thought, influenced by the progress-averse romantics and German philosophers from Kant to Heidegger, has grown increasingly influential among American intellectuals as biological discoveries, in particular, have schematically displaced humans from the center of the universe. Moreno coins the term “biopolitics” to distinguish this realm of debate from ordinary politics. In this new battleground, left and right divide and re-merge into two opposing camps: the bioconservatives and bioprogressives, the former (which comprises greens as well as neocons) fretting over the blurring of lines between humans and the rest of creation, the latter lamenting the drag on innovation that might save or radically improve lives. Along the way, Moreno pulls apart the debates on eugenics, abortion, end-of-life decisions, embryonic stem-cell research, reproductive cloning, chimeras and synthetic biology, among others, carefully reassembling what’s at stake for each side. In graceful, sparkling prose, he illuminates intricate threads of history and complex philosophical arguments. Patient general readers, as well as scholars and students of bioethics, will benefit from Moreno’s erudition and fairness, whether or not they’re convinced by his argument for human-centered progress in science.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-934137-38-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more